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Hoel (1890-1960), one of Norway's most influential writers during the first half of the last century, offers a rare portrait of the WWII Norwegian Resistance movement in this new translation of his 1947 novel exploring national identity and the morality of treason. Hoel's laconic, anonymous narrator hides resistance members from the Nazis. One of his lodgers tells him a story about a mutual acquaintance of theirs, Hans Berg, who had been close friends with the narrator in high school and college but became a Nazi sympathizer. This starts the narrator off on a series of recollections tracing his own youth and his relationship with Hans Berg; a portrait of their community emerges as the narrator desperately tries to understand why some of his neighbors became Nazis while others decided to fight against them. Meanwhile, the narrator has an affair with a beguiling woman named Kari, who turns out to have Nazi ties. As one might expect, the paths that lead the characters to their political destinies are convoluted, and there are no easy moral distinctions between sympathizers and resisters. Hoel's style, in this translation, is taut and spare (though somewhat overly formal and given to the passive voice) and well suited to the wrenching subterranean psychological drama that's played out in the pages. One sometimes wishes the narrative were as taut as Hoel's sentences; it tends to linger too long over the narrator's youthful recollections, though the tension does return toward the end of the book as the political intrigue comes to a head.
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