cover image Wilful Disregard

Wilful Disregard

Lena Andersson, trans. from the Swedish by Sarah Death. Other Press, $15.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-59051-761-1

In this slender novel of psychological and romantic obsession, winner of Sweden’s August Prize, Ester Nilsson is a Swedish poet of eight slim volumes who lives in Stockholm with her lover of seven years, Per. A woman who inhabits a seriously self-regulated world, Ester is happy to be invited to give a lecture on Hugo Rask, an artist. At the event, for which he is in attendance, Ester finds herself instantly taken with Hugo. Next, she is asked to write an article about the artist, which brings her further into his orbit and causes her breakup with Per. She and Hugo begin spending time together and having sex on a few separate occasions. Throughout it all, Hugo retains his emotional distance from Ester, who becomes more and more obsessed with him. In fact, the more indifferently he treats her, the more Ester convinces herself that she is totally in love with him. Over the course of 15 months, we see Ester repeatedly try to reach out to a distant Hugo. He, in turn, thoughtlessly responds to her just enough to give her the hope that one day her love for him will be returned. Andersson’s stainless steel prose and forensic dissection of Ester’s helplessness almost render her story dramatically pointless—and it will be enjoyable only to the reader who relishes spending time with a character embroiled in such unending masochistic misery. (Feb.)