A compelling, subtle novel about the mystery of colours and the fragility of life
Sander Kollaard’s novels are astonishingly serene. His often run-of-the-mill characters yearn for beauty while being fully aware of the ephemeral nature of life. His style reached its apogee in A Dog’s Day (2019), which earned him the Libris Prize. In this new novel, with great sensitivity he circumnavigates the mysteries that surround life on earth.
Sander Kollaard is peerless in his ability to link the mundane with something higher, something extraordinary. Here, his protagonist meets Anna, a woman in her seventies, on the street of a small Swedish town: ‘She had a dog, like me, and we got talking in town. She introduced herself, vaguely gesturing towards the house she’d moved into a few weeks before, and then told me that as a young woman she’d spent several hours fighting with an angel.’
It’s this seamless combination of the earthly and the mysterious that immediately grips the reader. A battle with an angel – such an extraordinary story from someone you meet while walking the dog in a sedate little town. What’s going on here? Before long, Anna dies – covid is implied – by which time the protagonist is captivated by her and their conversations about forestry, metamorphoses, Shakespeare, American politics and the psychological impact of colour.
He decides to delve into the significance of colour in general, and red, yellow, blue and green in particular. It turns out that in her life, Anna was completely different from her shy, unassuming impression. He discovers there is a connection with grief and that Anna was a small-scale, guerilla-style environmental activist.
In a time of lockdowns, people start reflecting on life, on the future, on science and art, just as people told each other stories in the Decameron. Kollaard brings exactly this kind of reflection to this essayistic, richly layered novel, the kind of reflection that resonates for a long time afterwards. With his thematic exploration of colour and meaning, Kollaard cracks open the reader’s worldview.