The Bear Woman

By (author): Karolina Ramqvist

Translated by: Saskia Vogel

A writer’s obsession with the story of Marguerite de la Rocque leads her to question how women’s stories have been told, and how she will tell her own.

Blending autofiction and the essay, The Bear Woman takes us on a journey of feminism and literary detective work that spans centuries and continents. In the 1540s, a young French noblewoman, Marguerite de la Rocque, was abandoned by her guardian on an island in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence with her maidservant and her lover. In present-day Stockholm, an author and mother of three becomes captivated by the image of Marguerite sheltered in a dark cave all alone after her companions have died.

The image is an anchor that soon becomes an obsession. She must find out the real story of the woman she calls the Bear Woman. But so much in this history is written so as to gloss over male violence. And that maps and other sources she consults are at times undecipherable.

We meet fellow chroniclers of the Bear Woman, such as Queen Marguerite de Navarre, the most powerful woman in Europe, but whose Heptameron (1558) was unjustly dismissed as the writings of a dabbler. We follow the author on a research trip to Paris where she is accompanied by her teenage daughter and the specter of herself as a younger woman, to dinner tables in Mexico and Sweden, to the map division of the New York Public Library, and to bookstores and celebrity hotels in California during the wildfires. Ramqvist explores what it means to write history, how women’s stories have been told, and wonders, in this time of narrative fatigue and a new wave feminism that the author does not quite relate to, where we have gotten ourselves to.

“Karolina Ramqvist writes with frosty precision the kind of literature that is unforgettable. Her portraits of women hit deep into bone and marrow.” – Dorthe Nors, author of A Line in the World

“Ramqvist’s acute rendering of embodied sensual experience combined with her evocation of her double character’s increasingly desperate circumstances create a story of high tension, startling insights, and lasting resonance.” – Siri Hustvedt, author of Mothers, Fathers and Others

“One of my favorite discoveries from this year.” – Samanta Schweblin, author of Little Eyes

“Ramqvist is a serious contender for the Swedish literary limelight.” – Shelf Awareness


Saskia Vogel

Saskia Vogel grew up in Los Angeles and currently lives in Berlin, where she works as a writer and Swedish-to-English literary translator. She has written on the themes of gender, power, and sexuality for publications such as The White Review, The Offing, and The Quietus. Previously, she worked as Granta magazine’s global publicist and as an editor at the AVN Media Network, where she reported on pornography and adult pleasure products. She is the author of the novel Permission.


Karolina Ramqvist

Karolina Ramqvist is one of the most influential writers and feminists of her generation in Sweden. She has written five novels to date and is widely celebrated for her powerful ability to provoke quiet yet fierce questions rather than provide loud and easy answers. In her skillful hands, contemporary issues of sexuality, commercialization, isolation, and belonging become highly charged and, at the same time, completely unaffected. In 2015 Ramqvist was awarded the prestigious P.O. Enquist Literary Prize for her novel The White City (Grove). The Bear Woman (2019) is her fifth and latest novel.


“Ramqvist skillfully blends a story of survival with an autofictional meditation on womanhood … It adds up to a careful study of a woman’s writing life.” –Publishers Weekly

“Ramqvist, in Vogel’s translation, is a master of finely observed detail…Rarely have I found a book so gentle but enthralling in its telling, so able to distill the subtle turbulence of womanhood, motherhood, and the writer’s life.” – Jessica J. Lee, author of Two Trees Make a Forest

“Women’s stories often must be rescued from the margins of history, as a writer on a difficult research expedition is reminded in Karolina Ramqvist’s introspective novel The Bear Woman.” –Foreword Reviews, Book of the Day

“Ramqvist is a serious contender for the Swedish literary limelight.” – Shelf Awareness

“A book about writing a book, which melds elements of autofiction, literary detective work, and adventure storytelling, The Bear Woman is a meditation on the value and pitfalls of writing history — especially women’s history.” – Edmée Lepercq, Los Angeles Review of Books

The Bear Woman is a reflection on the power at once wielded and yielded by storytellers.” –Eloísa Díaz, Necessary Fiction

“Ramqvist’s excavation of the process of creation and research, delay and anxiety, is both multi-layered and intriguing.” –James Scales, Full Stop


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224 Pages

0.87lb0.8in5.25in * 8.25in


February 08, 2022


Coach House Books



Book Subjects:

FICTION / Feminist

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