Book review: Wilful Disregard (2015) – and other recent books

I’ve been mostly stuck in bed the last days. Between sleeping and attacks of fever, it has left some time for reading. So, while I’m not too feverish, here’s my recent reading:

 

Book review: Wilful Disregard (English translation from the Swedish, 2015)

Esther is a 31 year old Swedish woman. She lives a quiet life as a poet and philosopher. As part of her work, she is asked to provide a lecture about an older artist called Hugo. Through preparing the lecture, and through Hugo’s charm, and through Esther susceptibility or perhaps vulnerability, Esther falls in love with Hugo – or her idea of him.

[Spoiler alert] the first half of the book details the ponderously slow commencement of a love, or lust perhaps for Hugo, affair between the two. Esther on one hand naturally, casually, and with rather indifferent cruelty, breaks up with her partner of seven years. On the other side, Hugo seems at first keen, but then he becomes rather less certain about the idea. Nevertheless they do, in the end, go to bed a couple of times. It is not stated, but Esther is probably attractive. She is Swedish.

In the second half of the book Hugo has now done with Esther. He has other fish to fry. But Esther cannot let her idea of the love-affair go and her: ‘rational world begins to unravel’. The author, Lena Andersson, follows the story of Esther’s apparently ever lasting hope and love for Hugo.  This love is repeatedly rekindled by well, anything really. Throughout this half, Lena destroys Esther, exposing the absurdity of her thinking. Some of the text is laugh out loud funny. It is cruel. But there is sharp insight and beautiful phrasing.

A minor quibble or two. Esther’s age, 31? Esther’s myopia about Hugo is monumental. Many individual parts of her reaction are perhaps common and recognizable to anyone who has ever been in love – and who then has experienced rejection.  But the full Esther-Hugo affair would seem more likely to occur with a younger woman: parts of Esther’s experience resonated most strongly with my early to mid twenties.  But, having reached the end, I am convinced that the choice of age is an intentional cruelty inflicted on Esther by the author. Like her vocation, as a philosopher. Similarly, whilst the lack of any sense of humour, or proportion, in Esther at first seems at odds with her obvious intelligence. It is again presumably another intentional trick played on Esther.

All in all, the whole book is rather brilliant. The insights are just on the right side of toe-curling. I recommend it.

This post is going to get long if I write a proper review for each book. And I still need some sleep.. so please refer to someone else’s instead. Shorted version for the rest:

  • Book review: 400 Billion Stars:  Worth reading. It is interesting, if a little on the nihilistic (not quite right word, but close) side for my tastes.
  • Book review: The Human Division: Dont bother reading, well, unless you are quite feverish and looking for a very light diversion. In which case it’ll do.
  • The Water Knife: Just started this one.  At page 50 or so. Mmm. Good so far.

 

 

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