Livläkarens besök/ The Royal Physician’s Visit (1999)

O_Livläkarens besök_SVLivläkarens besök is set in Denmark in the 1760s. This rich and brilliantly narrated novel tells the story of the mad King Christian, his young Queen and the Royal Physician, the German Dr. Struensee, who gained the full confidence of the King and won the heart of the Queen. And who put into practice a number of ideas from the French Revolution, twenty years before their time. Struensee is one in a long row of intellectuals who were seduced by power when they once had been given a chance of grabbing it. The adventure came to a tragic end. The Danish nobility, so badly treated by Struensee, rebelled: they had Struensee imprisoned and saw to it that he was sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered.

An epic novel, rich in images, which also deals with what he regards as the most central questions: how should intellectuals come to terms with power? What is the connection between power and sexuality?

With Livläkarens besök P O Enquist achieved an international breakthrough with the critics as well as with a large public. Livläkarens besök was awarded the prestigious August Prize in 1999.

The opera Livläkarens besök premiered in Copenhagen in 2009, the music is written by Bo Holten and the libretto by P O Enquist.


Livläkarens besök Stockholms Stadsteater Photographer Petra Hellberg

Stockholms Stadsteater/ Photographer Petra Hellberg

In December 2015 the play Livläkarens besök/The Royal Physician’s Visit premiered at Stockholm City Theatre, adapted by Johanna Garpe and Erik Norberg and directed by Johanna Garpe.

“magnificent historical drama , visual and diversified.” Svenska Dagbladet

“Exceptionally beautiful and well-acted” Kulturnytt, Swedish Radio


 Press Voices:

“The material is … mind-blowing… I have read it with total fascination… I read, or rather devour the pages…”  Dagens Nyheter

“… the novel vibrates with life. Livläkarens besök is a tale that has been written with amazing skill, written by an author who masters his instruments to perfection. I cannot remember when I last read such an overwhelming – such a committed – Swedish novel.”  Sydsvenska Dagbladet

”A masterful historical panorama… A great book, a powerful book, it rises, superior and self-aware, above the run-of-the-mill production of literary authors.”  Die Zeit

“A truly beautiful book… that finally should allow this Swedish author to be appreciated at his full value, here in France…”  La Croix

”… the erotic scenes are among the most beautiful I have read in modern Swedish literature. I wish this novel many readers …” Kvällsposten

”… majestic wingspan … inventive and rich … Livläkarens besök marks his return in a big way – P O Enquist has here written one of his best novels.”  Expressen

”That devil Enquist, he is a formidable author.”  Svenska Dagbladet

”How P O Enquist does it, I just don’t know, but through his characters he manages to touch his readers to the very quick, and give them access to the secret rooms of the characters themselves … perhaps that is why I cried when I was in their company.”  Norrköpings Tidningar

”Per Olov Enquist has shaped this remarkable story into a gripping, fast paced narrative /…/ Enquist knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s plainly less interested in serving up period details or providing a portrait of peasant life than he is in exploring his characters’ minds; he doesn’t want to transport us to 18th-century Denmark so much as he wants to help us see these figures from history as our contemporaries. This, it must be said, he does with admirable virtuosity. His prose, skillfully translated by Tiina Nunnally, is brisk, lucid, vigorous, penetrating, rich in arresting epigrams and marked by calculated repetitions that give the novel a touch of hypnotic power.” The New York Times Book Review

”Mixing reportage with philosophy, barbarity with eroticism, the masterful Swedish writer Per Olov Enquist has fashioned an extraordinarily elegant and gorgeous novel.” The Los Angeles Times

 ”Enquist’s new novel, which I already dare to describe as the first great, lasting novel of the century. It is one of those rare experiences for the reader, and the most captivating.” Jyllands-Posten

”The remarkable thing, in all cases, is Enquist’s delicate, fabular narrative voice, as rendered by Tiina Nunnally’s translation from the original Swedish. The feeling is dream-like, the style spare, the effect utterly beguiling.” Daily Telegraph

”Per Olov Enquist has fashioned one of the most dramatic and memorable historical novels to have hit these shores in years. /…/ Enquist sketches the background with a light touch that belies deep learning./…/ Whatever you may find hackneyed about period fiction, rest assured that Enquist knows just how to avoid it. He shuns hindsight and lets the past safeguard its mysteries. His people never act like periwigged marionettes on an over-dressed stage (although he cleverly explores poor King Christian’s obsession with the theatre). Enquist’s figures love and hate and plot with an incandescent energy that wipes out emotional distances.” The Independent

”Enquist has imagined this appalling drama with immense sensitivity and intelligence. (…) Enquist writes in short, jerky sentences which often seem to repeat themselves. Although disconcerting at first, the technique works brilliantly. The atmosphere is suitably nervy, while the shifting ground beneath the apparent repetitions is vibrant with stealth and subterfuge.” The Spectator

”It is peculiar yet absolutely compelling, hovering brilliantly and most strangely between bald historical fact and poetic fiction. (…) Yet though one knows how The Visit will end, it still grips with pity and terror, and intrigues through its psychological shadings.” Sunday Telegraph

”Enquist, a celebrated Swedish novelist, turns this actual historical incident into an enthralling fable of the temptations of power — and a surprisingly poignant love story.” Time

Livläkarens Besök is an almost perfect historical novel. The author is an outstanding writer, as imaginative as he is knowledgeable, sensitive about people and deeply interested in political processes. There is just a hint of mannerism in the by now elegantly honed language, with

its recurring ”enquistesque” images, but the excitement of the story and the incisiveness of the narrative prevent any preciousness.” World Literature Today 

International Editions:

Denmark – Samleren 1999

Germany – Carl Hanser Verlag 1999

Norway – Gyldendal 1999, pb 2001

Finland – Gummerus 1999

Hungary – Europa 1999

Greece – Govostis 1999

Poland – Santorski 2003

Italy – Iperborea 1999

France – Actes Sud 1999

The Netherlands – Ambo/Anthos 1999

USA – The Overlook Press 2000

Great Britain – The Harvill Press 2000

Latvia – Atena 2000

The Faeroe Islands – Sprotin 2000

Iceland – Mal og Menning 2000

Romania – Universal Dalsi 2001

Czech Republic– Volvox Globator 2001

Lithuania – Writers’ Union Publ 2001

Slovakia – Ikar Publs 2002

Bulgaria – Hemus Grup 2002

Estonia – Eesti Raamat 2002

Serbia – Alfa Narodnakniga 2002

Russia – Limbakh 2003

Israel – Keter Publs 2003

Croatia – Fraktura 2004

Bosnia – Vrijeme 2004

Turkey – Pusula 2004

Ukraine – Krok 2013

Corea – Dulnyouk 2008

Portugal – Ahab Edicoe 2010

Lithuania – Baltos Lankos 2012

Macedonia – Ili Ili 2013

Ukraine – KROK 2013

Lithuania – Baltos Lankos 2013 (new edition)

Arabic – Dar Al-Muna 2014

Spain – Nordica Libros 2016


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