Omslagsbild: Apan i mitten

Date of release: 2020-08-19
Pages: 240
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Apan i mitten /Monkey in the Middle

"Most of Maccabi's players had a stronger connection to Judaism than to football. Guttkin loved to tell stories about people where the roles were reversed. Real footballers, who had played in division four or five. Who had grown up without any Jewish elements, just a diffuse sense of something far back in the family tree. Or something that was always present, but never pronounced. A dad with numbers on his wrist, a mum that inexplicably turned off the tv when someone spoke in German. In some way or other, Guttkin had learned of their background and lured them to the team. Through Maccabi they had joined the camaraderie and the religion.  
That was how it was supposed to work. But I suspected that it couldn't always work out as planned. Sometimes it had to be the other way around. That someone with a faint Jewish connection played with the team and felt so ostracized that he never dared to approach any Jewish context ever again. Or that someone who had been a part of the group left it and felt more at home elsewhere. And there must have been some that were caught in the middle, who wandered around aimlessly without ever finding their footing."

Jacob's family has been plagued by death and divorce, but following several years of turbulence, his world appears somewhat peaceful again. The wall has come down, Rabin and Arafat have shaken hands and Jacob has finally been allowed to play for the permanently troubled Jewish football team Maccabi.

But when his older brother - the glorified Rafael - returns to Gothenburg from Israel, things take a more serious turn. Having no real intention of finding a job, he strikes up an acquaintance with a controversial local Rabbi and begins adopting his new friend's more orthodox views. His behaviour unsettles the family, especially Jacob, and soon political and religious antagonism threatens to tear them all apart. And the football pitch becomes yet another arena of conflict.

Monkey in the Middle is a a stand-alone sequel to Mendel-Enk's previous novel Three Monkeys, and a humorous yet affecting coming-of-age story about football and brotherhood, as well as a young man's search for identity and the yearning to belong.  

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Stephan Mendel-Enk’s Monkey in the Middle is, in the best possible way, a cheerfully written generational drama about political and religious antagonism, how this plays out in the family home, on the football pitch. With narrative drive, finesse and humour unfolds a story about a boy who watches the transformation of an idolized older brother and its repercussions.
Vi Läser
Mendel-Enk’s gaze is tender and his passion for storytelling authentic. Monkey in the Middle is full of amusing sub-plots and observations, among them a really wonderful interior from Jacob’s grandmother’s bridge club /… / It is a generous way of fleshing things out, which doesn’t involve dismissing things as not serious.
When I reviewed his debut novel, I compared the author to a Swedish Noah Baumbach. His twisted Jewish characters are of the kind that we usually meet in New York. With his effortless style and low-key humour Stephan Mendel-Enk also reminds me of an author like Nick Hornby.
Gefle Dagblad
The topic is serious, but executed with a light touch, I recall Woody Allen’s portrayal of a Jewish family in the movie Radio Days. One can obviously claim that the material could have a deeper literary composition; Stephan Mendel-Enk prefers using comedy and anecdotes rather than tragedy. But on the other hand – he does it in a way that is hard to beat.
Borås Tidning

Stephan Mendel-Enk (b. 1974) was born and raised in Gothenburg - also the main setting for his novels. He is a journalist and has written several pieces for football magazine Offside and he has also worked for Swedish Radio.

Mendel-Enk made his debut with reportage book An Obvious Sense of Style (2004).

Monkey in the Middle is a stand-alone sequel to his successful first novel Three Monkeys (2010).

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