The Polyglot Lovers


Is this a Marmite book? Or maybe a sour-plum book, given the colour of the cover. My mum spent a large chunk of her childhood in Hong Kong, so she loves them, but they’re too strong for me. My mum also grew up surrounded by Cantonese and shifting from Polish to English, to the extent that her siblings speak better Italian than Polish, their mother tongue. But that’s another story. Or is it?

The title of this book is the title of the book the man in it is writing. He’s surrounded by women though, and since the author is a woman, they at least get a say in how the text is constructed – or deconstructed, as we will see.

The first woman comes in fighting. Some join a choir – others, like her, join a fight club. Various ghastly things happen along the way, but the fight is still in her. Will it get washed out of her if she moves too far from home?


The man should get what’s coming to him, right? It’s a me-too world, it’s set in Sweden, for heaven’s sake. The crowd agrees:


And his wife makes him see why they might think that way. He’s so busy writing about women from the outside, as if they were just a mirror held up to himself, that he doesn’t see them at all, for themselves; he never has. The last word belongs to the Italian nonna who tells it like it is.


There’s sex-and-violence in here (which shouldn’t go together, but do). Its not a “nice” book. But it’s not just a clever triptych structure, it’s a cracking story. And that’s what matters. Lina’ Wolff’s The Polyglot Lovers, translated by Saskia Vogel is, of course, published by And Other Stories.

Translator, editor, writer, reader

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Posted in books, gender, international, translation

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