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Beaten up, bruised, and scared, a young writer hides in a Stockholm apartment, writing the story of its disappeared inhabitants: the flamboyant and charismatic Morgan brothers.
It all began a year earlier, when he was rooming with Henry Morgan, a boxer, piano player, composer, bartender, and old-fashioned gentleman with a Gatsby-like capacity for turning life into a feast and absolutely no talent for keeping secrets.
The two friends led the high-life in Stockholm until the day Henry’s younger brother Leo – a star poet, drunk, political provocateur – showed up. Leo drags them into a scandal involving illegal weapons and gangsters, and soon the three men find themselves unwittingly and irreversibly trapped in a dangerous plot.
Written with an intense regard for storytelling and style, Gentlemen is the most important literary work to emerge from Sweden in the past thirty years – simultaneously celebrating and mourning the post-WWII era with its jazz music, poetry, hidden treasures, and espionage.
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Klas Östergren was born in Stockholm in 1955 and is the author of several novels including the landmark Gentlemen (1981) and its sequel, Gangsters (2005). A leading star of Swedish literature for nearly three decades, he has won the Piratenpriset and the Doblougska prize from the Swedish Academy. A founder of the rock band Fullersta Revolutionary Orchestra, Östergren has also worked as a playwright, scriptwriter for television and screen, and translator from French and English. His translations include works by J.D. Salinger, Charles Baudelaire, Henrik Ibsen, and Harold Pinter. He now lives with his wife and three children in the seafront town of Kivik in southern Sweden.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
We ate the lobsters warm with a couple of pats of butter and toast. We ate in silent reverence, because warm lobster, perfectly prepared, is one of the best things this world has to offer. Afterwards we had coffee in the sitting room, each of us dozing in an armchair by the fire. The idea was that we would recharge and then go out on the town–we had been living a miserly and dreary existence for some time now–but the delicacies took their toll on our strength, and the Italian wine didn’t make us nearly as Italian as we had hoped.
Henry put on an old jazz record, but that didn’t make us any livelier either. I longed more than ever for an old rock album–it didn’t matter which one as long as it rocked and got me going again. But all my records had been stolen, and for Henry rock and pop had never existed. It might be something he would sit and sing along with in a pub, but that was all. I had now been living in his flat for a month, and I was starting to miss my music. Henry claimed that I was going through withdrawal. He was going to get me to listen to real music.
He suggested that we write a song together. It would be about two gentlemen, a showy and peppy little tune with a refrain that stayed with you, a perfect hit.
If the girls leave you flat
And the girls don’t have a five or a ten
Then forget about that
We’ll dream ourselves fat, we are gentlemen
That’s what Henry dictated in his best Karl Gerhard form, because he was no stranger to that type of handiwork. It’s what the average serious composer prefers to regard as a type of prostitution. But with his great art, which he regularly talked about, Henry was absolutely uncompromising. He wasn’t about to sell out.
But we didn’t get very far with “Gentlemen” that evening. Nor did we behave like gentlemen. A cool saxophone brought all our impulses down to the ground, and we sank even deeper into our armchairs, if that were possible. It was raining outside, and neither of us had any further desire to lay waste to the town.
“I don’t even feel like this is a celebration,” I yawned.
“Me too,” said Henry drowsily in English, using incorrect grammar. “I think we ate a little too fast. Lobster has to be eaten slowly. And we should have invited some women over, then we would have pulled ourselves together.”
“I’ve got nothing left in me,” I said.
“Me too,” Henry repeated, still just as incorrectly. “Sometimes life is just so incomparably tedious.”
It remained a mystery how two lively and talented boxers could fade so easily on an evening after a lobster dinner and a few bottles of dry Italian white wine. But at least it wasn’t work that had worn us out.
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Book Description MacAdam/Cage Publishing, 2007. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P111596922060