From this promising set-up, however, the novel begins to unravel, as the secrets of the island are revealed. There are simply too many clumsy, contorted explanations – and too much emphasis on shock. Ultimately, not even the invocation of Shakespeare’s great romance of bewitchment and redemption can lend The Tempest the transformative grace and power Sam-Sandberg is so evidently reaching for. Nor can the novel’s lyrical prose, beautifully captured in Anna Paterson’s translation.
Steve Sem-Sandberg’s brief, dark and wonderfully atmospheric 12th novel... What makes The Tempest truly special, though, is the risks that Sem-Sandberg takes with narrative conventions, the way that his prose seems to break every rule in the creative writing handbook, and yet does so joyfully, recklessly and utterly convincingly... That such stylistic complexity is rendered in a manner that feels entirely natural is testimony to the great skill of the translator, Anna Paterson... It’s as if the book’s most significant borrowing from Shakespeare’s play is not the island setting, but rather Prospero’s total control of narrative, the omnipotence of the author-magician.
The Swedish author Steve Sem-Sandberg’s novels worry at Nazi atrocities as at a loose tooth... His latest, The Tempest, tackles Nazi collaboration in Norway – but he approaches his subject circuitously, peeling back layers of secrecy, evasion and guilt... With Kaufmann — the autocratic leader and keen botanist, described as “something of a magician” — as a Prospero figure, and his monstrous farm manager Mr Carsten as his Caliban, there are echoes of Shakespeare’s play in this Tempest. But themes of forgiveness and repentance aren’t so obvious here; the lingering shadows of complicity remain dense and murky.