DUCKWORTH £17.99 (464pp) £16.99 (free p&p) from 0870 079 8897
Lewi's Journey, by Per Olov Enquist, trans Tiina Nunnally
When fundamentalism swept Europe
Friday 26 August 2005
At first he envisaged this movement as independent of organised society. He arranged soup-kitchens for the poor, finding supporters among marginal people in what was still an economically shaky country, and antagonised its establishment. Later, with the same ruthlessness, Lewi sought to use the press, the finance sector, the political parties. But though there was change, indeed U-turns, in his programme, there was also an inner consistency.
Lewi's God was not the Father of the Old Testament, but the Jesus of the Gospels, a figure to be loved who had redeemed you and could never be betrayed. Speaking in his own person, as one whose mother was a Pentecostal, Enquist exclaims: "The blood of Christ, we had been raised on it... We couldn't escape it... no matter how hard we tried." The appeal of the Pentecostal Christ is to the emotions and, paradoxically, also to the senses - of which the movement was extremely suspicious. It condemned theatres, cinemas and, worst of all, dancing. Hence the speaking in tongues, the swooning at prayer meetings, the professions of faith, the locatable moments of salvation.
It was a happy turn of fate which brought to Lewi that man who (himself apart) attracted the widest attention, Sven Lidman. Author, amorist, socialite and romantic reactionary, Lidman proved to have just the ability to mesmerise crowds with his rhetoric that the movement needed. It grew and grew, with 80 per cent of its adherents women, until all Swedish institutions, from the state church to the Social Democrat party, had to come to terms with it. Overseas, its success had serious impact. Nor is this past history: world-wide, in 2000, the Pentecostal movement numbered 250 million.
Enquist's presentation of Lewi and Sven is complex. He writes as himself, trying to fathom the reasons both intimate and cultural for their extraordinary careers and their far-reaching effect on Swedish society. But as a novelist of formidable empathetic powers, he also attempts entry into their minds, both curiously compounded of worldly ambition and spiritual hunger.
Enquist sees Pentecostalism as a shadow analogue of the Labour movements that transformed Sweden, offering charismatic faith in place of their "irresistible" belief in reason and progress. He perceives here what others at the time perceived: a kinship to Nazism. But these interpretations are never allowed to be reductive. Continually, the human dimension stubbornly asserts itself in all its mysterious depths.
Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Universities aren't working us hard enough, say undergraduates
- 2 Lego letter from the 1970s still offers a powerful message to parents 40 years later
- 3 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Strictly Come Dancing results: Steve Backshall and Ola Jordan sent home
Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
Why are the words 'mongol', 'mongoloid' and 'mongy' still bandied about as insults?
Tom DeLonge compares streaming music to killing elephants
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage of Lana Del Rey rape video
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict