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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Stories of Happy People

by
Lars Gustafsson


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Stories of Happy People



Title: Stories of Happy People
Author: Lars Gustafsson
Genre: Stories
Written: 1981 (Eng.: 1986)
Length: 134 pages
Original in: Swedish
Availability: Stories of Happy People - US
Stories of Happy People - UK
Stories of Happy People - Canada
Erzählungen von glücklichen Menschen - Deutschland
  • Translated by Yvonne L. Sandstroem and John Weinstock
  • Swedish title: Berättelser om lyckliga människor

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Our Assessment:

B+ : nice, concise stories of people's lives

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. A+ 7/9/1986 Eric O. Johannesson


  From the Reviews:
  • "(A) collection of 10 delightful and significant narratives elegantly translated by Yvonne L. Sandstroem and John Weinstock. Rich in variety and reflecting a subtle sense of humor, they should appeal to a wide audience. (...) For those willing to follow his tales to their epiphanic moments, Stories of Happy People offers an intellectual adventure of the highest order." - Eric O. Johannesson, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Lars Gustafsson's Stories of Happy People tells success stories on a very small and human scale. The characters are by and large fairly ordinary people, but they manage to achieve a sort of happiness that is not tied to more obvious measures of success -- fame, fortune, etc.
       These ten stories tell of a wide variety of characters, including the mentally disabled, the senile, and the insane.
       The Girl in the Blue Cap tells the story of an experimental physicist. Generally working with particle accelerators at places like CERN he here conducts a human experiment, catching a glimpse of the past. What Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger tells of a recently widowed Swedish professor specializing in the esoteric area of Swedish literature of the 1890s at a Texas university.
       The significance of memory and memories is emphasized. Even though most of these people are alone they find a hold in memories of loved ones, or the creations (or re-creations) of their own mind.
       The first story, Uncle Sven and the Cultural Revolution finds a Swedish research engineer being sent to a China that is caught up in the Cultural Revolution. He is to help solve a complex engineering problem there. Deftly Gustafsson describes Uncle Sven's Chinese adventures in a country cowed by and in the thrall of Mao (who Sven invokes in presenting his findings), and contrasts that with his sedate Swedish life before and after. It is a charming, multilayered tale.
       In most of the stories Gustafsson sketches out whole lives in a few quick sentences and paragraphs. "No one really knows what a human being is", he writes in The Art of Surviving November, but he tries to suggest possible answers throughout these tales. A mix of memories and small but significant events are the substance of these light but resonant tales. They seem fairly effortless, and they do not always seem to go far -- no dramatic endings and the like -- but they are surprisingly full and deep. And they are generous, and filled with a generous happiness -- even if it is generally tinged by melancholy.
       A fine, enjoyable collection.

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Links:

Reviews: Lars Gustafsson: Other books by Lars Gustafsson under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Swedish author Lars Gustafsson was born in 1936. He divides his time between his native Vasteras and the University of Texas, Austin, where he is a professor.

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