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the Complete Review
the complete review - non-fiction


Per Olov Enquist

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Title: Kartritarna
Author: Per Olov Enquist
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 1992
Length: 300 pages
Original in: Swedish
Availability: Die Kartenzeichner - Deutschland
  • Kartritarna has not been translated into English yet

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Our Assessment:

A- : good meandering but informative essays

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Kartritarna is a collection of ten loosely connected essays. The subjects are historical and literary, but also personal, with the reader always aware of Enquist's position and presence as interpreter (and sometimes more).
       Swedish identity and history is prominent throughout, though Enquist considers it in part also from abroad, writing about his Copenhagen years or focussing on a group of Swedish emigrants who moved to Brazil and what had become of that community. The historical changes of the day (the collection was written in the early 1990s) are also significant: one essay focusses on the assassination of Olof Palme, another on Russia shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Events from the more distant past also captivate him: Bohr and Heisenberg in Copenhagen, Strindberg accused of rape.
       Almost all the essays reach far beyond their starting points: writing on Strindberg he turns in all directions, from his own attempts to stage Miss Julie to how the rape charges were handled. Among the most fascinating is the second, sports-focussed essay, mixing questions of morality and footballer Martin Dahlin's jumping style (and taking in high jumping world champion Patrik Sjöberg and Zola Budd as well).
       Melancholy-tinged, much of the collection deals with failure (as well as good intentions -- utopian dreams and aspirations that can't quite hold -- or are overwhelmed). Not surprisingly, one of the starting points for several of the essays appears to be a book or play that Enquist never completed, ideas that attracted him but that he couldn't transform into a novel or drama.
       The essays are a bit uneven -- Enquist is better on the more distant events than the here and now, as well as on the morally ambiguous rather than the straightforward -- but on the whole very strong. This is captivating and thoughtful non-fiction, in the grand old tradition of the essay (but with a good modern spin to the presentation) -- exactly what one would hope for from a European (literary) intellectual (though too rarely found nowadays). Of more than merely Swedish interest (indeed, very typically European, if with a Nordic focus), it's a collection that, thirty or forty years ago, would have (deservedly) made the rounds in Europe (and washed up to US shores) in translation. Nowadays, it's perhaps understandable that there's not a 'market' for it; too bad, it's well worthwhile.

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Kartritarna: Per Olov Enquist: Other books by Per Olov Enquist under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Scandinavian literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Swedish author Per Olov Enquist was born in 1934.

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© 2005-2010 the complete review

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