Praise for In the Distance
"A brilliant debut. . . . This suspenseful novel is a potent depiction of loneliness, a memorable immigration narrative, and a canny reinvention of the old-school western."—Publishers Weekly, Top 10 Books of 2017
“As Díaz, who delights in playful language, lists, and stream-of-consciousness prose, reconstructs [Hawk’s] adventures, he evokes the multicultural nature of westward expansion, in which immigrants did the bulk of the hard labor and suffered the gravest dangers. . . . An ambitious and thoroughly realized work of revisionist historical fiction.” —Kirkus
“A brilliant and fresh take on the old-school western . . . Díaz cleverly updates an old-fashioned yarn, and his novel is rife with exquisite moments . . . The book contains some of the finest landscape writing around.” —Publishers Weekly, boxed and starred review
"Perhaps most striking is Díaz’s ability to describe the known as unknown, the all too familiar when it is yet unfamiliar. The nature of his protagonist, Håkan Söderström, a lost and wandering Swedish immigrant in the rough, largely uninhabited American territory, allows Diaz to write of what it is like to encounter the foreign or forgotten, such that the reader has a similarly enlightening experience, encountering it anew." —The Paris Review, "Staff Picks"
"Hernan Diaz's strange, absorbing novel "In the Distance" . . . upends the romance and mythology of America's Western experience and rugged individualism. . . . Diaz's take on the immigrant's experience strikes me as a modern story. It resonated most strongly when my mind went to the millions of people on the move around the world today."—The Star Tribune
“Stitched through with humor, this often-unpredictable novel will keep readers running along with every step of Håkan’s odd escapades.” —Booklist
"[In the Distance] is the story of a young Swedish emigrant to the United States, some time in the middle of the 19th century, which begins as a vividly observed and emotionally nuanced Western, and evolves into a kind of epic of loneliness, as our protagonist wanders farther and farther into the desolate landscapes of the West, and comes dizzyingly close to a psychic point of no return. It's a hero's journey, or possibly a monster's journey—the ending recalls the austere beauty of the last scenes of Frankenstein—and one of the great pleasures of Diaz's singular book is to observe the complicated ways in which the hero and the monster coexist."—BOMB, “Fall Books Preview”
"Be on the lookout for Hernan Diaz’s short story in our pages next year. Until then, thank goodness we have In the Distance (Coffee House), his first novel—a sensitively written, often harrowing odyssey through the desert—which will have made ten more year-end lists since breakfast."—The Kenyon Review, "Holiday Reading Recommendations"
“[In the Distance] is an episodic picaresque adventure, but the transitions are so smooth—and the prose is as unbroken as the horizon—that the past fades away like a dream. It’s as if Herman Melville had navigated the American West, instead of the ocean.”—The Nation
"An immigrant saga with western trappings . . . Díaz may have staked out his desert landscape in the American West, but he isn’t particularly interested in the western per se. 'There are no gunslingers or saloon brawls or stagecoaches being chased in the book,' he says. For him, the desertlike atmosphere of the West carries its own truth about life in America. 'The vaster the desert, the more claustrophobic the confinement,' he says."—Publishers Weekly, "Writers to Watch 2017: Anticipated Debuts"
"Debut author Hernan Diaz depicts a bonafide Western character, an original born in the spirit of expansion and innovation and formed by “the business of being that took up all his time.” Jorge Luis Borges’ influence on Diaz is palpable in his pithy prose; lists convey the sparsity of Håkan’s surroundings and the emptiness that feeds him again and again on his circular path. Diaz is bound to join ranks with Borges on the literary scene with this mythical personality, still at large in our consciousness long after we’ve put down the book."—BookPage
"While set in the American West, this is no conventional Western, as it turns the genre's stereotypes upside down, taking place on a frontier as much mythic as real with a main character traveling east. In this world, American individualism becomes the isolation that is its shadow and the dream of freedom devolves into anarchic violence. And while Håkan longs for community, he finds himself a stranger everywhere. VERDICT: Resonant historical fiction with a contemporary feel."—Library Journal, starred review
