The Polyglot Lovers
Lina Wolff

The Polyglot Lovers

Winner of the 2016 August Prize

‘Do you have to stare like that?’ I asked.

‘Think about the actors in porn. They’ve got no problem showing themselves off.’

‘Think about when I broke your nose,’ I replied.

Ellinor is thirty-six. She wears soft black sweatpants and a Michelin Man jacket. She fights. Smart and unsentimental, she tries her hand at online dating, only to be stranded by a snowstorm with a literary critic. Cut to Max Lamas, an author who dreams of a polyglot lover, a woman who will understand him—in every tongue. His search takes him to Italy, where he befriends a marchesa whose old Roman family is on the brink of ruin. At the heart of this literary intrigue is a handwritten manuscript that leaves no one unaffected.

The Polyglot Lovers is a fiercely witty and nuanced contribution to feminism in the #metoo era. Pleasure is an elusive thing, love even more so.

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  • Lina Wolff’s two novels The Polyglot Lovers and Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs have both been awarded PEN Translates awards by English PEN in recognition of their importance and the excellence of the translations.
  • Her debut novel Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs and its translator Frank Perry won the 2017 Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize and the Society of Authors Bernard Shaw Prize in 2019.
  • If you had subscribed to And Other Stories before 13 November 2018, you would have received a first edition copy of The Polyglot Lovers – in which all subscribers are thanked by name – before its official publication, as well us up to five other And Other Stories titles per year. Find out about subscribing to upcoming titles here.
  • The New York Times mentioned The Polyglot Lover in their sneak preview of books coming out around the world in 2019.
  • To read an excerpt of The Polyglot Lovers, Granta Magazine
  • To read an excerpt of The Polyglot Lovers from part 3, Literary Hub
  • The Polyglot Lovers was chosen as one of the Financial Times’s 8 ‘Fiction in Translation’ choices
Print status: Available
Author: Lina Wolff
Translator: Saskia Vogel
Original language: Swedish
Format: B-format paperback
Publication date (UK): 2 May 2019
Publication date (US): 30 April 2019
ISBN: 9781911508441
Ebook ISBN: 9781911508458
Availability: World
Number of pages: 256


Ángel Gurría-Quintana
Financial Times

‘The Swedish author of Bret Easton Ellis and Other Dogs enjoys nothing more than savaging the myths of male authorship. Here she lays into notions of male genius, as her protagonist, Ellinor, finds herself entangled with a literary critic who is fixated on a narcissistic author who is in turn obsessed with real-life enfant terrible of French letters, Michel Houellebecq.’

Joanna Kavenna
The Guardian

'A highly enjoyable absurdist comedy about love and desperation'

Lee Langley
The Spectator

'The Polyglot Lovers' blithe disregard for social norms and finer feelings is exhilarating; it’s pitiless and scathingly funny.'

Yelena Moskovich

'The Polyglot Lovers is a quiet rapture - unsparing, startling, mesmeric, and told with the soberest of grins.'

Anna Vilner
The Arkansas International

‘Wolff’s novel raises the following questions: how do we define literary genius, and who do we allow to define it for us?’

Sam Sacks
‘Fiction Chronicle’, Wall Street Journal

‘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.’

Book of the Week
Publishers Weekly

‘The edifice of male genius is annihilated in this galvanizing novel from Wolff…Firing on all cylinders from beginning to end, this story pulses with intellect and vitality unmatched by the literary barons it deposes.’

Malcolm Forbes
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

‘Wolff upsets the applecart, mercilessly mocking male hegemony and skewering literary pretensions. What could have been angry and strident is instead caustic and mischievous: both a bracing wind and a breath of fresh air. Wolff’s constant supply of fire, bite and wit are compelling forces.'

Michael Orthofer
The Complete Review

The Polyglot Lovers is an amusing take on modern life (literary and otherwise) and relationships between the sexes. All in all it makes for an interesting polychromatic fiction, a surprisingly ebullient story—carried along nicely by Wolff's entertaining and easygoing presentation—in a cleverly structured novel, its three separate parts neatly coming together by the end.’

Gabe Habash

'I loved The Polyglot Lovers by Lina Wolff (translated by Saskia Vogel), a funny, biting, and exhilaratingly shifty novel about literary revenge and the male ego.'

Publishers Weekly

'The edifice of male genius is annihilated in this galvanizing novel from Wolff. [...] Wolff orchestrates her divergent plots into riveting harmony, but more striking is the audacity with which she reveals Max and Ruben’s reckless egoism. 'I’m an autodidact in male devastation,' Claudia declares before sticking the final pin in Max’s inflated persona. Wolff’s novel proves the necessity of cultivating such a specialty. Firing on all cylinders from beginning to end, this story pulses with intellect and vitality unmatched by the literary barons it deposes.'

Heather Cleary
Bookmarks (a LitHub channel)

'Keep an eye out for this one: The Polyglot Lovers is one of those rare birds that is both smart as hell and, in the parlance of our times, 'pace-y.'

Mary Ellen Quinn

‘A sharp-eyed, sometimes surreal, often funny take on male-female power dynamics.’

Kirkus Reviews

‘whip-smart and deliciously cynical ... smart, funny, and sad in turns’

Yuri Herrera

‘Lina Wolff is one of my favourite writers of our time. From apparently innocuous starting points, she weaves the darkness into her stories and lets men expose themselves as pitiable when they thought they were being witty and cynical. Her writing detonates just when you are smiling calmly.’

