I look at you
and I ask myself
if a woman’s vanity is increased
by living with a successful man.
That was the stupidest thing
I’ve ever heard.
Even from you.
A marriage in its final death throes; half a life lived together, now ending. Raging, bitter, sad and scathing, Ebba Witt-Brattström’s debut novel introduces a bold voice in contemporary European fiction.
Ebba Witt-Brattström is currently Professor of Nordic Literature at Helsinki University. She has received numerous awards for her work and was one of the founding members of the Feminist Initiative party.
Kate Lambert is a freelance translator working from Swedish and Finnish into British English in the depths of Somerset in South-West England. She has been working as a translator since 1996 and specialises in the arts and humanities, especially history and tourism. (She’s also a friend of mine, which is how I came to hear about the book in the first place.)
Nordisk Books is an independent publishing house in Whitstable, founded in 2016 and with a focus on modern and contemporary Scandinavian literature.
I ordered this directly from the publisher.
The bingo card
This could count towards: ‘An author from another country’; ‘A new to you press’; ‘A debut’; ‘Translated book’; ‘Out of your comfort zone’; or ‘Book that defies genre’.
I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like this. Sitting somewhere between poetry and prose, this is a fly-on-the-wall film of the slow, painful, disintegration of a relationship between two people who should probably have split up a long time ago. The ‘Love/War’ of the title hints at the partners’ opposite and incompatible understandings of the nature of the relationship – both what it was, and what it’s become.
A war doesn’t actually end
until one side is
You’re talking power politics
When lovers are at war
there are no winners
The extract quoted in the blurb is a good sample of the style; the disjointed dialogue continues to the bitter end. And it’s peppered with literary allusions in several different languages (sources and translations are provided at the back) – these are clever, educated people, who are just as susceptible to making a pig’s ear of their personal lives as anybody else. He’s abusive; she’s embittered. Nobody’s having any fun here; and yet I laughed. Usually it was because of a particularly well-chosen quotation.
It’s very readable; the conversation carried me along with it, as much as I was hoping for everybody’s sake for it all to be over. As in poetry, every word counts, and they’ve been chosen well.