"Stunning . . . The writing style is free of sentimental conclusions and emotional directives, yet Håkan is a perpetually engaging and sympathetic character, so expressively drawn that bouts of loneliness, heartache, and shame vibrate off the page. . . . The American wilderness is Håkan’s only constant companion, and descriptions of salt flats, canyons, and prairies shimmer with an almost hallucinatory power. Fine writing, diverse and well-imagined exploits, and Håkan himself keep the pace flowing, and mounting tension over just how it will all end makes for long reading sessions. As gritty, unromanticized tales of the American West go, In the Distance ranks with classics like Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man and Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove."—Foreword Reviews, starred review
"Díaz’s great gift lies in reconfiguring the possible, the expected, the taken-for-granted into something extraordinary."—Paste
"A gritty, dreamy anti-Western Western. This book’s unflinching exposure of our foundational American myths about individualism and violence is so well-executed that it feels nothing short of subversive. Surreal, cerebral, and affecting beyond what I thought possible."—LitHub
"There are plenty of novels that include questing through the American West of the 19th century. I’ve read my share. In the Distance is more whole, more crackling, alive, awake, and speaking than any of those others. The book is new, recently published, but also new in the better and more important sense."—Alex Higley—Publishers Weekly. "10 Essential Books of the American West"
"A a truly haunting narrative. . . . A gorgeous journey, a profound homage to America’s natural beauty. Dip into Hernan Diaz’s In the Distance slowly, read a little bit at a time, enjoy the pure beauty of Hawk’s journey, his sense of being in America’s mythic past."—Counterpunch
“Hernan Diaz’s In the Distance will haunt me forever, a narrative that continues to astound me, and I think a near perfect portrayal of aloneness and solitude and deep longing.” —The Millions
"In the Distance did something new, subverting the Western genre and, in so doing, raising important questions about cultural attitudes made evident by assumptions we make about art, particularly toward guns and immigrants. It’s also just a great story."—The Paris Review Staff’s Favorite Books of 2017
"The novel is shot through with breathtaking imagery and moments of real profundity — an unforgettable incident on a salt lake, a gut-wrenching sequence in a desert cañon, a tense climax in a subterranean enclave — and all of these derive their power from Diaz’s meticulous approach to his protagonist’s point-of-view. If the raw action of In the Distance would make it a compelling Western in any event, it is finally a novel of larger, more sweeping ambitions which it realizes through the sheer force of its style."—Daniel Davis Wood: Necessary Fiction
"The musical prose of Hernan Diaz’s debut novel In the Distance is as rich and surprising as the quest that the novel’s protagonist, Håkan Söderström, embarks on through the volatile American West. . . . Though it successfully mines many elements of a classic western novel, In the Distance is far more than a western. The meticulous care with which Diaz has clearly crafted each sentence proves he is a highly versatile author, one who is virtually limitless in scope. . . . Ultimately, it is a combination of nuanced characters like Håkan and finely-tuned, lyrical prose that enables Diaz to wildly succeed here in humanizing an often mythologized time in history.—The Arkansas International
"This is the perfect marriage of adventure and literary fiction. The sprawling narrative covers an entire lifetime of traveling and growing, and it always stays fresh and exciting."—PANK: "Best Books of 2017"
"Diaz performs masterstrokes of aesthetic, thematic, and narrative superimposition throughout the novel. In the Distance is distinguished by inversions of traditional history, which color the novel’s terribly gorgeous landscape of 19th century west of the Mississippi. . . . The breadth and deployment of Diaz’s argot is simply astounding. His sentences are crisp, speckled with terms esoteric to an era yet idiomatically clear in their function. And more than any historical reimagining, Håkan’s desperate, often desultory journey blurs the line between purpose and nihilism, hope and despair, swirling together the variegation of human agency and circumstance until we find ourselves staring at the ineffable being that has become of Håkan, a life so saturated with learning, love, and loss that we have no choice but to accept his final measure."—Atticus Review
"[Díaz's] debut novel has a wonderfully old-fashioned feel. It sprawls across early America through the story of a Swedish immigrant who transforms from penniless young man to living legend."—BookPage, "First Fiction: The 15 Most Exciting Debuts of the Fall"
"The opening line (and, really, the opening chapter) is worth double or triple whatever money you spend on this novel. It’s that good."—Writer's Bone
"The prose is surreal and wondrous, especially in its evocation of a landscape that exists more in allegory than historical fact."—Tor.com