Booksellers on The Polyglot Lovers

The Polyglot Lovers is electric – it crackles with wit, ferocity and intelligence. We are lucky to have Lina Wolff.’ - Elizabeth Perry, City Books, Hove

‘The Polyglot Lovers is a testament to the temperamental nature of love and power, and the complexities that come with asserting one’s own agency. This book is proof that irreverence and wit have a place in feminist theory. I was captivated from page one.’- Cristina Rodriguez, Deep Vellum Books, Dallas, TX

‘Reading The Polyglot Lovers, I was struck once again by just how sharp a writer Wolff is. There are few writers out there capable of besting her. If she has a kindred spirit in contemporary fiction, it's Ottessa Moshfegh, with whom she shares a darkly funny and unflinching sensibility.’ - Gary Perry, Foyles, London

‘The Polyglot Lovers is an audacious and often very funny reckoning with the ways men view women by a novelist of rare talents. Lina Wolff, equal parts ferocious and sly, has proven herself one of our indispensable writers with this uppercut of a book.’ - Stephen Sparks, Point Reyes Books, Point Reyes, CA

‘The Polyglot Lovers is a bracing and sharp exploration of identity, gender, and literature, told in prose and images that constantly unsettle the reader. It is also an exquisite act of literary revenge and should confirm Lina Wolff's status as a major voice in world literature.’ - Josh Cook, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA

‘An exquisite and insightful dive into the delights and horrors of our constant search for human connection, and what happens when women decide to set fire to the literary male gaze.’ - Emma Ramadan, Riffraff, Providence, RI

‘I absolutely loved it. Wolff's characters come to life with poignancy and dark humour. The Polyglot Lovers cuts to the heart.’ - Tom Harris, Mr B’s Emporium, Bath

‘Lina Wolff's The Polyglot Lovers is a punch you in the face, grab you by the collar, and throw you across the room kind of novel. Brilliantly written, incisive and engaging, it is a stunning work. If you haven't yet (and why haven't you?) now would be a good time to add Wolff to your to-be-read pile.’ - Tom Flynn, Volumes Bookcafe, Chicago

Joanna Walsh

‘Like Virginie Despentes and Elfriede Jelinek, Lina Wolff stares the reader right in the eyes and speaks in a voice uniquely her own: The Polyglot Lovers is clear, stark, devastating.’


The Polyglot Lovers is storytelling as a martial arts combination move, delivered with precision, style and glee.’

Elle (France)

‘From a Swedish lake to Italian aristocrats, Wolff is in full control of her surprises and mischievously mocks the male gaze.’

Le Figaro (France)

‘A singular novel, sometimes brutal, certainly merciless.’

Livres Hebdo (France)

‘The Polyglot Lovers is funny, intelligent and always surprising. Complex and human (all too human . . .), its characters are never the spokesperson for anything but themselves, and certainly not for Lina Wolff, who allows them to live and deal as best they can with their heavy solitude.’

L’Obs (France)

‘Strange and magnificent.’

NPO Radio 1 (Holland)

‘Wolff evokes human (power) relationships with skill and ingenuity.’

NRC (Holland)

‘Wolff knows how to convey the loneliness in and between lovers, which seems to come directly from how a man imagines a woman. [...] Let us imagine instead, Lina Wolff’s novel says, a new language for our desire for the other.’

Swedish Book Review

‘A magnificent novel: funny, clever, engaging and surprising. Its characters are complex, unpredictable and occasionally unlikeable, but never less than totally believable and deeply human.’

Kulturnytt, Sweden Radio

‘Dizzying . . . Lina Wolff has written a many-voiced, meandering, feminist, arresting and rather provocative novel.’

Svenska Dagbladet

‘It’s been a long time since I read something this unique, seething, wilful.’

Borås Tidning

‘What a novel! I’m totally charmed! I was completely absorbed by The Polyglot Lovers . . . it's really, really fabulous. Every sentence is great. [This] is a book to read and discover and read over and over again.’

Kristofer Folkhammar

‘Wolff has written a kind of blackened, heart-rending satire on gender roles, in which the tempo of the pacily inventive – and downright gorgeous – prose complicates, enlivens and plays with the eloquent lovers she’s taken it upon herself to portray.’


‘You know when a novel is so thrilling that you just don’t want it to end? That’s what it was like reading Lina Wolff’s third book The Polyglot Lovers. I had high expectations . . . and yet they were surpassed.’

Library Journal on Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs

‘Oddly compelling . . . a European postmodern novel steeped in alienation and ennui.’

Kirkus Reviews on Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs

‘The author demonstrates a marvellous command of language and creates characters with real depth, lending the book a sensual vibe and an acerbic wit that force its emotional truths to rise above the grunge of its hard-boiled setting. A poetic, unsentimental drama that offers a meditation on love in all its disparate forms.’

Sarah Perry on Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs
The Guardian

‘Wolff’s prose has a quality of “otherness” entirely in keeping with the surreal atmosphere of the novel. This strange, provocative debut sits well alongside the work of Roxane Gay, Katherine Angel, Maggie Nelson, Zoe Pilger and Miranda July . . . a cool, clever and fierce addition to the canon of modern feminist literature.’

Lucy Scholes on Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs
The Independent

‘A filmic offering . . . channelling the spirit of Pedro Almodóvar. A thoroughly invigorating novel.’