Excerpt from The Hermit by Thomas Rydahl, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Hermit

by Thomas Rydahl

The Hermit by Thomas Rydahl X
The Hermit by Thomas Rydahl
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Nov 2016, 480 pages
    Jun 2017, 480 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

The Hermit

Eighteen minutes to go. On the back wall of the bar the TV's showing images from Times Square, fireworks over Sydney Harbour, Big Ben's long hands approaching XII. The bartender shouts Are you ready for the new year? It sounds so promising, so simple. As if one leaves behind all the old, bringing only the new into the new year. But new means nothing to him. He's not new. He doesn't need new. He doesn't want new. He just wants the old to behave properly. Seventeen minutes. He can still ring the doorbell and wish her a happy new year. Maybe she's wearing a negligee or whatever it's called. She's been sitting there drinking white wine and watching reruns of 7 Vidas, which everyone loves. Her hair is wet, she's taken a cool bath.

A crowd of people moves to exit onto the street. He's nearly pushed off his stool. He pays with a bill and remembers why he doesn't frequent tourist traps: it costs more than twenty euros for whisky and Drambuie. He follows the throng out and starts back towards Calle Palangre. He crosses the street and enters her building. It was built during the Franco years, and the stairwell is simple and cobalt-blue. On the first floor he reads the names on each of the three doors. Loud music is blaring inside, but there's no Louisa or L.

He walks up another flight. A couple stands kissing beneath the artificial light of the stairwell, but when he passes them they stop, shamefaced, and head down the stairs.

As he stands catching his breath a moment, he looks at the nameplates, then continues to the top floor. Three floors with doors equals nine doors.

On the third floor live one Federico Javier Panôs and one Sobrino. And in the centre, Luisa Muelas. The sign on her door is large and inlaid with gold, her name etched in thick, cursive letters. No doubt a gift from Petra and her husband. It's one of those traditional items parents give their children whenever they, as thirty-year-olds, move out of their childhood home.

It seems quiet behind each of the doors. He puts his ear against Luisa Muelas's and almost wishes her not to be home. But there's a faint noise inside – clatters, creaks, mumbles – but perhaps it's just the TV.

He straightens up and raps his good hand, the right, against the flat chunk of wood above the peephole. It's four minutes to midnight. Maybe his knocks will fade into the raucous noise of New Year's Eve.

Suddenly he sees a face in the nameplate.

The face is indistinct. A pleading, confused face dominated by two eyes wedged between a stack of wrinkles and shabby skin, topped off with a tired beard. A desperate face. In it he can see love and sorrow, he can see decades of bewilderment and alcohol, and he can see the cynical observer, appraising and judgmental. It's an appallingly wretched face, difficult to penetrate, difficult to stomach, difficult to love. But worst of all it's his face. As seen only from the rearview mirror of his car, or in the distorted mirrors above the chipped sinks of public toilets, or in shop windows, but preferably not at all. There's only one thing to ask that face.

What have you got to offer? In reality there's nothing more frightening than this. The encounter. The moment in a life when one takes a risk. When one says, I want you. The moment when chance ceases, when one makes a stand and asks another to accept. The moment when two soap bubbles burst the reflection, merging into one. It doesn't happen during a kiss, or during sex, and not even when one person loves another. It's in the terrifying second when one dares to make a mad claim that one has something to offer another by one's very presence.

He hears sounds behind the door now. Like stockinged feet.

Excerpted from The Hermit by Thomas Rydahl, translated by K.E. Semmel. Copyright © 2014 Thomas Rydahl, translation copyright © 2016 K.E. Semmel. Published by Oneworld Publications.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Obsessive Personality

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: In Extremis
    In Extremis
    by Lindsey Hilsum
    International journalist Marie Colvin pushed the limits in her work and her personal life. Widely ...
  • Book Jacket: Vita Nostra
    Vita Nostra
    by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko
    Vita Nostra by Ukrainian authors Sergey and Marina Dyachenko is one of those novels that defies ...
  • Book Jacket: And The Ocean Was Our Sky
    And The Ocean Was Our Sky
    by Patrick Ness
    Patrick Ness has developed a reputation for experimental literature executed well, and his latest, ...
  • Book Jacket: Let It Bang
    Let It Bang
    by RJ Young
    Every interracial love story is an exercise in complications. R.J. Young and Lizzie Stafford's ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
by Barbara Kingsolver

A timely novel that explores the human capacity for resiliency and compassion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Ladder to the Sky
    by John Boyne

    A seductive, unputdownable psychodrama following one brilliant, ruthless man.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Severance

Severance by Ling Ma

An offbeat, wryly funny, apocalyptic satire that is featured on more than twenty 2018 "Must Read" lists!


Word Play

Solve this clue:

I Ain't O U T F L S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.