Winner of the 2008 August Prize!
The book starts off at a little green house in the Västerbotten province of northern Sweden. It ends with the Enquist’s return, both to writing and to another kind of life, after several despondent years. The rest of the book is a third-person account of everything that brought him to that point.
Just as August Strindberg’s The Son of a Servant describes his own life in third person, Enquist’s writes of a fatherless teacher’s son who joins the Hoppets Här (Army of Hope) temperance organisation and shows great promise as a high jumper. Having spent most of his childhood sitting alone and drawing maps, he is later astonished to learn that his little home town has produced as many authors as the “teats on a cow’s udder.”
Emerging from such a shielded environment, he spends much of his adult life travelling and living abroad – Berlin, New York, Paris, Copenhagen. An award-winning production of his play Tribadernas natt/The Night of the Tribades runs on Broadway in 1977. But the success that has skyrocketed him to fame as a Swedish author and world-renowned playwright tears him apart inside.
He walks around in an impenetrable fog, and the time comes when he can barely write a letter, much less a novel.
He dashes from one form of escape, one well-intentioned hell, to the next. Finally he finds his way back to writing, to another kind of life.
The book artfully ties together Enquist’s previous works. With humour, warmth and endless wonderment, he describes the events that shaped some of the most celebrated fiction of our time.