Wolff’s second novel, which won Sweden’s August Prize, has now been translated as The Polyglot Lovers by Saskia Vogel – an impeccable pairing, given Vogel’s previous form with disrobers of the misogynist regalia (see her translations of Lena Andersson, Karolina Ramqvist and Rut Hillarp) ... The novel moves around itself with a sort of ceremonial power. Recurring elements, such as fire, deftly gauge the temperature of female seething ... The novel as a whole is enveloped in a somewhat gothic, sensuous atmosphere, reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier. The Polyglot Lovers is a quiet rapture – unsparing, startling, mesmeric, and told with the soberest of grins.
... incendiary ... the book boldly, pungently and incisively chronicles sexual misadventures, artistic ambitions and a drastic decline ... This is a novel full of colorful and candid characters who are eager to speak their minds and quick to flaunt their oddities. Through three markedly different voices, Wolff examines gender power play ... Not all hangs together, and even less makes sense. But Wolff’s constant supply of fire, bite and wit are compelling forces that propel us through all three of her riotous acts.
Mr. Houellebecq’s books diagnose the soullessness of contemporary liberal democracies, where people futilely seek meaning for their lives in pornographic sex. The Polyglot Lovers shifts the focus from Mr. Houellebecq’s destructive men to the women who are both victims of and accomplices to the cycle of narcissism. In Ms. Wolff’s telling, intellectuals—the writers and theorists who wax poetically about falling in love—are the worst of the abusers.