The year is 1962 and the Cuban Missile Crisis casts its shadow over the world. In California the ageing Swedish-American Albert Carlson feels death approaching. The time has come for him to look back on his life and reflect on what he did with his one time on earth.
A Time on Earth (Din stund på jorden) by Vilhelm Moberg is a story about death and about living. About Albert who abandoned his dreams, and about his brother Sigfrid who died young and never got the chance to fulfil his. It is a melancholic story, filled with regrets over two lives which never became what they ought, but it is written with a compassion for the characters which prevents it from being too bleak.
Albert Carlson has lived his whole adult life in the USA but never managed to make it his home. Now he spends his days in a lonely hotel room with his memories. He suffers from the common emigrant curse of longing for a country which no longer exists, the Sweden he knew has moved on without him (as an emigrant myself this is something I fear). The story moves back and forth from Albert’s life in California to his childhood in rural Sweden, both beautifully portrayed in the novel.
A Time on Earth is a beautiful book, which kept me captivated from the beginning, but it is not a very cheerful read. I believe I should find something a bit lighter for my next read.
This book was on my Classics Club reading list. I read it in Swedish but an English translation exists.