(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The Death of a Beekeeper opens with what Lars Gustafsson calls a “prelude” in which he says good-bye to the readers of this, the last part of his five-volume novel sequence, Sprickorna i muren (1971-1978; the cracks in the wall). He presents himself as merely the editor of notes left behind on Lars Lennart Westin’s death, telling the reader that the speaker to whom he now hands over the narrative suffers from cancer of the spleen. As the narrative proper begins, the reader knows more than the protagonist.

The documents used for the narrative are a yellow notebook, the source of most of the entries in the novel, a blue notebook which contains stories (some of them science fiction) that Westin has written, and a torn notebook in which the progress of Westin’s illness is recorded. They cover a period from 1970 to 1975 and have supposedly been found in Westin’s home by his literary executor, Lars Gustafsson.

When the school where he was teaching was consolidated with a bigger school, Westin opted for early retirement. He has decided to settle in the country and keep bees. In an early entry, he worries about the well-being of his bees—he has not winterized the hives properly because he has not been feeling well all fall.

Another early indication of Westin’s illness is the fact that his dog does not seem to recognize him any longer. Westin speculates that perhaps the old dog is losing his sense of smell, or that Westin’s own smell has changed radically. In another entry, Westin relates his reactions on receiving a letter from the hospital where he has gone for tests: He decides not to open the letter, reasoning that if his illness is not life-threatening, it will simply pass, and if the news is about a fatal illness, he does not want to know it. He burns the letter...

(The entire section is 748 words.)