Beginning in 1930s Sweden, this rich, poignant novel spans three generations of the Nordensson family-children, parents and lovers who do not really know each another. Their speech and fantasies, says Sidner Nordensson tells his son, Victor, are like frozen music that may take ages to thaw out. The death of Sidner's mother, Solveig, is one of those ``moments that never end.'' Sidner watched her being trampled to death by cows in a freak accident in the early 1930s; she had been on her way to talk to the choir master about the Bach oratorio in which she was to have sung. This was the first in a series of tragedies that has frozen the protagonists' sense of reality. Although the family moves from the pastoral Vrmland region to a provincial town, a hallucinated Solveig returns to her grieving husband, Aron, during his antipodal romance while on his fatal journey to New Zealand. Sidner carries on his own doomed affair with an older woman who imagines herself in telepathic contact with a famous Swedish explorer. Compounding the theme of separation between parents and children, Sidner's simple uncle Torin believes he is the father of an illegitimate child, whom he affectionately kidnaps, and Sidner, in trying to retrace his father's last journey, leaves Victor to fantasize about Odysseus and Telemachus and their reunion. Harmonizing poetic, romantic, fantastic and realistic styles, Tunstrm imbues these characters with lyric individual voices in a sweeping polyphonous work of affecting intensity. (Feb.)
This superbly translated novel by one of Sweden's foremost authors is part of Godine's new "Verba Mundi" series of contemporary world literature. The saga of three generations of the Nordensson family begins with the accidental death of the young Solveig, wife of the family patriarch, Aron. He and Sidner, his teenaged son, work through their grief not by finding solace with each other but by turning to others, both real and imagined. The attempts of father and son to heal are by turn tragic, poignant, comic, and perplexing. While the main characters are fully developed and realistically drawn, the novel reaches outstanding heights with its cast of phenomenally interesting secondary characters, any one of which could become the main character in another novel. Tunstrom writes terse prose in which one sentence of carefully chosen words conveys a detailed picture of actions, emotions, events, and personalities. Every library should purchase a copy of this beautifully crafted work.-Olivia Opello, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.