‘The Polyglot Lovers’ by Lina Wolff – “Keep an Eye on Your Masculinity.” “Be Nice. Just That.”


‘The Polyglot Lovers’ by Lina Wolff  (2016) – 244 pages                 Translated from the Swedish by Saskia Vogel

There is no reason a novel this wildly disjointed and far-fetched should succeed, but ‘The Polyglot Lovers’ somehow does. It is strange, mesmerizing, fascinating. The three parts of ‘The Polyglot Lovers’ are greater than the sum of the whole which really does not make much sense at all.

The writing here is delicious and fun to read.

In the first part, Ellinor posts the following on an internet dating site:

I’m thirty-six years old and seeking a tender, but not too tender, man.”

Of course she gets many responses from men. One man named Ruben wrote back,

Other than the fact that your age suggests you and I will be able to engage in many interesting conversations and you in all likelihood can cook a very good dinner (I will, however, choose the wine.), I’m convinced that your body, which I assume has already been enjoyed by many, contains a wealth of possibility. And your sex must be a cache of dirty acts of which I too can enjoy.”

Ellinor immediately replies,

You devil!”

She travels to Stockholm to meet him. This guy Ruben is a disgusting creature in many ways. Besides his favorite author is Michel Houellebecq. But Ellinor stays with him trying to make it work.

Ruben has been given a copy of a novel by its author Max Lomas for assessment. The title is ‘The Polyglot Lovers’. This is the only copy of the novel so dreadful things happen to it.

And things only get more grotesque and dubious as we proceed to parts two and three of ‘The Polyglot Lovers’.

The second part shifts to the author Max Lomas who is also a fan of Michel Houellebecq. This famous French author whose works have been criticized for their vulgarity and misogyny is a recurring obsession of this novel. An underlying theme here seems to be disgust with men’s behavior.

Keep an eye on your masculinity. Don’t let it consume you.”

What are you getting at?” he said.

Be nice. Just that. Be nice.”

Later Max encounters Ruben’s ex-wife Mildred, and the following conversation ensues.

I write too”, I said.

Yes, she said, “About sex, right?”

No”, I said, “I don’t write about sex. I write about love.”

That’s what all men say,” she said. “But actually they’re just writing about men. Men and sex.”

I laughed. I took her point.

The third part takes us back a few years to Italy when Max is first writing ‘The Polyglot Lovers’.

There is a lot going on beneath the surface of ‘The Polyglot Lovers’, more than I totally comprehend. Some novels are simple and austere; ‘The Polyglot Lovers’ is the opposite. It challenges our attitudes, especially men’s attitudes, and I do like to be challenged. This is not a novel for the faint of heart.

‘The Polyglot Lovers’ is a wild and wonderful, if disjointed, read.


Grade:   A-


2 responses to this post.

  1. It sounds ghastly, but in a good way.

    Liked by 1 person


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