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Hash Paperback – April 26, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Two seekers pursue the perfect plate of hash, and, by extension, the force of life in Lindgren's sparkling novel (after Bathsheba and The Way of the Serpent). In 1947, a newspaper reporter is fired for fabricating stories ("The dramatic week-long struggle to rescue an elk from Hob™ck Marsh," his editor accuses him, "never took place.... [and t]here has never been a turkey farm ravaged by a bear in your district") and forbidden to write another word. For more than five decades the reporter doesn't put pen to paper. As a 107-year-old inmate in the Sunnybank Rest Home, he returns, after his editor dies, to the story he left unfinished, which concerned two newcomers to the Swedish village of Avaback, site of a tuberculosis epidemic. Schoolteacher Lars Hogstrom picked the post ("pulmonary tuberculosis [is] closest to my heart," he quips) while Martin Bormann was an escaped Nazi war criminal then calling himself Robert Maser. United by their love of music and passion for hash, Maser (posing as a traveling fabric salesman) and Hogstrom had set off on a quest to sample all of the region's hashes, a journey at once comical and sublime. Hash, whose foul ingredients (hooves, offal, entrails, grain, etc.) add up to a surprising delicacy, symbolizes life, love, art and mercy. Tuberculosisa "fickle" disease that leads, Maser suggests, to "[m]odernist poetry. Atonal music. Anarchic political programs.... pure and simple idiocy," represents, among other things, death's power to make life more precious. Above all, this sly and gleeful novel is about storytelling itself, about how fictioneven fiction cooked up from a recipe of grotesqueries and absurditycan contain fundamental truths.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
*Starred Review* In December 1947, for the newspaper to which he corresponds from northern Sweden, a middle-aged man is writing about two newcomers to the village of Avaback: a schoolteacher, just released as cured from the tuberculosis sanitarium in which he spent his youth, and a middle-aged clothing peddler, who the writer believes is missing Nazi leader Martin Bormann. Then a messenger arrives with a termination letter from the newspaper editor, who has researched the places the writer reports on, only to be told that they don't exist. The writer stops writing, for 53 years, resuming at age 107, only after he has outlived old age and is regaining lost powers and attributes: his hair is growing dark again, and he doesn't need glasses to read anymore. He takes up where he left off. The newcomers become friends, start to sing in harmony for recreation, and occupy their weekends with a project to taste all the local recipes for hash. Alternating between past and present, and inserting himself as a scrawny, ill boy in 1948, Lindgren keeps the style plain and the humor dry throughout a comic masterpiece that, if it delivers no horselaughs, has one chuckling and smiling all the way through. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
If you like books that make you think then read this.
If you like only American author's skip this.
If you watch a lot of TV skip this.
This is the work of a genius.
If you like the Dalkey Archive then buy it today.
If you like Flann O'brien, Par Lagerkvist, Italo Calvino, Voltaire, Oe, etc read this.
This novel was a slow knockout. Lindgren's peculiar creativity snuck up on me, and my enthusiasm for the book just grew and grew through the course of the story. It was a near-perfect blend of enigma, quirky humor, metafiction, and magical realism. In fact, the novel is comparable to some of the better efforts of Haruki Murakami, Richard Brautigan, and Mark Helprin. Here Lindgren has fashioned a piece of absorbing literary whimsy, an ideal read for anyone who enjoys getting lost in a bizarre dream world.
After this, Lindgren's next best novel in English translation is probably Light. However, the story collection Merab's Beauty may be a little better than either of them!
I looked forward to reading a tale about the country I'm now living in and started the book on the train ride back from Christmas. Fifty pages in and there was no real plot; I searched my bag for an unread book. After having no luck, I bought a coffee and continued on. Unfortunately, it didn't get any better.
Dialogue was followed by more dialogue, the story wandered around never really getting anywhere interesting. The character's reactions to the unfolding events were usually totally absurd and I sincerely hope that it was part of the intended humour.
I finished the book satisfied that it was finished (there's nothing worse than a 75% read book), but I kept feeling that I'd missed the point or that the story was a metaphor. This may well be the case, but in terms of a story - it's illogical and one dimensional.