on 26 May 2013
This short(133 pages) well-written amusing debut novel portrays
Jakob growing up in a Jewish community in Gothenburg.
His memories are not told sequentially,which although confusing
at first for the reader,mirrors the double dislocation in Jakob's
life--The turmoil in his family life ,as his mother leaves his father,
to 'take-up' with a gentile,and being Jewish in Sweden.
The author,with wonderful observation focuses on detail,rather than
emotion,and we never truly know how Jakob feels about his upbringing,
and his family,with their love/hate relationship with Sweden,and
their fascination for everything Israeli and American.
An enjoyable novel by an author of considerable ability.
This engaging début from Stephan Mendel-Enk is a novella that initially comes across as a memoir, so much so that when the narrator's name - Jacob, rather than Stephan - is mentioned, I had to check the cover notes to see that I was indeed reading a piece of fiction.
The story is set in Gothenburg where the tiny steadfast Jewish community is united in their love of Israel, their worship of America and their fear of the anti-Semitism which led them to settle in this unlikely place ever recurring. Using a fragmented, often confusing time-scale, we meet the family characters and friends who people Jacob's stiflingly small world. The gentle humour is counter-balanced by an unspoken event that hovers malevolently throughout.
It's not often these days that one wishes a book were longer but one feels that there was a great deal left unsaid in this story. Perhaps one day Stephan Mendel-Enk will tell us more; in any event, I certainly look forward to further books from this highly promising author. He has been superbly served by Michael Lundin whose translation is outstanding. 4.5*