The novel, in a new translation by Benjamin Miers-Cruz, is a timely warning on the dangers of absolutism... Bengt’s view of human nature is bleak... A Moth to a Flame is a book by a young writer, but the flaws that go along with that – a chaos of feelings, excessive detail, cynicism verging on nihilism – work in its favour and fit the fabric of Bengt’s churning emotions. Regrettably, we will never know how Dagerman’s writing would have developed in later life; he abandoned fiction in 1949, at the age of 26, and killed himself five years later.
Written in a lean, cinematic prose, Dagerman’s existential novels of the late Forties consider marital breakdown and sexual betrayal. Greene, for one, praised them for their “beautiful objectivity” and air of morbid psychology... Thanks to Graham Greene’s advocacy, Dagerman was in fact published in the UK in the late Fifties and early Sixties. A poet of the mundane, his influence can be felt today in detective fiction from Scandinavia (Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo). This moody, death-haunted novel is well worth reading.