An emeritus historian of the downtrodden is asked to write her autobiography, but embarks instead on a memoir of her personal life between the academic publications.

Taavi is, or was, an ancient mariner. Born in 1893, she witnessed and participated in the great wars in Finland with wavering borders and migratory pulses, and lived with and was historian of the Lapps of Finland and Kola (the Russian peninsula with modern capital Murmansk). As partisan, historian and spy, her Scandinavian story is patchy. At one time in World War I she was captured by a German raider ship (the Wolf) from a Norwegian trawler and held captive on board for months in the Pacific. In WW II she was held for a time in one of Stalin’s Kola gulag camps.

In the 1960s she and her husband, Holger, lived in Melbourne, South Australia, researching the fate of aboriginal tribes in early colonization, and of children taken from the tribes by the contemporary government. She and Holger took up university historian posts in Stockholm, with a get-away home in Dalarna neighboring the Bergstroms, Svea’s family. Taavi is writing her memoirs after Holger’s death when Willy and subsequently Lasse meet her.

Taavi’s tale, in her book, is being pieced together by a younger historian, despite her rejection of him while she was alive, and continuing after her death through research in scattered, locked and some perhaps invented archives. Much of her biography is patchy before the Australian chapter. The biographer is himself a suspect character with dubious affiliation. A daughter of Holger’s enters the plot, attempting a counter-biography of Holger and Taavi. An Amsterdam publisher commits a young Dutch Indonesian woman to help her; it turns out this woman encountered Willy on his flight across India, and the discovered coincidence makes her deeply suspicious. Because they have bearing on wartime activities of certain high-profile persons, the competing biographies become treacherous and poisoned. The blundering CIA agent who once accosted Willy re-enters and follows his nose to a pile of nonsense. As Taavi once said to Lasse and Rolf, while many pretty authors have remonstrated that to tell a story makes sense of chaos, many tales, especially those with multiple authors, devolve into bullshit.

Compared to Taavi’s tale, Willy Willy is a Solomonic psalm.