Per Olov Enquist was raised by his young widowed mother in a small Västerbotten village, deep in the endlessness of a Swedish forest. The mother, who was a teacher, was very religious, active in Evangeliska fosterlandsstiftelsen, a revival movement. Enquist returns to these his roots, his childhood, his strict religious upbringing, and to how all these have shaped his life. They’re still all there, the yellow church building, the hymnbooks on their shelves and the Jesus images on the wall, all there in the little village of Sjön.
What keys are hidden in Sjön that unlock his authorship? The strict and restrictive religion that fears life and counts up a swelling sin register. The accompanying views on love, sex, alcohol and the impious. Religious intolerance. Distorted emotions about to burst their self-imposed dams. The loneliness. The forest. The barren landscape. They all find their way into his prose.
The book consists of nine parables—the power of the biblical symbolism that is etched into the boy. Each parable, the only sinless literature, treats one aspect of the author’s history. Here are fragments from his own life, which he promised never to publish, including the story of the fifty year old woman, who, on a hot day in June 1949, seduced him—then only fifteen years old—to satisfy her sexually on her kitchen floor, a wooden floor, free of knots. A scene depicted tenderly, and he concludes: This is true power, real life, which the small community and its faith has fettered in a straitjacket.