Love/war by Ebba Witt-Brattström

Love/War cover


Love/war by  Ebba Witt-Brattström

Swedish Fiction

Original title –  Århundradets kärlekskrig

Translator – Kate Lambert

Source – Review copy

I was lucky to get sent the second book from Nordisk books. After Havoc, I wondered what they would choose for the second book. They have chosen a modern novel that has a lot of style about it. It is written by Ebba  Witt-Brattström a well-known figure in Sweden for her feminist setting up one a feminist party in Sweden, which she has since left she is also a professor of Nordic Literature in Helsinki. This is her first book to be translated into English.

He said:

I duppose this morning

wasn’t worse

than usual.

It wn’t get

any better than this.

It’s far more probable

that from now on


on either side

will decrease

by a few percentage points

a week.

I don’t know

what could possibly

turn that process


The opening lines of the book show the husband as cold in his way as he accepts the way things are.

We have a novel that is in the form of two voices the two voice indicate just as he and she throughout the book. They are a married couple. what we see here is an unleashing of  two minds that in many ways are the same but due to a lifetime spent together there paths have gone in a classic mid 20th century marriage where the man has been allowed to take the lead and the “classic male role” and what we see is the pent-up anger of  the wife, but also a husband that  has allowed his wife not pursue her dreams and has over time underappreciated her role by calling her a pussy a sub. She has grown afraid of him the love that burnt so bright has turned to pure hate. The final nails in the coffin of a marriage seen in the last conversations they take at each other. Like two expert fencers diving in the point of a blade in the form of words trying to draw blood from one another.

She said

speak for yourself.

Ypur idealisation of

the woman’s feelings for the man

doesn’t seem to apply to the man’s

feeling for the woman.

Love is a story of a couple.

not the conditional submission

of one party

to the needs of the other.


You are only enthralled

by the woman’s sacrifice.

you call that love.

My arse

She said:

Now I have dreamt two nights in a row

that I was happy and carried a knife in my hand,

a bloody knife, and my heart was as light as a bird

She puts her anger so well her the way she has felt like his slave during the later part of the marriage now she has seen love turn to hate.

I loved the detached nature of the voices. As the book unwinds we are given breadcrumbs of their lives as we gather what lead them to this position. I was reminded of Beckett in the voices .The way the work is just voices brought to mind the classic piece by him Not I, which was a female voice like this one that is full of bile of a lifetime of being put in her place this is the voice of a woman that has had her dreams spurned. This is the story of a marriage splitting, a battle voiced in words that has the feeling of being very real. the fact the writers own marriage broke up around the time this book came out it. The books original title in Swedish is a nod to another classic Nordic work that of the love of the century by Martha Tikkanen the Finnish writer.where a woman tries to voice her anger towards her alcoholic husband.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. MarinaSofia
    Feb 13, 2018 @ 20:25:15

    I thought it was a very powerful book, and loved the anger and sparks flying off each other. It reminded me a little of the chorus in Greek tragedy.


  2. TravellinPenguin
    Feb 13, 2018 @ 21:38:08

    Sounds an interesting book. I like your description “the bread crumbs of their life”. Quite a visual description.


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  5. Lisa Hill
    Aug 24, 2019 @ 00:08:05

    This sounds very interesting…and yet it puzzles me. By the 70s, my generation was shaking off what it meant to be “a C20th wife”, so what happened after that to make things go backwards? Especially in Sweden: I tend to think of the Scandinavian nations as being socially progressive…


    • ireadthatinabook
      Aug 24, 2019 @ 06:11:12

      I don’t think social progress has slid backwards in Scandinavia but as so often equality is unequally spread… However, the author, Ebba Witt-Brattström is a professor in literature, which would hardly have been possible if she had completely ignored her own career, so although the public persona of her ex-husband makes it easy to believe that their marriage was unequal, I still doubt that she was ever a typical “C20th wife”.


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February 2018


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