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Posted on 4 Dec 2018 in Fiction |

JOHN AJVIDE LINDQVIST I Always Find You. Reviewed by Dasha Maiorova

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The bestselling author of Let the Right One In, Lindqvist clouds the division between horror and memoir in this new novel.

Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist is known for transforming staples of horror into new and compelling configurations, tapping into fears integral to the human psyche. Let the Right One In forever changed our vision of the parasitic vampire, while Handling the Undead challenged the humanity of grief when faced with the undead.

I Always Find You is a far more personal horror story, and perhaps for that reason imbues an altogether different sense of unease, teetering on the knife edge of belief and disbelief. The art of horror is its ability to cut to the quick of our darkest fears – pain, humiliation, rejection, obliteration – and in I Always Find You Lindqvist examines his own submerged darkness. The book is translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy, the noted translator of works by writers including Asa Larsson and Johan Theorin.

In 1985, 19-year-old John Lindqvist moves into a dodgy flat in Stockholm. He has ambitions to earn a living as a magician. Author John Ajvide Lindqvist’s bio indicates that he indeed began his career as a magician and stand-up comedian.

John’s move proves an isolating experience, far from the thrill and adventure a young person expects when they uproot themselves from childhood and launch into adulthood. Lindqvist begins by describing this transition, musing:

I moved into the city in order to take my first real steps into the adult world … Thirty years later I really do wonder how I survived that autumn and winter, but things are different when we’re young. Our gaze is fixed on a vague but glowing future, and the dirt and darkness of the present are no more than a temporary inconvenience.

Without friends, living in a windowless space of 12 square metres and struggling to exhibit his talents, John spends his days sleeping and his nights exploring the city. He also begins to write. The story-within-a-story, embedded in John’s memory, begins at arms-length, with the quality of a folk tale or fairy tale, eventually revealing its grim heart. John describes himself as a young boy discovering a small child – a ‘pet’, mirroring elements of Let the Right One In – in his treehouse. The child is starving, silent and mutilated.

John, reflecting on the experience of writing about the encounter, describes its cathartic properties:

That was the first time I encountered the torment and joy of writing … The story lost its menacing, formless quality in the telling and became something I could twist and turn, looking at it from different angles as if it were something manageable.

Whether the effect of his loneliness, or an external pressure, John experiences increasingly sinister signs of something being not quite right where he lives. An unnamed caller incessantly phones the flat, asking if ‘Sigge’ has arrived. When John’s neighbours padlock the shared shower/laundry room, he grows paranoid about their activities, which is unsurprising, considering his discovery of blood on the linoleum outside.

The crux of it is that the room is essentially a ‘doorway’ into another state of being. John and the neighbours, including Elsa, a grandmother pining for opportunities to nurture, and Lars, a widower and father whose son has grown into a skinhead, enter into a ritualistic bloodletting rite which enables them to become their truest selves, as grotesque and horrifying as those may be.

For John, ‘I am a monster, a sexless creature with the ability to shapeshift … this is my real body, not the sack of innards I drag around in my everyday life.’ This is in direct contrast to his state of overwhelming ennui earlier in the book when he feels ‘reduced to what was contained within [his] skin’.

John and his neighbours seek solace and the human connection missing from their ‘real’ lives. However, as the admission-price of blood increases, and the risk to their real bodies grows more violent, the process culminates in an altogether horrifying climax. The imagery would give body-horror master filmmaker David Cronenberg a run for his money.

In an inimitable Scandinavian setting, Lindqvist manages to capture a beautiful sense of the uncanny in I Always Find You, bending the divide between horror and memoir. Readers may reassure themselves that the events within did not occur, that the book can be found on fiction shelves, but may also ask – what if?

John Ajvide Lindqvist I Always Find You Text Publishing 2018 PB 288pp $32.99

Dasha Maiorova is a Belarus-born emerging writer and visual artist whose fiction has been published in the Big Issue and Voiceworks. She writes about books and reading at and tweets @DashMaiorova.

You can buy this book from Abbey’s at a 10% discount by quoting the promotion code NEWTOWNREVIEW here.

To see if it is available from Newtown Library, click here.