Last Winter’s Snow
by Hans M. Hirschi
Beaten Track Publishing
Reviewed by Alina Oswald
Thing to remember is if we’re all alone, then we’re all together in that, too.” This quote, from the movie P.S. I Love You, came to mind as I finished reading Hans M. Hirschi’s latest novel, Last Winter’s Snow. While set almost entirely in Sweden, the story of Last Winter’s Snow resonates with any one of us, as a reminder not only that we are not alone in our struggles, but also (to borrow from the same movie) that there are times when life as we know it can change forever, for better or for worse. What is important is how we deal with and what we make of these changes.
The struggles as well as victories portrayed in Last Winter’s Snow are all too familiar, universal experiences captured through a more local, Swedish lens. And Hirschi brings them all to life, while taking us along on an unforgettable journey through the country he calls home—from Stockholm and all the way to Sápmi, the land of aurora borealis and indigenous people called Sami. We get to learn about the LGBT history “from a Swedish perspective” through the story of Nilas, a Sami, and his Swedish husband Casper, from the moment they meet, at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, and through the years and decades that followed.
Hirschi’s characters see the AIDS crisis, “as if Death himself had crept into bed with them, wedging himself between them, a cruel reminder that their lives, their love, had indeed a best-before date, and that said date might be sooner rather than later.” We recognize the feelings of despair and loneliness, as well as the disregard from the outside world, the loss and pain that appear as a signature portrayal of the AIDS crisis, regardless of the place. We also recognize the related stigma and discrimination that have survived well beyond the AIDS crisis.
Through it all, the love Nilas and Casper share survives it all. So does their hope in a better, more understanding world. In this regard, Last Winter’s Snow becomes perhaps a promise that that kind of world is, indeed, possible.
Alina Oswald is Arts Editor of A&U.