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In the Distance

In the Distance
A novel by Hernan Diaz

A young Swedish boy, separated from his brother, becomes a man; the man, despite himself, becomes a legend and outlaw. 

October 2017

5.5 x 8.25 | 272 Pages
Trade Paper

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired.

To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.

ISBN: 978-1-56689-488-3.



A young Swedish immigrant finds himself penniless and alone in California. The boy travels east in search of his brother, moving on foot against the great current of emigrants pushing west. Driven back again and again, he meets naturalists, criminals, religious fanatics, swindlers, Indians, and lawmen, and his exploits turn him into a legend. Diaz defies the conventions of historical fiction and genre, offering a probing look at the stereotypes that populate our past and a portrait of radical foreignness.


  • Publishers Weekly Top Ten Book of 2017

“Diaz cleverly updates an old-fashioned yarn, and his novel is rife with exquisite moments.” —Publishers Weekly, boxed and starred review

“As Diaz, 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

“Stitched through with humor, this often-unpredictable novel will keep readers running along with every step of Håkan’s odd escapades.”  —Booklist

“This suspenseful novel is a potent depiction of loneliness, a memorable immigration narrative, and a canny reinvention of the old-school western.” —Publishers Weekly 

“Perhaps most striking is Diaz’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.” —Paris Review Daily

“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… Resonant historical fiction with a contemporary feel.” —Library Journal, *starred review*

“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

“… a sensitively written, often harrowing odyssey through the desert…” —Kenyon Review

“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.” —The Atticus Review

“An infectious story of one man’s quest for solitude and understanding, In the Distance is a noteworthy, original debut.”—The Gazette

“[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

“[In the Distance] is 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

“Like Håkan’s America, so too does In the Distance firmly exist in the “realm of the possible.” Yet Díaz’s great gift lies in reconfiguring the possible, the expected, the taken-for-granted into something extraordinary.” —Paste

“It’s a gorgeous journey, a profound homage to America’s natural beauty…” CounterPunch

“A Swedish immigrant, the American West, and the powers of fate unite in Hernan Diaz’s stunning novel, In the Distance.” —Foreword Reviews

“The prose is surreal and wondrous, especially in its evocation of a landscape that exists more in allegory than historical fact.” —Tor.com

“This is a strange and brilliant version of historical fiction, twisting the genre into something unique.” —Porter Square Books Newsletter, Featured Staff Pick

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, Diaz’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. Hernan Diaz’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 Hernan Diaz 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 Hernan Diaz’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 Diaz’s skilled hands, as American as the landscape. In prose that is as bold as the western sky, Diaz 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.” —Keaton Patterson, Brazos Bookstore

“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