Thursday, 11 June 2009

New books: Biography of Olof Palme

Leopard Förlag in Stockholm has recently published När vinden vände – Olof Palme 1969-1986, the second volume of the historian Kjell Östberg’s biography of the Swedish Labour politician Olof Palme, who served as the country’s prime minister 1969-1976 and from 1982 until his assassination by an unknown gunman in 1986.
The first volume dealt with Palme’s background, his early political career and rise to prominence, while the second starts with his election to leader of the Labour party in 1969, which also made him prime minister. The author wants to see Palme not only as an ideologist who could enjoy a confrontation, but also as a political strategist. In particular he points out how much of his party’s policies Palme through skilful negotiations managed to get through Parliament in the term when the left and right wings had exactly the same number of seats – the government lost only 15 of 450 votes in Parliament in the first year of this parliamentary situation.
Professor Östberg also argues that Palme had a unique talent for reading his times, for getting hold of current thoughts and ideas and often to make them his own. Yet it is startling how his first term was characterised by a wave of important reforms, while his final years were beset with difficulties. His portrayal of the exhausted Prime Minister, aged beyond his years, towards the end reads as a sad contrast to the energetic young leader one meets in the first chapters.
The book is really excellent and it manages to evoke the many aspects of Palme’s personality and lifework – the orator, the reformer, the peace negotiator, the tireless advocate of oppressed citizens of the third world, the leader who was incapable of feigning interest in issues which did not matter to him, a person with both good and bad qualities, the man who was admired and cherished by many, yet intensely hated by others, but who left no-one indifferent.
With such a multi-faceted character as Olof Palme it is virtually unavoidable that there will be something one wishes the biographer had dealt with in more detail, but with Palme’s murder unsolved after 23 years the biography also serves as a timely reminder of the fact that he was so much more than a victim of assassination. First and foremost he was one of the most interesting politicians of the twentieth century.

Some information from the publisher’s website:

The novelist Per Olov Enquist’s review in Expressen is well worth reading in itself:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome, but should be signed - preferably by a name, but an initial or a nick will also be accepted. Advertisements are not allowed. COMMENTS WHICH DO NOT COMPLY WITH THESE RULES WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED.