Author: Therese Bohman

Publisher: Other Press

ISBN: 978-1-59051-893-9

                                          Life: Theory vs Practice

Some years ago, I read The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham. Having been based on the life of  the acclaimed artist Paul Gauguin, I learned that the key to recognizing good art is that it is driven by compulsive primal instincts. Therefore the History of Art is essentially a study of how primal, especially sexual, instincts express themselves through the sexual milieu of the times. Understanding the expression of these deeply buried instincts requires a special skill and integrity of purpose. The first is the ability to empathize with the artist and to intuit the  artist’s real intent. The second is to be able to communicate the artist’s expression with as little distortion as possible.

The protagonist of this novel, Karolina Andersson of the History of Art at Stockholm University. She has honed her cognitive and intuitive abilities in the above direction with consummate skill and acquired a heightened sense of what is genuine and what is not. She has devoted all her energies to her work and her learning, opting out of a family life with  children, going in instead for a long term, live in relationship without a commitment of any kind. Her passion for her work is so great that “when she was working, she could forget both time and space...sometimes it was late afternoon before she realized that she hadn’t had anything to eat”.

When the curtains go up, Karolina has just separated from her long time partner Karl Johan and moved to another apartment in Stockholm, not very far from the University where she works. Being involved in a new project involving Animals in Art, she is once again looking for a greater and renewed sense of identity. This book documents her search, as an intellectual woman professor moving within the creme de la creme of academic circles.

The author paints a very convincing and sensitive portrayal of Karolina as she experiments with her life principles, possibly as a preamble to tuning in to her new project in the history of art. She seeks fulfillment and inspiration in all possible areas that present themselves, going pell mell into any and every experience that comes her way, sexual or otherwise. Unwavering honesty and an ingrained sense of self- esteem, get her though some sticky situations where she could have emerged psychically scathed and with a compromised reputation. And the way she goes through with this phase of her life in her quest for this elusive inspiration, the very process she goes through, leaves her with a sense of completion, accompanied by a sense of quiet anticipation.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast” Alexander Pope.

This process of existential growth is what this book is all about.

The author has truly done a spectacular job of depicting the academic environment of a university. This accurate depiction makes this novel that much more convincing and meaningful to those who move in these circles and are trying to learn  how to translate the theoretical life lessons garnered  from sundry philosophies into practice. The pace of the narrative is fast and despite its seemingly intellectual women-centered nature, does not drag.

We need more books that focus on this kind of outside religion, person- centered existential growth. Warmly recommended.