Ett annat liv / The Wandering Pine (2008)
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.
“In P.O. Enquist’s autobiography, Ett annat liv, the novelist, the documentalist and the man Enquist get together. The result is a cathedral for empathy.” Dagens Nyheter
“Ett annat liv is a deeply impressive book. It is strictly restrained and musically flowing, in perfect musical balance with its subject, written in a rhythmic manner, darkly serious, but also ruggedly humorous. Despite a bubbling excess of events, the direction is clear – down into the darkness, in towards the core.” Expressen
“There are sections in P.O. Enquist’s autobiographical book, Ett annat liv, that deserve to become classic in Swedish literature, for example when the boy is forced to make up some sins for the week’s obligatory confession. /…/ Most of all it is like a bildungsroman in three acts, written with Enquist’s usual brilliant story-telling technique and feeling for drama.” Svenska Dagbladet
“Per Olov Enquist’s memorial novel, Ett annat liv, is a magnificent work in the very best class. /…/ The result is endlessly exciting. Rarely does that sort of comment have such a solid justification as in this personally revealing and superb description of the life of one of our really great Swedish authors.” Uppsala Nya Tidning
“The reader can only thank the author and enjoy this – there are 529 pages in the book and every page counts. Since all the advance talk about the book has mainly concerned its dark sides, there are good reasons to point out that this is often an extremely funny book.” Aftonbladet
“It is comical, a bit sad and very informative. And his story is full of life and sympathy for all those involved /…/ It is a remarkable and – despite the misery – hopeful tale. Conveyed in a book that one can only describe as brilliant.” Arbetarbladet
“The story develops the power of magic and takes off, leaving everything behind and turning its investigation into a vision. And it is then, as you will certainly appreciate very great literature and for such literature different rules apply. The main one is to allow yourself to be affected by it, to read it.” Norrbottens Kuriren
“Some life. Some novel … Wonderful, brave, evocative … It is a remarkable story, and Enquist is remarkably frank in narrating every last detail” Russell Leadbetter, Herald.
“The Wandering Pine, rather like Arthur Miller’s Timebends, is a fascinating portrait of intellectual life during the twentieth century” Kate Webb, Times Literary Supplement.
“Fascinating … Works best when it feels most like a novel – most obviously in its oblique beginning and end”
James Kidd, Independent.
“A riveting objective autobiography” Peggy Woodford, Church Times.
“One of the contemporary novel’s greatest human investigators” Paul Binding, Independent.
Germany – Hanser 2008
France – Actes Sud 2008
Norway – Gyldendal 2008
Denmark – Rosinante 2008
Netherlands – Ambo Anthos 2008
Italy – Iperborea 2008
The Czech Republic – Host 2009
Hungary – Europa 2009
Spain – Destino 2010
UK, world English – MacleHose Press 2015