cover image The Helios Disaster

The Helios Disaster

Linda Boström Knausgård, trans. from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles. World Editions, $15.99 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-64286-068-9

A modern, orphaned incarnation of the goddess Athena chronicles her madness in Knausgård’s unflinching examination of separation, loss, and depression (after Welcome to America). Twelve-year-old Anna is hatched whole in a suit of armor from the forehead of her father, Conrad. Frightened by his screaming, she escapes to a northern Swedish village, naked but for her golden helmet. After learning that Conrad is a schizophrenic who has since been committed to a psychiatric hospital, Anna is placed by a social services agency with a churchgoing family. Their well-meaning efforts to assimilate her are soon complicated by her determination to correspond with Conrad, and by an apparent gift for speaking in tongues, which pleases them until they learn that she is in fact speaking Greek. The family commits her, too, to a psychiatric hospital. In brilliant, harrowing pages of deep interiority, Knausgård describes Anna’s fever dream of alienation; Anna is desperate for love and confounded by it, and chronically incapable of connecting with those who might provide it. Knausgård’s bluntly surreal style—she is also a poet— suits Anna’s vibrant, tormented imagination. “This is a war,” Anna says of her loneliness, evoking her mythological archetype. Tidy endings are nowhere to be found; Knausgård instead gratifies by portraiture, in her thrilling conception of a young goddess on earth. (Apr.)