The Dwarf by Par Lagerkvist

dwarf Shazam! The 1951 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature created one malevolent son of gun. Amongst a pack of back stabbers, one man stands above all at 26-inches tall. Piccoline, the Court dwarf. He cuts off beloved kitten’s heads, kills rival dwarves, loathes young lovers, wants the riff-raff (especially poets) beaten and poison’s his master unsuspecting frenemies…throwing in those he doesn’t care for for free.

At moments this is a fun book, especially when he throws an extra poisoning in, but this study of good and evil does not fulfill. The Dwarf works for a Renaissance Italian Prince who funds many artists and intellectuals, and while associating with that lot is, to The Dwarf, despicable, it is the excepted norm for a great prince. Therefore, he holds his tiny nose and tolerates his Prince’s behavior, because he knows the time when his Prince needs him will come. When there is a dirty job to be done, he is the man, errr…the dwarf to do it and he does it with aplomb. In his view, evils bubble up in people and he is there to act on it for them.

The reader does expect the converse to occur, i.e., goodness to bubble up in the Dwarf, but alas, that never materializes. One can’t be sure that it would have improved the book if it did, but the reader does trend that way, which makes the book’s ending a smidge surprising and fruitless.

Disturbing the Peace

drunk Happiness is a spouse, enviable children and a job that makes more cake that the Joneses. Some find that even after they check all of those boxes they still are not happy. Having achieved upper middle classdom, John Wilder, rather than become an advertising titan or SuperDad, puts it on cruise control, which affords him plenty of free time to indulge in alcohol and women.

Early in the novel, triggered by either alcohol and/or mental disturbances, Wilder lands in Bellevue’s Mental Ward. That stinks because it’s early in the novel and it is the book’s high water mark. From there on you gradually stop caring about Wilder. Wilder’s alcohol keeps flowing and his paranoia and delusions begin…but so what, he isn’t the genius that breaks out of the conventional to become a Galileo, an Einstein, or Caitlin Jenner. He’s a nut.

Assault on greatness is likely not the point. Yates may be illustrating the other side of the coin. That is, to an outside observer, it doesn’t take much (or perceivably anything) for a guy to just hit the eject button and plummet. We all know that guy. Many of us have put our finger over that button…but just weren’t crazy enough to hit it. In this instance the ejector seat had no parachute and the plane sailed on.