Book Review: Essere Lupo (Being Wolf)

I saw a wolf: that’s the phrase Ulf, a hunter and former forestry inspector now in his seventies, has been brooding, unable to confess to anyone since he spotted a majestic specimen at dawn on the first day of the year. Something clicks inside him, and Ulf, one of the most respected men in the village in deep Sweden where he lives, feels an increasingly solid and intimate connection with the creature. They both are hunters and loners, but why does he feel like an intruder? Even the memory of his early experiences in the woods with his father, once a source of joy, changes in flavor, just as pride in his hunting diaries fades, as they now only appear as a cold kill list. And his wife’s dry and practical empathy, their comfortable daily routine of love and habits, the faithful companionship of his dog Zenta and the many chases made with her in the snow are not enough: Ulf feels as lost among his stuffed trophies as among the traditions and customs of a community whose violence he now perceives. A society that, he will discover to his cost, is quick at oppressing when one is not aligned with its most deeply rooted values.

Being Wolf The tension of the stakeouts, the contemplation of the woods in the long waits, the excitement of a trail to follow, the scents and sounds of a wilderness where everyone is alone in front of himself: Being Wolf tells of a predator in harmony with his world and of the human who, inspired by it, questions and rethinks his place in nature. I found two other themes well addressed: the hate and malice that often lurk beneath the surface of small, seemingly idyllic communities and the comfort and serenity that a relationship of mutual trust, respect and love offers to aged partners who stubbornly insist on loving and respect each other despite adversity, misunderstanding and betrayal.

This novel has yet to see an English edition, so as for the English title, I made it up from Essere Lupo of the Italian edition. These quick notes offer me a chance to express my gratitude to Iperborea for their incredible work in publishing so many exceptionally translated Northen-Europe works over the years.

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