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Hjalmar Söderberg

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Title: Doktor Glas
Author: Hjalmar Söderberg
Year: 1905

I admire people like Graham Greene because they can write wonderful prose without being too complicated (I am not saying that I do not like authors who use difficult words or write in an otherwise complicated way, I just say that I have a special liking to those who do not need to). Several times, I have been recommended Hjalmar Söderberg as a Swedish author capable of writing like this. Doktor Glas is probably his most famous book and has been on my list of books I want to read for a long time.

The book opens up rather weakly and did not catch my interest until after about halfway. It should be mentioned that the book measures only 125 pages in all, so half the book is not a long time to wait for something good. As it turned out, the rest of the book was good. Really good, in fact. Through diary entries, the reader follows a doctor called Glas (which would be “Glass” in English). He is haunted by his knowledge that one of his clients, a priest, is causing his wife great pain. The case is further complicated by the fact that Glas himself is rather fond of the priest’s wife. Is it ethically right to kill someone who is dislike by everybody and causes nothing but pain? Can an individual really know someone so well as to be able to absolutely sure that the act is motivated?

However, the main attraction of this novel is not the theme, but rather the marvellous way in which the diary entries are written, especially towards the end of the novel. Not only is the language beautiful in itself, but the character description is brilliant in its indirectness and depth. Glas feels very real in his loneliness, his qualms and his arguments with himself.

I recommend this book to everyone who has the slightest in common with me when it comes to literature. Few novels manage to pack so much quality onto such a small number of pages.