Though celebrating a Eurovision Song Contest win with their compatriots, Swedish Jews (a minority of around 18,000 people in a country of 9 million) are confronting a grim recent upswing in anti-Semitic violence. At this time of hostility, riding to the rescue is the Swedish Jewish author and journalist Stephan Yigal Mendel-Enk.
Born in 1974 in Gothenburg, Mendel-Enk published a 2010 novel, “Three Monkeys,” which appeared in German translation last fall from Ullstein Verlag and from Grasset in Paris in May. Vigorously tragicomedic, “Three Monkeys” humanizes the Swedish Jewish experience through the eyes of Jacob, a bar mitzvah boy in 1987, coinciding with The Intifada, a tension-fraught time for European Jews.
Domestic discord is interwoven into “Three Monkeys” when Jacob’s mother leaves his father for another man, with tragic results. Yet the overtone tone of the narrative is high-spirited and athletic, as might be expected from an author who is also a longtime contributor to the Swedish soccer bimonthly Offside.