"An infectious story of one man’s quest for solitude and understanding, In the Distance is a noteworthy, original debut."—The Gazette
"Diaz wonderfully distills the sweeping clichés of the era and region into the heart and soul of a single man, showing the violence and chaos of the imperialist age."—Gabriel Boudali, 3:AM Magazine
“In the Distance is a singular and haunting novel, an epic journey into the wilderness of nineteenth-century America and into the depths of solitude. In its majestic evocation of landscapes it bears a resemblance to Blood Meridian, but in the meditative precision of its language and the moral compass that spins at its heart, Díaz’s novel is a creature all its own, and it’s one of the very few works of fiction that transport you, emotionally and imaginatively, to an utterly new place. It’s a breathtaking trip.” —Paul La Farge
“If I could hand you this book I would. Read this. Hernán Díaz’s In the Distance is a portrait of this country as both a dreamscape and a living nightmare. With echoes of John Williams’s Butcher’s Crossing, Andrey Platonov’s Soul, and Richard Hughes’s A High Wind in Jamaica, this is fiction at its finest—propulsive, unsettling, wildly ambitious, and an unforgettable journey that we will certainly return to in the years to come.” —Paul Yoon, author of The Mountain
“In the Distance by Hernán Díaz sends a shotgun blast through standard received notions of the Old West and who was causing trouble in it. Håkan and his adventures, which are truly extraordinary, not to mention beautifully written, had me from the novel’s first striking chapter to the last.” —Laird Hunt
“On its surface, In the Distance is a haunting and unique tale of survival—with all the thrilling frustrations of such. Deeper still, it is a story about the devastation wrought by the American Dream—the West as it happened to many, in spite of all they’d hoped.” —Colin Winnette
“Great stories are driven by desire. Håkan Söderström, the remarkable protagonist of Hernán Díaz’s In the Distance, sets off on an unremitting quest to find his brother. As he journeys against the grain of the frontier, Håkan confronts lust, love, honor, greed, and confounding betrayal. He also crafts a solitude that becomes, in Díaz’s skilled hands, as American as the landscape. In prose that is as bold as the western sky, Díaz has written an unforgettable tale of soulfulness and survival.” —Alyson Hagy, author of Boleto
“While In the Distance can be read as a revisionist western—and totally enjoyed and chewed on as such—what makes Díaz’s book truly exceptional is how far beyond a simple genre it goes. A beautiful, thoughtful, and often heartbreaking exploration of lonesomeness, the simple confusion of just living, and the magnificent need for human connection.” —Justin Souther, Malaprop’s Bookstore
"A tremendous debut novel and an epic American story. . . . Just a flat out great book." —Brazos Bookstore, "Buyer’s Corner: Upcoming Fall Favorites!"
“The western as American myth is no new thing, but rarely has it been done so well. A picaresque, a bildungsroman, a parable, and a survivor tale all in one, Hernan Diaz’s story of Håkan, a Swedish immigrant forced to fend for himself in the American West, has an epic feel that belies the slender book’s page count. This is the kind of non-whitewashed American mythology that nurses a kernel of truth: Are we not all immigrants to a world we hoped would be better, encountering on life’s journey few friends and more foes, all of whom influence our understanding of the world and leave lasting impressions even after the memory of their faces fade?” —Christopher Phipps, East Bay Booksellers
"Through the story of Håkan, a Swedish immigrant to the United States in the mid 1800s, Diaz meditates on the nature of impersonal landscape, explores a life of isolation, and tours through some of the characters that carved the identity of the American West. This is a strange and brilliant version of historical fiction, twisting the genre into something unique. For fans of Cormac McCarthy and Eleanor Catton's Booker Prize winning novel The Luminaries." —Porter Square Books: Staff Picks
"Part coming-of-age tale, part survivalist story, you have never read a western frontier novel like this. Truly one of the best books of the year."—Third Place Books: Staff Picks
"The best novel I have read in 2017. Why? Because it is replete with qualities that seem increasingly scarce in contemporary culture; namely nuance, subtlety, and reflection. A young Swedish immigrant arrives penniless in antebellum America, his sole purpose to reunite with his brother. From this simple setup, Diaz creates a deep evocation of foreignness, adding a welcome complication to the Western genre. Exploring myth and shame, the episodic journey upends stereotypes while maintaining a gripping narrative. Written in beautifully tactile prose, In The Distance is a startling debut novel. I look forward to reading it again." —Elliott Bay Book Company