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Hash by Torgny Lindgren
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Hash (2002)

by Torgny Lindgren

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The least interesting thing about Hash by Torgny Lindgren is the plot. Plot within the plot actually.

Mr. Lindgren's book Hash is about a man telling a story. The story he is telling rambles on about two men travelling through northern Sweden looking for the perfect hash. From what I can gleen, hash is a meat based dish made up of the parts of the cow most people run from in terror. These are basically boiled along with various other ingredients, assembled into a loaf served sliced and cold. A batch of hash can keep all year, sometimes longer.

Gross.

What interested me much more than the tale was its teller.

When the novel opens the teller is fifty-four years old and living in a remote section of rural northern Sweden. He has spent a good part of his life writing local interest articles for a nearby newspaper, documenting the unusual lives of the people who live in the area. One day, he receives a letter from the newspaper's editor informing him that the paper has discovered that his stories are all false, that none of the people he describes in them are real, that even the places he mentions are fictitious. The editor forbids him from not only writing further stories for the paper but from writing anything at all.

The teller takes these words to heart and stops writing for the next 53 years. When late in life he discovers that the newspaper editor has died, he again takes up his pen and continues writing from where he left off over five decades ago. Now an old man, he has a lot of ground to cover as much has happened in the lives of his characters since he stopped writing it all down.

The rest of the book alternates between the teller's struggle with the authorities in the nursing home where he now lives and the lives of his characters who search for the perfect hash.

It's an unusual book, not at all like the Swedish crime fiction I'm used to reading.

I liked it.

It left me wondering about the nature of stories and their importance to both audience and writer. What are we to make of the idea that the stories continue forward even when no one is telling them? I think this is at heart a childish notion, but it's a powerful one none-the-less, powerful to this reader anyway. Do we have a responsibility to tell the stories we tell? Do we owe something to the characters in them?

I know one thing for certain. While I look forward to more by Mr. Lindgren, I'm not going to be eating Swedish hash anytime soon. ( )
1 vote CBJames | Jul 5, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Torgny Lindgrenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Meij, Bertie van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"The main ingredients in the recipes for Swedish hash, a dish known among the peasants of remote northern villages for its delectability and restorative powers differ widely. The meats, offal, and grain that go into its preparation - an elaborate process of boiling, pickling, steaming and stewing - can range from the obscure to the dangerous and the results can be alternately emetic and sublime. The search for the most delicious dish of hash - the ultimate hash - forms the backbone of the blackly comic, marvelously innovative new novel from one of Sweden's most esteemed and best-selling authors." "In a small town where an epidemic of tuberculosis rages, two very different men arrive to a scene of suffering accepted by the inhabitants not with stoicism or as a test of fate, but almost with glee. Robert Maser is a traveling garment salesman whose accent and demeanor betray the fact that he is actually the fugitive Martin Bormann, the Nazi leader rumored to have slipped past Red Army lines during the fall of Berlin. He engages the local schoolteacher, Lars, on the bizarre quest to find the world's best hash, and together they wander the Swedish countryside, inviting themselves into peasant homes to sample a variety of humble family recipes. As their search becomes more impassioned, it becomes clear that their goal is much more than a culinary marvel, and that what they've really been seeking is the force of life that must present itself even in the darkest of times." "Their adventures are narrated in a faux-naif style by a 107-year-old newspaper reporter who was witness to the events as they occurred in 1947, and has waited for the right time to confront his own relationship to life and death, happiness and suffering, and the power of art to express life's ambiguities."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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