Colonels Wife 2019, Graywolf Press, USA

Colonels Wife USA

Rosa Liksom

The Colone’ls Wife (original title: Everstinna)

Translator: Lola Rogers

Publisher: Graywolf Press (2019)

In the final twilit moments of her life, an elderly woman looks back on her years in the thrall of fascism and Nazism. Both her authoritarian tendencies and her ecstatic engagement with the natural world are vividly and terrifyingly evoked in The Colonel’s Wife, an astonishing and brave novel that resonates painfully with our own strained political moment.

At once complex and hideous, sexually liberated and sympathetic to the darkest of political movements, the narrator describes her childhood as the daughter of a member of the right-wing Finnish Whites before World War II, and the way she became involved with and eventually married the much older Colonel, who was thirty years her senior. During the war, he came and went as they fraternized with the Nazi elite and retreated together into the deepest northern wilds. As both the marriage and the war turn increasingly dark and destructive, Rosa Liksom renders a complex and unsavory character in a prose style that is striking in its paradoxical beauty. The Colonel’s Wife is both a brilliant portrayal of an individual psychology and a stark warning about the perils of nationalism.



"Ms. Liksom is fearlessly good at portraying wicked men in all their moods and disguises. (Her fantastic novel Compartment No. 6 features a similar, and similarly compelling, figure.) The narrator herself is not always as persuasive. It is only after the war, when the Colonel makes her the outlet for his sadism, that she repents of her past ... the novel is strongest when it’s most direct about why people engage in evil: Because they enjoy it." - Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“Liksom’s tale is a brilliantly drawn metaphor, and just as it took tremendous hardship and effort for so many people to wake up from their simplistic, codependent love affair with fascism, so the narrator faces the painful and torturous challenge of struggling to break free of her relationship with the Colonel and to rebuild a new life for herself” – Hans Rollman, Popmatters

“Liksom’s brief, haunting novel finds an elderly Finnish woman in her final days, reflecting on a lifetime as both a victim and perpetrator of cruelty… her descriptions of the torture she witnesses by the Nazis, and of that she endures by her husband, are made more chilling by their lack of sentimentality.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“The Colonel’s Wife is a novel that is all the more thought-provoking and heart-rending in our current strained sociopolitical moment.” – Ashlie D. Stevens, Salon