cover image Antiquity


Hanna Johansson, trans. from the Swedish by Kira Josefsson. Catapult, $26 (224p) ISBN 978-1-64622-171-4

Johansson debuts with a moody exploration of loneliness and obsession against the backdrop of an arrestingly beautiful Greek island. The unnamed 30-something narrator accepts an invitation from Helena, an artist whom she recently interviewed and has become fixated upon, to visit Helena’s house on Syros. There, the narrator is distraught to learn that Helena’s teenage daughter, Olga, will be joining them, interrupting what she had hoped would be an opportunity to get closer to Helen. Of Olga, the narrator thinks, “I hated the name before I met her; I hated it only when I knew her by name, when all I knew was what Helena had told me about her.” The name itself gives the narrator a “strange and inexplicable sense of being left out.” After Olga arrives on the island and Helena’s interest in the narrator begins to wane, she turns her eye instead to Olga, inserting herself between the mother and daughter and shifting her allegiances as she develops a Lolita-like erotic interest in the girl. While Johansson’s sentences are lovely and her observations are sharp and clear-eyed, the novel’s stakes never rise high enough to capture the reader’s attention. What might have been a visceral narrative of desire and harm remains a quiet meditation. (Feb.)