Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs by Lina Wolff
‘We’re going to call this little pup Dante. Let’s call the mangy old cur over there Chaucer.’ This is Alba Cambo, standing in front of a dog pen, teaching women in a brothel about passive aggression. When a john doesn’t treat them right, they feed the dogs rotten meat. And across town, a teenage girl tries to fit together all the stories that lead back to this one woman.
Swedish writer Lina Wolff has had enough of the big swinging dicks of masculine literature. She examines the idea of violence as entertainment – especially violence towards women. Bret Easton Ellis is a dog, bundled into a box in the boot of a car. Other violent moments: a boy hit by a truck in front of his mother; an old man farting wetly in the moment before the lights turn on and everyone shouts “surprise” for his birthday; a cat boiled on the stove by the maid as vengeance for eating a blackbird’s chicks. But it isn’t all blood and gore – the book shifts about. Sometimes it’s funny, then startling, then dark.
This is the novel’s non-lineal structure at play: the narrative appears in many voices, moving fluidly from one to the next. There are stories within stories, each one tracing the patterns that Alba’s life has drawn across the people she knew. It’s clever and challenging and distinctive – and brought to life by a sharp translation.