Med bästa vilja i världen: fragment, incidenter och andra fantasier ur Ivarlassys liv. Vol II Mandom (With the best will in the world: fragments, incidents and other fantasies from the life of Ivarlassy. Vol II: Manhood); by Ivar Wulff.

On reading this book, I felt it might end up as the subject of some scholar's Ph.D. In fact, by early 2012, an academic laurel of this complexion had crowned the first volume of Thomas Wulff's as yet unfinished trilogy, constructed on and around the true life experiences of Ivar Lassy, 1889-1938, a Finland-Swede, born in Baku on the Caspian Sea, and executed in Russia, for espionage, in one of Stalin's purges. Lari Assmuth's thesis presents Wulff's handling of historical events as a notable example of historiographic metafiction. As defined by Linda Hutcheon, the term can be applied to vast swathes of romantic faction, from Joyce's Ulysses to Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel. I include Ulysses here less as an example of metafiction than of post-modernism, a catch-all term which also fits the writings of Wulff.

Anything Assmuth says about volume I attaches with equal aptness to volume II. With his thesis in mind, much of the initially puzzling discontinuity of Med bästa vilja i världen can be chewed over if not swallowed whole. Horace declared that the purpose of literature was to attract and instruct, to be dulce et utile --- to usefully entertain. Wulff's writing is hugely entertaining. His narrative, composed in an allusive style of parodic pastiche --- a typical sentence contains over 150 words arranged in 16 clauses --- skitters over the historical ground at breakneck speed, leaping with dizzying agility from the Caucasus to Helsinki, stopping off at Vienna or Petrograd, Zürich or London, and touching on the thoughts and deeds of Trotsky, Lenin, Stalin and many of their colourful contemporaries.

This introduction to Ivar Lassy, lightly disguised by Wulff as Ivarlassy, or Ivarl, is also immensely instructive. It is educationally both broadening and rewarding to learn about such an intriguing scholarly red activist, and his Byronic pilgrimage of alienation through regions penetrated by other adventurous travellers, including Mikhail Lermontov, the poet of the Caucasus.

Schildts & Söderströms, 2012
185 pages

Vol. 1: En hjälte för vår tid (A Hero for Our Time) by Thomas Wulff. Söderströms, 2006 .

400 words. Rejected by an intellectually challenged reviews editor.

Thomas Wulff


A Hero for our Time by Lari Assmuth. Ph.D thesis, Humanities Faculty, Helsinki University (2006).

Mikhael Lermontov: A Hero of Our Time, translated by Paul Foote
Mikhael Lermontov: A Hero of Our Time, translated by Vladimir Nabokov
Reginald Teague-Jones: The Spy who Disappeared
Ronald Sinclair: Adventures in Persia; to India by the Back Door
Ivar Lassy: The Muarram Mysteries among the Azerbeijan Turks of Caucasia
Thomas Wulff: Med bästa vilja i världen: Fragment, incidenter och andra fantasier ur Ivarlassys liv. Volym II. Mandom


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