Par Lagerkvist - The Dwarf
'I am twenty-six inches tall, shapely and well proportioned, my heads perhaps a trifle too large.'
With this, Piccoline the dwarf begins his tale of hate and murder. He is the special servant of the Prince, and is devoted to the man like no other on this Earth. For Piccoline hates, despises, denies each and every single living thing, human, dwarf, animal: it does not matter to his hatred. He delights in his hate, lavishly describing his distaste for this or that person, or for this or that emotion.
'I seized the opportunity to sneer...'
'They are buffoons, though they do not know it, and nor does anybody else...'
'I stood there defenceless, naked, incapable of action, though I was foaming with rage.'
'My hatred was so alive that I almost thought I should lose consciousness...'
All this and more within the first fifty pages. He is consumed by his hate. Yet, at least in the beginning, there are occasional flashes of some other emotion - not love or kindness, but at the very least some sort of neutrality. He admires the paintings of the 'genius' Bernardo, and still later admires the weapons of war that the man designs, but would never call him a friend. There is, of course, the love for the Prince, but this is a white love ringed with black, for he only loves the Prince when the Prince is commanding him to do bleak things, or when the Prince holds him visibly higher than the other servants.
Towards the middle of the book, a war begins with a rival kingdom, and it is here that Piccoline almost succumbs to an ecstasy of negative emotion. He revels in the violence and terror, killing another dwarf he finds merely to be part of the destruction. He compares this murder to the time when he killed the little Princess' cat, and the comparison is dispassionate and intelligent. Later, the dwarf sets into motion his greatest triumph, an orgy of death and despair that ruins both kingdoms, perhaps forever.
It is difficult to recommend this book, yet I believe it is a necessary read. A diligent reader would not deny himself the pleasure of a treatise on love, so why not dip into the opposite, a dirge of hate? We all suffer from the emotion, whether cold hate or fiery, rational or not so much, and through Piccoline, we are able to view every terrible aspect.
In a telling section, Piccoline describes the creation of dwarfs as such: '...Our race is perpetuated through them, and thus and thus only can we enter this world. That is the inner reason for our sterility.' It is here when it is made clear to the reader - if it is not already - that Piccoline is a metaphor for the hate that we all carry within ourselves. He is hatred unleashed, unrestrained, and unapologetic. We may feel remorse after our actions, Piccoline never does. Strip away all positive qualities from a human being and you are left with this terrible creature. He embodies the desires we should not give in to, indeed, he executes them with glee
The end is as expected as it is chilling, and serves as a lesson to us all. At the risk of spoiling, I will say that Lagerkvist does not take the easy way out by killing the dwarf. No, he is left alive, though suffering, and this is an important choice. While incarcerated, the two kingdoms set about rebuilding their shattered empires, forging ties of peace and harmony, and Piccoline seethes. He knows that one day, perhaps soon, perhaps far away from now, but one day, he will be summoned again to do his master's bidding. He will be set forth on the world, to spread his seeds of hate and torment, and until that day, he is content to lie silent, forgotten, hating.