Gentlemen, Klas Ostergren

18th January 2008 at 00:00
Sweden is a land of contrasts: a country of magical forests and sexual liberation that imposed a programme of state-enforced eugenics until 1975 and aided and abetted the 2000 Eurovision Song Contest.

Klas Ostergren's debut novel, Gentlemen, which received breathless reviews on its publication in 1981, but has taken more than two decades to reach these shores, perfectly evokes that atmosphere of an Eden riddled with destructive secrets.

It opens with a young writer hiding, battered and bruised, in a Stockholm apartment, unable to remember what has happened to its former inhabitants, the dazzling but dangerous Morgan brothers, whose lives had become so entwined with his own.

Swedish reviewers have called it "one of those classic, almost unlikely tales, that you thought only literary giants like Steinbeck and Faulkner were capable of producing."

For his own part, Klas Ostergren has won the Piratenpriset and the Doblougska prize from the Swedish Academy and is generally regarded as something of a big potato among his fellow countrymen. His follow-up novel, Gangsters, is still awaiting publication here but hopefully not for much longer.

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