“Imagine Wolfgang Becker’s Goodbye Lenin! rewritten by Nell Zink” – Red Winter by Annelli Furmark

rwafThere’s a Bertrand Russell quote (later bastardised by Charles Bukowski) I find myself coming back to again and again,

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

I think of this when I look to the Right (fools and fanatics) and the Left (so full of doubt). Inevitably, the fools and fanatics agree on their story, while those who are full of doubt fracture, argue over splinter points, lose the war distracted by half a percentage point. Those on the Left seem so given to in-fighting, so quick to lose themselves in the fog of nuance, so prone to temporary outrage, so easily deflected from their purpose. Whilst the Right do all they can to self-serve, the Left struggle to march beneath a single banner. It’s a tale, in many ways, as old as time.

And it’s not the tale that Red Winter, the first of award-winning graphic novelist Anneli Furmark’s books to be translated into English, sets out to tell, necessarily; Red Winter is a love story, of sorts, albeit a love story that unravels against a backdrop of political intrigue.

Told via an array of narrators, Red Winter is a book that takes time to coalesce. The reader must have patience. Furmark tells her story in her own time. We meet Siv and Ulrik (pictured below), she an older married woman, a mother, a self-described ‘old Social Democrat lady’, he a much younger activist with the SKP (Sveriges Kommunistiska Parti, a Maoist group distinct from the APK, or Arbetarpartiet Kommunisterna, a Marxist-Leninist political party). We also meet Marita, Peter and Borje, Siv’s daughter, son and husband respectively, as well as Ralf and Styrelsen, SKP colleagues of Ulrich.

red winter 1

On one level, Red Winter tells the story of a particular moment in Siv and Ulrich’s affair. We don’t really know how it started, or why. We just find these two people discussing the possibility of being together, sneaking around, as those about them start to suspect what is going on. On another (and as can be glimpsed by the distinction between the SKP and the AKP), this is the story of factionalised politics in which a plurality of views are not allowed – there is only the way a certain particular faction view the world. Everything else is wrong – not just that, a love affair can’t just be a love affair, a love affair is a subplot in a dangerous attempt to infiltrate a rival political group.

The world may be full of fools and fanatics, Red Winter tells us, and wiser people so full of doubt, but in doubt there are riches – both frailty and wonder. This is a beautifully observed, and tenderly rendered, graphic novel. We’re grateful to D&Q for publishing this in English and hope more Furmark work is in the pipeline.

Any Cop?: Imagine Wolfgang Becker’s Goodbye Lenin! (with a smidge of another Daniel Bruhl move, The Edukators, thrown in for good measure) rewritten by Nell Zink.

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