Mr. Sem-Sandberg wants to re-create the chaotic, collage effect of Büchner’s play, but he also wants to fill in Woyzeck’s backstory, which necessitates a great deal more detail and exposition…. He does so with remarkable success in the novel’s standout middle section, which follows Woyzeck’s seven years in the Napoleonic Wars. Mr. Sem-Sandberg is eerily good at depicting the empty animal savagery of the front.
Woyzeck is the story of a loyal foot soldier who, in a fit of jealous rage, kills the woman he loves. In 1836, this true story inspired Georg Büchner to write the play that would become a classic in European dramas. Sem-Sandberg basis his latest novel W. on the same material. It is a story of a lonely man who joins the army to escape his misery and participates in one of the many wars in the early 19th century.
Sem-Sandberg paints a picture of a torn Europe – a continent falling apart under the savagery of war, while dreaming of a whole new and enlightened view on the individual as a social creature. First and foremost, though, W. is a ruthless study of the vulnerable human being, of the abyss that, according to Büchner, constitutes every person.
In 2019 W. was nominated for the prestigious Swedish August prize. W was also nominated for The Swedish National Radio’s Novel Prize 2020 (Sveriges Radios romanpris 2020).