True to an old habit I had started reading two books in parallel because they are related. Gentlemen by Klas Östergren (the author), tells the story of Klas Östergren (the character), a young writer with a complicated life who is working on a pastiche of Strindberg’s The Red Room.
This makes me regret no going to the Strindberg Museum while I was in Stockholm last May. It was just a block away from my hotel but since I was generally not in the vicinity of my hotel during museum opening hours, I missed it. Oh well, too bad.
To come back to Gentlemen, it is a long convoluted novel with many details linking to each other in unexpected ways… It you get to the end of the book and reread the beginning, some details may suddenly jump at you (oh my, did the author really mention this character so early on in the novel? Didn’t notice at the time…). At over 500 pages of small print, there is a lot of info scattered along the way.
I didn’t get very far ahead into The Red Room. The rest of my life is pretty busy and there isn’t as much time available for reading. I’ve been busy planning for retirement though, trying to make time for more reading, among other things.
What I can see in common between both books at this point is the depiction of a life of young men who do not have regular work, who fancy themselves to be artists and devote their energy to both their art and their social life. I may yet be wrong about The Red Room.
The first chapter of Gentlemen takes us close to the chronological end of the events of the book:
Presumably it’s a quiet spring raid that can be heard drizzling over Stockholm at the moment, in the Year of the Child, the election year of 1979. I see none of it, nor do I have any intention of taking a look. The curtains and drapes are closed tight in front of the windows facing Hornsgatan, and this apartment seems lugubrious, to say the least. It’s been days since I’ve seen any daylight, while outside all of Stockholm is probably walking around in the very last springtime delirium of the seventies, but I don’t give a damn.
Klas had met the Morgan brothers, owners of the apartment described above after his own place was burglarized. Henry Morgan, the oldest of the two brothers, extends his hospitality and Klas moves in with them. The book devotes quite a large middle section describing the lives of the brothers as well as the daily life Klas shares with them. In the end, both brothers disappear and Klas wakes up in the hospital from what could have been a bad fall or a beating. When he returns to the apartment, he shuts himself in, burns the manuscript of the pastiche of The Red Room. When he returns to the apartment, he shuts himself in, burns the manuscript of the pastiche of The Red Room and proceeds to write the story of the brothers.
At the end, Henry’s long time lover shows up, and running through the apartment she had never previously visited, she opens all curtains to let in the light, but to illuminate what?
Östergren, Klas. Gentlemen. MacAdam Cage, 2007.
Strindberg, August. The Red Room. Norvik Press, 2009. Originally published in 1879.
People who have done good job reviewing Gentlemen that I won’t compete with:
Being made into a film?