Red Winter

Red Winter header

I’m too young to appreciate the revolution in cinema of the late 60s and 70s, where realism became a virtue and independent, sometimes messy viewpoints were given almost as much reach as glossy, professional presentations. But that’s what I was reminded of with this interior graphic novel from Sweden. Anneli Furmark’s Red Winter is set during the late seventies, and it’s the story of a woman having an affair with a young activist, whose politics are called into question by his comrades.

It’s difficult, I think, to relate to many of these characters. Their political distinctions aren’t recognizable by American readers, who don’t get the difference between social democrats and more leftist groups, such as Ulrik’s Maoist Communists. I appreciate seeing the perspective of a wife and mother, but we don’t know enough, in my opinion, about what brought her to this relationship, since we’re dropped into the middle of it.

It’s a typical portrait of an affair, where they talk constantly about wanting to be together but rely on the excitement of stolen moments. The idea of throwing everything over is seductive but Siv, in particular, as a mother, is caught up in the practicalities of what would they do? where would they go? how would they react to each other when they had to spend more time together?

Red Winter

Everything’s covered in snow all the time, so we first see the couple as bundles of clothes, only faces visible, which makes their affair more mental than physical, since they’re barely even touching. It’s all blue and grey. It’s only later that we see them in bed together, still debating politics. Siv has hopes — “I thought what we have, maybe stood outside of politics. That it was different.” — that turn out to be futile, since political differences pervade everything at this point in time. Her everyday life makes her lonely, complicated by the weather, and ultimately, a family provides inertia, resistance to anything truly changing.

We also get portraits of Siv’s children and husband, chapters with moments of everyday life. It’s rather boring, but I imagine that’s the point. Still, it’s not my cup of tea. Between the historical, political setting and the portrayal of the characters, I found the whole thing remote, as though I was peering into other lives without enough insight into motivations or true feelings.

You can see sample pages at the publisher’s website. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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