The Colonel’s Wife

Graywolf. Nov. 2019. 168p. ISBN 9781644450086. pap. $16. f;.
Liksom (Compartment No. 6), a Finnish writer, painter, and filmmaker, was born in a tiny village in Finnish Lapland. She draws on her experience growing up in this remote part of the world to write the story of a woman besotted with the Colonel, who is never named but comes across as a vital force bent on cruelty and destruction. At the start, the female protagonist, also never named, reflects on her long life, which begins before World War II. While she’s enthralled by the Colonel’s attentions, he soon comes to brutalize her; not till near the end of her story does she revolt against such treatment. We also witness the evolution of her political views, which are entirely pro-German even throughout the Hitler era, when she is “dazzled by the magic of fascism”; she remains pro-Nazi till the end of the war.
VERDICT Some readers may find it hard to stomach the violence inflicted on our heroine and others by the Colonel. Many will also find her political views appalling. And a further caveat: this slim but engaging work, seamlessly translated, is quite sexually explicit in places. Recommended especially for readers curious about life in an era and culture other than their own.

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