The Wolf Run
The Wolf RunKerstin Ekman
Sweden’s greatest living author returns after ten years with a masterful novel about man’s relationship to nature, aging in the 21st century, and what it means to be human.
‘I was living an ordinary life. It probably wouldn’t last too many more years, not with my angina. But in any case it was an ordinary, even a fine, life. […] We had our clashes. We did. Two strong wills colliding like heavy freight cars, fully loaded with lived life. We didn’t grate, never bore grudges. We’d just get back on track. We lived an ordinary life. I did.
Until I saw that wolf.’
In Kerstin Ekman’s extraordinary novel THE WOLF RUN, we meet Ulf Norrstig, a man in his 70s coming to terms with aging and with how he has lived his life, as well as that of his wife, Inga, and their long marriage. THE WOLF RUN is the story of how we utilise the wisdom life has granted us through being lived, and lived well. It is also the story of a community and a wolf—and how an unexpected encounter between man and wolf has the power to change the course of the lives of everyone in the small town of Loåsen. True to form, Ekman also incorporates a whodunnit and a great deal of erudition in this short, gripping and utterly fascinating novel.
THE WOLF RUN is an intimate and captivating portrait of nature and the human psyche from an author who can be compared to the likes of Ernest Hemingway, August Strindberg and Harry Martinson (whose chair in the Swedish Nobel Academy, Ekman, fittingly, took over in 1978) and with more recent authors such as Richard Powers.
‘In format The Wolf Run is a small novel, less than 200 pages long, and yet it covers most of the prominent themes from Ekman’s writing over the decades, spanning the spectrum from her portrayals of rural life, the conflicts between the varying interests of villagers, to her more encompassing critique of civilization, the conflict between man and the earth we inhabit (…) The Wolf Run is a fusion, or perhaps the quintessence, of the core of Ekman’s oeuvre. And yet, in spite of its intimate relationship to her previous work, it is entirely independent. (…) This is an unpretentious novel, and it is precisely this unassuming quality that makes it great. The only thing needed to set rocking the life of an ordinary man (and the reader) was the opportunity to look into the pale eyes of a wolf.’
– Svenska Dagbladet
‘Kerstin Ekman’s novel gives the sense of an iridescent cloud. Constantly shapeshifting it contains numerous narratives, on aging, on an encounter that alters a person’s worldviews, on the power of memory, and on preparing for death. All filtered through an older male protagonist, churlish and laconic, but all the more profound in thought and judicious in choice of words.’
– Dagens Nyheter
‘The Wolf Run may be a small book, but it cups its hands around all the major ideas concerning memory, language and narrative. (…) In form, a hybrid of journal novel and crime novel (…) but beyond Ekman’s existential forest I would also recommend this book for its sensitive description of a marriage, where every rough edge and every intimacy, in fact the overall dynamic between the spouses, is portrayed in all its splendid simplicity. (…) To me, the transformation of Ulf Norrstig is as captivating as the first wood anemones in spring. Not grandiose, and yet a miracle. Older, contemplative men with a growing ethical commitment are to my mind sorely lacking in contemporary literature (as in life). In Ekman’s work, moreover, the narration-in-itself is always a comfort in a disintegrating world.’
‘The subtext is a sort of learned essay on the subject of our relationship to the natural world, the wisdom of which is deeply buried in the mosses, under organic debris, trickling through the groundwater, barely noticeable. (…) On the surface this is the extraordinarily exciting, compact story of a crime, and of different kinds of violence. It is quite brutal at times. In addition, as skilfully intertwined as the strips of rags in the rugs Inga weaves, this is a novel about a long, ordinary marriage. Exciting in itself. (…) It is so mesmerizing you forget that you are reading literature.’
‘The Wolf Run leans on (…) previous authorial experience, but this novel is more distinct in its direction and rhetoric. In addition, it is exciting (Ekman’s crime novels come to mind!). It could have been written for malleable young adult readers or specifically for people involved in logging or hunting who are ambivalent and in need of a nudge to change.’
