Sjón...employs an intentional, methodical restraint to examine the survival of Nazism post-World War II ... Sjón’s policy of omission—of drama, psychology, violence, grandeur of any kind—results in a delicious tension. He tempts us to expect so much of the novel, and though he never provides the relief of clean culminations, he manages to keep the reader wanting. More than anything, we want Gunnar to either damn or to redeem himself, but he refuses to be anything more than a tempest in a teacup—a chess piece carved in ivory rather than ebony ... This is not a psychoanalytic assessment of what draws him to Nazism so as much as a collection of images, inputs, choices, and feedback that nudge him there ... the novel offers not so much a comment on the dangers or the spread of fascism as on the very littleness, the randomness, of being human. The novel turns a monster into a shadow. But it is a trick. The monster is real.
... the normally parsimonious Sjón has topped himself, chiseling his narrative down to its very armature. Red Milk takes its barebones form literally, stripping away everything it can to pursue an autopsy of its odious fictional character ... The landscape of Red Milk is built of such lightning bursts of strangely sharp detail, where the use of colors stands out. It’s a subtle stroke in a novel whose quiet complexity can at first seem elusive: even though the book is in a sense a flashback from Gunnar’s moment of death in his early manhood, this is a landscape proper to a child’s imagination, dreamlike but solid, with all the pronounced lucidity and wild agency that objects and colors assume. Red Milk is no less subtle—or complex—in its caution with language ... Throughout Red Milk, Gunnar is barely there, yet unbearably present. In this short and bleak novel, Sjón makes us think again about what empathy can—and frequently enough simply can’t—achieve.
... perplexing ... Sjón’s sentences are so artistically entrancing that I found myself reading them out loud ... Red Milk...is as minimal as it is mysterious and disturbing ... an admirable but ultimately unsatisfying account of why one drifts toward extremism and commits oneself to an identity capable of causing mass murder. Don’t get me wrong: the writing is certainly satisfying ... I say unsatisfying because Sjón deliberately limited his scope, choosing for his subject a man who died before he could make any mark on the world. In other words, there aren’t any dramatic scenes in Red Milk, no speeches full of pathos, no mystical ideologies linking modern fascism to the Nordic pantheon, not even a manifesto. The symbols drop steadily but subtly ... But otherwise, Gunnar’s childhood is rather banal. And when he does finally express his views, they’re of the most typical, unoriginal variety ... Does giving serious attention to neo-Nazi figures afford their ideas more power, or less? ... And instead of seeing Gunnar in action, we mostly get to know him through his letters, a passive approach that leaves me wanting more.