1940s Books in Translation Historical Fiction Nobel Prize

The Dwarf – Pär Lagerkvist

 Pär Lagerkvist won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1951

Translated from the Swedish by Alexandra Dick

Regular readers of my blog may remember the wonderful post, Recommendations from a non-blogger, written by Heidi. In the post Heidi recommended  The Dwarf  by Pär Lagerkvist, which I have never seen mentioned in the blogging world, so was keen to give it a try.

The Dwarf  is set in an Italian City during the Renaissance. The central character is just 26 inches high and is a servant to the Prince. The story follows them as they are drawn in to war and have to deal with death, disease and betrayal.

The Dwarf is probably the most miserable, bitter and twisted character I have ever read about. He seems to be dissatisfied with every aspect of his life – his anger bubbling through onto every page.

It is my fate that I hate my own people. My race is detestable to me. But I hate myself too. I eat my own splenetic flesh. I drink my own poisoned blood.

This made it very different from any other book I’ve read. His bleak outlook on the world meant that he was a very hard character to like and I had little sympathy for him, but despite this I was fascinated by his story. I loved the historical detail about life in an Italian court and found the attitudes of the people really interesting.

This is a quick, easy book to read, but it is packed with messages about the nature of society and the evil that is lurking within us all.



Have you read any books written by Pär Lagerkvist?

29 replies on “The Dwarf – Pär Lagerkvist”

No, I haven’t read this author, but I am currently reading Wandering Star by J M G Le Clezio who won the nobel this year. It’s also a bleak story (currently the Jewish families in Southern France are being forced over the mountains to seek exile in Italy) but beautifully, gracefully told. I’m wondering what it is the Nobel committee looks for, because there’s certainly something, and it may lie in this convergance of tough material and pellucid storytelling.

litlove, Wandering Star sounds good – I’ll keep an eye out for your review. I have found some amazing books via the Nobel list – I think it is something I need to investigate more in the future.

Sounds like a wonderful little story. I haven’t read anything about this author, but it is great that you are getting to some of those recommendations that you got from non-bloggers. I think when I come here I am sure to get some different flavor of books and now it looks like I’ll get even more.

Nicole, Thanks! I have a few obscure books in my TBR pile, hopefully I’ll get a chance to read them soon. I do like to mix up the books I read, so you don’t get the same ones as everyone else.

I am glad you found the book a worthwhile read ( I sometimes hate to suggest books and waste someones time!)– I don’t know that one likes it so much per se but I found it fascinating. It is completely unique work as is much of Lagervist writing. He wrote it at the end of WWII and that plays in to the exploration of Authoritarianism in it and Facism. Lagervist was deeply affected by the wars and how we as humans could hold on to our faith and living in the face of so much evil. The Dwarf is the author trying to really create a wholly evil character-it’s good you didn’t like him:) Many debate whether the dwarf is real entity or only part of the dark side of the prince.

Heidi, That is exactly how I felt – it wasn’t the most enjoyable read, but it was fascinating – the sort of book you could discuss for hours!

Thank you so much for recommending it to me – I will try to find some more of his books in the future – they all sound so thought-provoking.

I have more of your recommendations in the pile. I hope to read Blood of the Flowers soon. Thanks again!

I really like the Sibyl by him as well. It also has a historical aspect. A sybil or priestess of Delphi is banished because she falls in love and becomes pregnant. A wanderer seeks her out to find answers about God because of what she has gone through. It is also is a quick read but leaves you thinking. However the storyline and characters are much more likable in this one.

Stephanie, I think that was the author’s plan – to create the worst character imaginable. He certainly did a great job – he was nasty!

You know, I actually have heard of this book somewhere in the book blogging world! Of course I have no idea where, but I know I did!

This book definitely sounds like it has an interesting premise, definitely one of those books that is meant to enlighten.

Steph, I’d love to know where – I did a quick search and couldn’t really find anything.

Yes, this is a book to enlighten rather than entertain, but still a worthwhile read.

If you do a Google Blog Search, it’s been mentioned in a few blogs but the only one I recognise is PeteLit (because he’s commented on my own blog once or twice).

I’d certainly never heard of it though. Thanks for introducing us to this book, Jackie – sounds like it might be my sort of thing!

John, Yes – this might actually be a book we both enjoy!

I hadn’t heard of any of the blogs on the google blog search. I hadn’t done the search before you mentioned it – I just knew I’d not seen this title mentioned before. I’m pleased to bring it a little more attention, as it certainly deserves it.

Simon, It isn’t that bizarre (compared to some of the weird things I read!) It is quite a normal story, but with one very angry central character.

El Fay, This isn’t really a dark book, although it does have some disturbing scenes. I hope you like it if you do decide to give it a try.

Kathleen, I hadn’t heard of him before Heidi’s recommendation. I am very pleased to have discovered him though!

It’s been years since I read the Dwarf, and it was nice to be reminded of it. I tend to remember him Lagerkvist for Barabbas and The Sybil most. Barabbas got more acclaim but I’ve always been very partial to The Sybil.

Paul, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time! I haven’t read any of Lagerkvist’s other books, but am keen to do so. I’ll try to get hold of a copy of The Sybil soon.

Hello, greetings from Greece. While I was looking for reviews on “”The Dwarf”, I came across your blog, which I find by the way excellent.
I have read this book 3 times until now and every time I seem to discover a bit more about it. Dealing with the darkest aspects of human nature, I would describe this book as extremelly intelligent, serious and deep but at the same time “ridiculously” sinister, which actually makes it a very pleasant read.

Hi Niki, Thank you for the kind words 🙂

It is great to know that this book stands up to rereading – I look forward to discovering some more of its depth at some point in the future.

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