The eponymous humanlike “monster” familiar from the mythology and folklore of Lapland dominates this prizewinning first novel, the work of a Finnish writer for TV and comic strips.
Sinisalo’s dark fable begins when gay photographer Mikael (a.k.a. “Angel”) Hartikainen returns from a night out to find a “troll-cub” being persecuted by young “thugs” outside his apartment building. Rescuing the troll (which he later names Pessi, after a figure in a famous Finnish novel), Angel begins surfing the Internet for information about this timid, oddly seductive creature. As he and Pessi grow used to each other, Angel averts possible discovery of his new tenant by his downstairs neighbor Palomita (an abused “postal-purchase bride”); a veterinary surgeon whom he mischievously calls “Dr. Spiderman”; sardonic advertising executive Martes (Angel’s sometime lover), and “nerdy” Ecke, the lovelorn gay to whom Angel finds himself helplessly, ridiculously sexually attracted. Meanwhile, Sinisalo juxtaposes brief chapters that record Angel’s increasingly complicated days with excerpts from such varied informational sources as biological and ecological studies, newspaper accounts of troll “sightings,” indigenous poems and stories, and the Finnish epic Kalevala. The clever plot here is driven by Pessi’s effect on Angel (as Dr. Spiderman explains, “your troll’s emitting some very powerful pheromones”). The mystery of Pessi’s appearance deepens as Sinisalo presents conflicting theories: that the troll is an animal species, an unclassifiable hybrid, or an earthly image of Satan—while leading us toward a catastrophic finale that seems to confirm the veterinarian’s suspicion that radical climatic changes are unsettling the balance of nature. Troll offers an ingenious dramatization of the nightmare of blurred boundaries between species, and a disturbing dystopian vision reminiscent of Karel Capek’s classic War with the Newts.
A fascinating black comedy, from a writer who has made the transition to literary fiction with a giant’s strides.