cover image The Blue Mother

The Blue Mother

Christer Kihlman. University of Nebraska Press, $29.95 (308pp) ISBN 978-0-8032-2721-7

In this novel of an upper-class Finnish-Swedish family, originally published in Scandinavia in 1963 and told from the perspectives of two brothers born in the 1930s, memory is unreliable, sexuality the only reality, Nazism a constant haunting presence, and utter despair sometimes the only honest response to the ills of the universe. Benno Lindermann emerges from a childhood marked by sexual abuse and the WW II death of his oldest brother, Robby, and constructs a fantasy life around homosexual sadomasochism and religious salvation. Brother Raf is a writer and socialist, a man of bitterly satirical rage who is happy only when making love. As Benno goes insane and Raf's marriage disintegrates, Kihlman demonstrates that the two men are shaped by the same forces and propelled by the same questions. Each yearns for what Raf calls ``the blue mother''--the soft woman in blue, who, in an early memory, offers Raf maternal solace. Readers may tire of Kihlman's exhaustive treatment of existential crises, but his writing is passionate and, ultimately, hopeful. (Apr.)