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Polyglot Lovers

A few pages into Lina Wolff’s third book, something that is not allowed to happen happens. The character Ellinor burns the only copy of a still unpublished book manuscript called “Polyglot lovers”. Page by page is thrown into the fire. As a lover of literature, I want to stop reading, but I can’t.

Wolff’s novel Polyglot Lovers is divided into three parts. In the first part, we follow Ellinor. She is thirty-six years old, comes from a small village in Skåne and has a series of less successful relationships behind her. Her first boyfriend taught her how to fight. Fighting is her passion in life.

The first part about Ellinor gives me an ache in my stomach. The character seems so helpless and like she has no will of her own. But at the same time she is strong, aggressive and seems to do exactly what she wants.

Wolff does not polish anything, but allows the character’s less flattering personality traits to shine through explicitly. As a reader, I sometimes have to fill in how different places and characters look which is fine since it’s not the surroundings that are interesting in this book.

The second part follows Max, the author of the screenplay Polyglot Lovers. He is contemplating his own marriage. “Why are you so weak, why can’t you do this? My admiration for people who manage to stay together are boundless. I imagined them making gigantic sacrifices to be able to play the game, to endure the draining of their life with a smile on their face.” He wrote the script because he wants a lover that speak all his languages. In the end he longs to be several different people, different personalities at the same time.

In the third part, we meet Lucrezia. She was a descendant of one of Italy’s most noble families. Max spent time in the family’s summer palace when he wrote the pages that was burned. By the third part, Lucretia’s family is on the verge of poverty.

Lina Wolff manages to portray psychologically complex characters that leave me as a reader with questions and concerns without obvious answers. And this is partly what made me fall for the book. After the success of Many People Die Like You (2009) and her second novel Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs (2012), she manages to outdo herself. It’s no wonder that Polyglot Lovers has been awarded the Svenska Dagbladet Literature Prize and the August Prize in 2016.

It is only at the end of the book that I begin to understand how things are connected. The narrative constantly hovers around the book manuscript, intertwining into a discernible pattern.

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