Hanna Johansson, Kira Josefsson (trans.)

Scribe Publications
30 April 2024


Hanna Johansson, Kira Josefsson (trans.)

Elegant, slippery, and provocative, Antiquity is a queer Lolita story by prize-winning Swedish author Hanna Johansson - a story of desire, power, obsession, observation, and taboo.

Antiquity follows its unnamed narrator, a lonely woman in her thirties who becomes enamoured of a chic older artist, Helena, after interviewing her for a magazine. Helena invites the narrator to join her in the Greek city of Ermoupoli where she summers with her teenage daughter Olga. At first an object of jealousy, Olga morphs into an object of desire as the pull of Helena is transposed onto her daughter and the prospect of becoming someone's first, if perverse, lover.

With echoes of Death in Venice, Call Me by Your Name, The Lover, and Lolita, but wholly original and contemporary, Antiquity probes the depths of memory, power, and the narratives that arrange our experience of the world.


Our narrator – lonely, introspective, of uncertain reliability – is on the Greek island of Ermoupolis, drawn there by her adoration for and desire to please an older woman, Helena. However, Helena’s younger daughter, Olga, provides at first a source of annoyance, then intrigue. As Helena’s presence fades into the background, our narrator becomes more and more obsessed with her own ego, power, and desire for the girl she saw as an obstacle.

Hanna Johansson writes with astonishing precision, in that her ability to articulate feeling and sensation, both mental and physical, is unmatched. It is with this talent that she makes you enamoured with a story that sits awkwardly on your conscience. Do not underestimate the taboo likeness it has to Lolita, and do not expect the romanticisation of Call Me By Your Name. Johansson has done something similar but distinct.

Johansson is masterful at creating discomfort and crafting tension. The stranger, our narrator, tears apart bonds and social fabrics quietly – we can see, but no one else can. I found myself put on edge, in an addictive way, by each phrase. Johansson takes you slowly through a summer, and, despite yourself, you will let your feet drag and fix your eyes on the fascinatingly terrible thing in front of you.

This item is in-stock at 8 shops and will ship in 3-4 days

Our stock data is updated periodically, and availability may change throughout the day for in-demand items. Please call the relevant shop for the most current stock information. Prices are subject to change without notice.

Sign in or become a Readings Member to add this title to a wishlist.