‘It is a true joy to read The Wolf Run. The reader finds so many of the finest melodies of Ekman’s masterful oeuvre to enjoy. She has an eye for the subtlest details as well as the wider contexts, a language that captivates these matters as well as the characters in all their nuances, not to mention the natural world. (…) The Wolf Run is a synthesis of all that is best in literature, written by a beloved author, and beyond any doubt the best reading experience I have had in a very long time. And I must also mention the golden gleam in the eyes of the wolf as he gazes out at the reader from the cover. Absolutely perfect.’
– Skånska Dagbladet
‘True to form, Ekman moves comfortably through the natural world and in her language. It is a pleasure to read an author who so skilfully portrays both people and milieux. (…) The excitement mounts gradually in her robust and discriminating prose, a form superbly well- suited to the content.’
– Tidningen Vi
‘As reading goes, I find ”The Wolf Run” a deceptively straight forward novel. The abrupt yet mysterious language entices me to constantly look back in the text and search with curiosity between the lines. Ekman, who is also one of our most prominent thriller writers, totally masters the art of composing iceberg prose. (…) However, what I discover between the lines, rather than a major philosophical epiphany, is something even more valued. It is a powerful, unpretentious narrative on the subject of compassion. Not, needless to say, a feeble, indulgent one, but rather compassion as the vital capacity and life force it is. The vital capacity to see ourselves in others may often make us feel powerless, but the effect on the reader of The Wolf Run, achieved both masterfully and sensitively by Kerstin Ekman, is the understanding of how utterly powerless and vulnerable we would all be if we lacked this vital capacity.’
‘About halfway through the novel the tempo and tension mount. It becomes a page turner with an unexpected ending. (…) Kerstin Ekman provides us with an indirect reminder of two of the deadly sins, pride and avarice, ones we find it difficult to overcome. And she does this brilliantly.’
– Länstidningen Östersund
‘This is the contemplative, insightful and gripping story of Uffe, a forest engineer, who encounters a wolf and sees his own life in a new light. He is unsettled by events and – not least – by having lost track of who he really is. (…) No plot spoilers here, but the events that take place transform The Wolf Run into a thriller. And Kerstin Ekman knows how to escalate and maintain tension. (…) She leaves many unanswered questions and offers us no cocky answers. The Wolf Run is a narrative about considering and listening. About being a human being among the other beings in the world.’
– Norrtelje Tidning
‘(…) It is easy to understand how competently Kerstin Ekman tramples this territory: this is her world. Charged with symbolism – indeed, but at the same time I have seldom read a portrayal of rural life that feels so realistic. I have never hunted or even held a rifle – but after reading Ekman’s novel I can imagine that I have actually sat in a hunting tower gazing out across bogs and leafy underbrush. (…) Is this in fact what is known as a cli-fi (climate fiction) novel? Well, perhaps not but it is at the very least a narrative that explores our relationship to the world around us and that can very well be read as encouragement to reconsider.’
‘The Wolf Run is a novel with multiple layers. The mainstay of the novel is a reflection on the circumstances surrounding aging and its impact on our relationship to the world we live in. Kerstin Ekman also demonstrates the possibility that an older person can shift his ethical stance and take a new position on pressing issues. As always with Ekman, we find a deep familiarity with the way in which the natural world provokes in us questions of existential significance, as well as how inescapable our responsibility for that world is in a time of climate crisis. Allowing that sense of responsibility to be expressed through the experience of oneness with one of the proud beasts of nature, in this case a wolf, is to bring that responsibility to life in a way that touches both the heart and the conscience of the reader.’
Catalan: Les Hores
Dutch: Ambo Anthos
German: Piper Verlag
Lithuanian: Baltos Lankos
Spanish: Tusquets Editores
Ukrainian: Books XXI