(Book received from, and review written for, TripFiction.com)
My rating: 3/5
Written using the third person (he) instead of the first person, the narrative commences in 1935, when the author is born, humorously depicting life in a small village in Sweden, so insular that anyone moving in from a place more than 10km away was considered an immigrant. Skiing to school is the norm and the protagonist's interests range from football to God and Flash Gordon . He becomes aware that half of the village are God fearing, and the other half (the non-believers) can be identified by their playing football on a Sunday. This part of the author's life is told from a child's viewpoint, with all the confusions and misunderstandings of adults actions that a child's perspective is full of.
University follows swiftly and amusingly, including success in sport, and in the 1960's the author explores politics, ideology and culture and gets married - the latter covered in a couple of sentences.
Fears and doubts of writing ability are felt when the author reaches his 30's, at which time he is working on "The Investigator" about the extradition of Baltic soldiers from Sweden to the USSR, and the reader is given an insight into the extensive research, including considerable personal risk, that went into the writing of this book. Also the far-reaching, and chilling, outcome from the publication.
In 1970 PO (as he refers to himself in the book), and his family, move to West Berlin and experiences the unrest taking place there, as he turns his writing to sport and politics. The horrors of the Munich Olympic Games follow, before the drama moves to the world of plays and theatre. Change continues to happen - sometimes for the good, often for the bad, including a visit to an Icelandic hell. The book takes the reader up to the recent past (the book was copyrighted in 2008)
How much of the book is biography and how much is fiction I am in no position to judge - and perhaps that is part of the point of the book. One thing is that is certain however, is that Per Olov Enquist has had a full and varied life, with much acclaimed success in writing.
For the traveller, there are few touristic details of the many places visited in this book, including Berlin, Paris and Los Angeles, although much political background is offered.
I found the first third of this book quietly humorous and charming, and enjoyed learning about life in a remote Swedish village. The book weaves its way through time and countries, with characters that are easy to follow. The second third I found a little dry, although it contained many interesting observances on major world events over the last 60 years. The final third was deeply moving. My enjoyment of this book was certainly hampered by this being the first time I have come across this author and playwright, and perhaps I prefer a book with a little more insight into personal feelings and emotional insights that this book offers.
Certainly a fascinating account of the life of a prize winning novelist and playwright.