cover image The Polyglot Lovers

The Polyglot Lovers

Lina Wolff, trans. from the Swedish by Saskia Vogel. And Other Stories, $16.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-911508-44-1

The edifice of male genius is annihilated in this galvanizing novel from Wolff (Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs). An online date brings Ellinor, whose lone passion is her village’s fight club, to the home of a Stockholm literary critic named Ruben. He shows her a manuscript that a novelist acquaintance, Max, asked him to read (there is only a single copy). Shortly afterward, they have sex, which turns violent, and Ellinor burns the manuscript as revenge. As a toxic symbiosis sets in between the unlikely pair, Wolff delves into the sordid affair that precipitated the manuscript’s creation. After sleeping with a suicidal receptionist, Max dismisses her as “too old, too inhibited, and too boring.” The woman curses him, prompting Max to seek redemption by authoring a new book. For inspiration, he heads to Italy and seduces the matriarch of a declining aristocratic family. His work is only interrupted by the arrival of the woman’s daughter, Claudia, who puts an end to the manipulative romance in exhilarating fashion. Wolff orchestrates her divergent plots into riveting harmony, but more striking is the audacity with which she reveals Max and Ruben’s reckless egoism. “I’m an autodidact in male devastation,” Claudia declares before sticking the final pin in Max’s inflated persona. Wolff’s novel proves the necessity of cultivating such a specialty. Firing on all cylinders from beginning to end, this story pulses with intellect and vitality unmatched by the literary barons it deposes. (Apr.)