Generalerna The Generals

Corporal Edwin Velder is on trial for his life. Some of his 127 alleged crime are military, but others are civil and moral: bigamy, rape, and sacrilege. The Generals, Per Wahlöö’s most complex novel, takes the form of the proceedings of the trial, stretching over three months. The trial is of great political importance to the regime. The result is foregone conclusion: Velder has been prepared in prison by “specialists” for three years. He is a physical and mental wreck and confesses to all but one of the charges. In reality the court-martial is an elaborate rehearsal of the events of the last eight years. The past and the dead are on trial. A group of civilized, intelligent men took over the island, we learn, and began to build an ideal state. There were no politics, religion, laws, bureaucracy, or taxes. The country was carefully developed and enjoyed great prosperity and general happiness under the loosely exercised authority of the state’s founders. After five years the first cracks appeared with a disagreement in the ruling council. Slow disintegration set in: a secret armed force was built up by one of the rulers, and eventually civil war broke out. The rout of the liberal party was followed by full-scale fighting between the “fascists” and the “reds”. At the time of the trial the country has enjoyed, officially, three years of peace after the cease-fire, but in fact the Generals, who rule with an iron grip, are ceaselessly struggling for power with one another. The military tribunal, a gallery of fanaticism and obtuse cruelty, forces Velder to reconstruct the events, personalities, ideals, battles, and final defeat of the island revolution. As the inevitable verdict is pronounced on the innocent, unprotesting Velder, the latest coup takes place.

The Generals is a political novel but told with Wahlöö’s sardonic humor and thriller writer’s sense of suspense. He is too subtle a moralist to draw an obvious allegory or point a message for his readers. They must draw their own conclusions from what is Wahlöö’s most demanding and satisfying novel.


Svenska Dagbladets Literary Prize (Best Literary Novel of the Year) Sweden 1965
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  • “Fascinating”

    Library Journal, US

  • “Expert dialogue…This is a chilling satire.”

    Publishers Weekly, US

  • “The straightforwardness of an Ernest Hemingway and the color of Leon Uris.”

    Minnesota Daily, US

  • “I applaud the inventiveness of the author.”

    The Long Island Catholic, US

  • “A quantum jump forward into the realm of high literary achievment.”

    The Sunday Oklahoman, US

  • “Essentially a serious novel, it nevertheless reads with the suspense one has reason to expect from the pen of a great mystery writer.”

    The Sunday Oregonian, US

Per Wahlöö
  • Crime
Reading material

Swedish edition

English edition

Rights sold

Germany, Rowohlt

Poland, Albatros

Sweden, Piratförlaget

US, Vintage

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