Asko Sahlberg: Häväistyt [Disgraced]

2 February 2012 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Helsinki: WSOY, 2011. 331 p.
ISBN 978-951-0-38275-2
€ 33, hardback

The tenth novel by Asko Sahlberg (born 1964) is reminiscent of the earlier works of this distinctive author: its principal characters are hardened by experience and lead their lives somewhere in the Finnish countryside during a recent period of the country’s history. The sentences are beautifully constructed, and the pace of the narrative is very slow – sometimes even too slow. The main role is played by a middle-aged man who is running away with a woman and a small boy. What they are running away from for a long time remains a puzzle, as does the question of who they are looking for, a man called The Master. In the flashbacks of the last part of the book all is explained, and the rhythm of the story quickens. Considering the book’s desolate, even fatalistic view of the world, it is  slightly surprising that everything eventually turns out as happily as in a fairytale. But perhaps this is Sahlberg’s tribute to his characters, and to all of us human beings, for whom he seems to care a great deal? His novel He (2010) will be published in February in England under the title The Brothers (Peirene Press).
Translated by David McDuff


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