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The Death of Ahasuerus by Pär Lagerkvist
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The Death of Ahasuerus (1960)

by Pär Lagerkvist

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So I thought this book was the beginning of a trilogy and in some ways it is because a main character is introduced here and lasts through the next two books. But I found out today that this book is the middle book in a pentalogy (or however that is spelled) because there is a string of five books that deal with the crucifixion. Not knowing this I read these five books entirely out of order which means I need to reread them all in order for things to make sense.

So they should be read as follows: Barabbas, The Sibyl, The Death of Ahasuerus, Pilgrim at Sea and finally The Holy Land.

Now that that has been said this book was pretty dark. There was one part that I had a hard time reading so I read through it as fasting as I could. Again like Lagerkvist's other books it deals with some heavy things which is reason he should be read more widely. I think the problem might be that he was an atheist who dealt mainly in the spiritual and mystical (at least in this pentalogy). Too atheistic for religious people and too religious for the atheists?

I have his novel The Dwarf to take on soon which I believe is his first novel. ( )
  dtn620 | Sep 22, 2013 |
"I've always liked wandering about, being alone, at peace. Perhaps that day I felt more need for it than usual - more need to get away from the others; I was weary of this meaningless existence, of the pointlessness of everything." (p 33)

Set during the age of medieval pilgrimages, Par Lagerkvist's short novel brings together two fascinating, yet mysterious characters. They include Tobias (a soldier who became a bandit) and a wandering saint who meet at an inn on the way to the Holy Land. Although each look at divinity, sin, atonement and faith in different ways, embarking on the same road to Jerusalem (one on a mission as a sort of soldier of fortune, the other there to not let him alone). Both trying to accomplish a personal dream. We eventually come to understand that the alien could not be anyone but Ahasuerus, a name that is known in mythology as the "Wandering Jew" . Tobias has acquired another companion along the way, a woman named, appropriately for this story, Diana. The interactions among these on their journey would surprise this reader, while the importance of the relation of them to each other and to nature would seem to be overpowering in its implications. From the scene of the storm to its peaceful aftermath the beauty of nature is exemplified in the following passage: "On the very loftiest mountains now had fallen - the first since the summer - and white peaks rose to the heavens like a song of praise." (p 64)
The ideas, images and questions raised by this story combine to make it an exceptionally thoughtful read. What sets Lagerkvist apart is his use of paradox, and his constant examination of faith and one's relationship to "god." The novel mirrors aspects of life. It is a book that ends too quickly and that, ultimately, makes you wish you to think about its meaning and perhaps read it again.

"People puzzle themselves so much about what they're to live on - they talk and talk about it. But what is one to live for? Can you tell me? (p 32) ( )
  jwhenderson | Jan 29, 2011 |
Par Lagerkvist picks up the tale, begun in the The Sibyl, of Ahasuerus, the Wandering Jew. Ahasuerus stands in for modern man in his ambivalence toward Christ and his ultimate rejection of God. By reimagining and reinterpreting biblical themes, the author sheds a brilliant, strange light onto ancient questions. He does not, however, write prescriptively. Characters grasp their way in the dark -- sometimes hopeful, more often confused. Ahasuerus's release, his Holy Land, comes at last, and the reader may find comfort that it is a fate that eludes no one. ( )
  stpetebeach | Oct 17, 2010 |
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I ett härbärge för pilgrimer till Det heliga landet kom det en kväll in en man som tycktes jagad av blixten, när han ryckte upp dörren flammade hela himlen upp bakom honom och regnet och blåsten kastade sig över honom, det var med knapp nöd han kunde få igen dörren efter sig.
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