cover image Acts of Infidelity

Acts of Infidelity

Lena Andersson, trans. from the Swedish by Saskia Vogel. Other Press, $16.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-59051-903-5

In this exhaustive and engrossing anatomy of a romance, Andersson revisits Ester Nilsson (the protagonist of Andersson’s only other novel published in English, Willful Disregard), a clear-eyed philosopher-poet with a tendency to dive blindly into relationships. During rehearsals for a play Ester has written on “the agonies of love,” she meets Olof Sten, an older, married actor with whom she feels an instant connection. Before their romantic relationship has properly begun, she tells him she wants to share her life with him; he demurs, saying he will not leave his wife. The two carry on an intermittent affair over the next several years, giving Ester the opportunity to bring her philosophical training to bear on Olof’s smallest actions to convince herself that he will leave his wife. Olof, though, is a creature of “almost pathological ambivalence,” who intuitively senses just how much of himself to give, and withhold, to maintain the status quo. The novel is as much about love as about two competing philosophies of language about love. Ester, for whom “a phenomenon didn’t really exist until it was articulated,” is continually frustrated by the more reticent Olof, for whom “nothing had happened if it was unnamed, uncategorized and unformulated.” The affair, like the novel, has its numbing repetitions, and making readers inhabit this relationship purgatory is part of the point of Andersson’s involving analysis of love’s absurd syntax. This is a cogent, astute novel that will be appreciated by patient readers. [em](Apr.) [/em]