cover image Sweetness


Torgny Lindgren. Harvill Press, $13 (144pp) ISBN 978-1-86046-656-4

Guilt, resentment and rivalry animate Lindgren's sparkling parable, a darkly humorous tale of two brothers and the tangled ties that bind them. In the remote reaches of northern Sweden, an unnamed traveling writer and lecturer on saints finds lodging in the home of Hadar, an elderly man dying of cancer. Although she plans to stay with Hadar for only one night, a blizzard extends her visit, and she becomes his caretaker. Hadar's brother, Olof, as obese as Hadar is thin, lives a field away and is dying of heart disease. It is only their hatred for each other that keeps the two alive. As winter turns to spring, and the writer still remains, she becomes a conduit for their acrimonious communication. It's a tangled web concerning Minna, the woman they both loved; Lars, the son they both claimed; and the hatred born when Lars and Minna died. Alternating Hadar and Olof's story with the account she is writing of St. ChristopherDshe hopes to capture the essence of both the legendary saint and the putative real personDthe writer explores the nature of human duality. The brilliance of this novel, in Geddes's elegant and seamless translation, is its ability to gracefully present an ironic and gripping account of sibling competition while, on a deeper level, grappling with the structure of love, personality and relationships. Lindgren (The Way of the Serpent; Light) is one of Sweden's most renowned writers of literary fiction, a fabulist who translates contemporary dilemmas into tongue-in-cheek folktales. (Nov.)