Per Olov Enquist dies

Agence France-Presse . Stockholm | Published: 22:23, Apr 26,2020


Per Olov Enquist

Per Olov Enquist, one of Sweden’s most acclaimed authors who wrote ‘The Visit of the Royal Physician,’ has died aged 85, his family told Swedish media on Sunday.

The patriarch of 20th century Scandinavian literature, Enquist is known for powerful stories that weave his own melancholic life into the dark side of history.

In his more than 20 novels, plays and essays, he drew heavily on his own experience as an oppressed child in a strictly religious home, as an athlete, a journalist and a destructive alcoholic, his leftwing convictions filling his writings.

Born in 1934 in Hjoggbole in Sweden’s far north, his books -- including ‘The Crystal Eye’ (1961), ‘The Parable Book’ (2013), ‘The Magnetist’s Fifth Winter’ (1964) and ‘The March of the Musicians’ (1978) -- have been translated into a dozen languages.

He won the 2001 August Prize, Swedish literature’s top honour, for ‘The Visit of the Royal Physician’, which earned him broad international acclaim and tells the story of a romance between the physician of the mad Danish King Christian VII and
the queen.

Enquist, known in Sweden by his initials P.O., won a second August award for his autobiography ‘A Different Life’ (2008), its name an homage to ‘A Life’ by August Strindberg, the father of modern Swedish literature.

‘P.O. Enquist’s importance for Swedish cultural life since the 1960s can’t be exaggerated. He was the model for the socially-engaged poet who influenced generations of younger writers. It feels empty and unthinkable that he is gone,’ wrote Bjorn Wiman, culture editor of the Dagens Nyheter newspaper, on Sunday.

His publisher Norstedts also posted a memoriam on its website: ‘Few have, like him, inspired other writers, renewed the documentary novel, revitalised Swedish drama and touched readers for more than half a century.’

The process of writing ‘A Different Life’, he said, allowed him to work through and leave behind painful memories of sleeping in a bed meant for his still-born brother, of the void left by a father who died when he was not yet a year old, and of a strict mother who pushed him to invent sins
to confess.

Known for his Gregory Peck-like frown and silver crown in his later years, Enquist broke free from his family, competing in high jump in high school before attending Uppsala University, where he discovered journalism and writing.

He just missed qualifying for the Rome Olympics in the high jump in 1960. But as a journalist he covered the 1972 Munich Olympics when Palestinian militants took hostage and then killed members of the Israeli team.

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