The Polyglot Lovers
By Lina Wolff, Saskia Vogel (Translator)
‘Do you have to stare like that?’ I asked.
‘Think about the actors in porn. They’ve got no problem showing themselves off.’
‘Think about when I broke your nose,’ I replied.
Ellinor is thirty-six. She wears soft black sweatpants and a Michelin Man jacket. She fights. Smart and unsentimental, she tries her hand at online dating, only to be stranded by a snowstorm with a literary critic. Cut to Max Lamas, an author who dreams of a polyglot lover, a woman who will understand him—in every tongue. His search takes him to Italy, where he befriends a marchesa whose old Roman family is on the brink of ruin. At the heart of this literary intrigue is a handwritten manuscript that leaves no one unaffected.
The Polyglot Lovers is a fiercely witty and nuanced contribution to feminism in the #metoo era. Pleasure is an elusive thing, love even more so.
About The Author: Saskia Voge(translator)
Saskia Vogel is a writer and literary translator from Los Angeles. She has written on the themes of gender, power, and sexuality for publications such as Granta, The White Review, The Offing, and The Quietus. Her translations include work by leading Swedish female authors, such as Katrine Marçal, Karolina Ramqvist and the modernist eroticist Rut Hillarp. Previously, she worked in London as Granta magazine’s global publicist and in Los Angeles as an editor at the AVN Media Network.
Read an Excerpt
When trying to find the one, I’d never thought the internet would be my thing. There was something commercial about it, not to mention I’d never written a personal ad, or any-thing else for that matter, and had no idea how to sell myself in writing. My boyfriends had always been regular guys from my village. The first one, for instance, was called “Johnny” and there was nothing special about him at all, at least not on the surface, at least not until it became clear that he was in fact sick. We were in the same class at school and it started with him saying:
“Is there anything you’ve always dreamed a man would do for you?”
I guess he’d heard it in a movie and, in all seriousness, already actually thought he was a man. And I suppose he wasn’t expecting the answer I gave him, but something more like: “Yes, I’ve always wished for a man who could make me lose my mind in bed.” Or a concrete wish that would help him along. But I said:
“I’ve always wanted to be taught how to fight.” And when he didn’t look as surprised as I’d thought he would, I added: “Fight like a motherfucker.” Johnny nodded slowly, spat on the ground, and said: “If that’s what you want, doll.”
That very night he took me to what he called his fight club. It was a bunch of people who’d seen and been inspired by the movie, but unlike the people in the film, they actu-ally practiced various martial arts and met up three times a week to fight. Everyone went up against everyone else. You had to go into a basement beneath a school. It had tiles that faded from brown to orange; a strange matte tile that didn’t behave as tile usually does, but seemed to absorb every sound. From there, you went deep inside a series of corridors. Everyone was dead silent, barefoot, and had bags full of gym clothes slung over their shoulders. Only the fans made a noise. Then you entered the room and there they were, the people from our village who wanted to fight. A temporary captain was appointed, and we all warmed up together. Everyone was flexible, even the guys, and no one was ashamed of showing that they could do forward or side splits. People farted loudly, stretched out like that, but not laughing was an unwritten rule. Then we fought. I was the only beginner and had one thing going for me: I was scared to death. Being scared to death gives you an edge, Johnny said. Being really fucking afraid had some hidden benefits—the body was smarter than you thought, and when you let it run on autopilot, it was capable of almost anything. But then you had to take control.
Article originally Published in the October/November 2019 Issue “Read Global”