Per Olov Enquist was born in the northern Swedish town of Hjoggböle in 1934. He went on to study literature at Uppsala University. During his studies, he wrote for numerous newspapers as a literary and theatre critic. He later worked as a columnist, moderator and reporter.
He made his own literary début with the novel »Kristallögat« (1961; tr. »The Crystal Eye«) followed by »Magnetisörens fimte vinter« (En. »The Magnetist’s Fifth Winter«) in 1964, in which he uses a conglomeration of fictitious documents to create an ambivalent picture of the Enlightenment. Enquist’s prose is characterised by a processing of his own experiences on the one hand while on the other hand manifesting a preference for historical and biographical themes employing timeless analogies. In the documentary novel »Legionärerna. En bok om baltutlämningen« (1968; En. »The Legionnaires«), for instance, he investigates the fate of the Baltic soldiers extradited to the Soviet Union in the event known in Sweden as the Extradition of the Balts. In the report »Die Kathedrale von München« (1972; tr. »The Cathedral of Munich«), by contrast, he reports directly on the hostage-taking at the Olympics in Munich, which he witnessed as a correspondent at the games. In the seventies, stints as a student and guest professor brought him to West Berlin and Los Angeles. In 1975 he wrote his first, oft-translated and staged play »Tribdernas natt« (En. »Night of the Tribades«) is about August Strindberg, about whom he also wrote a biography in 1984 (re-released in Germany in 2012). Apart from a two-year sojourn in Paris, where he worked on his celebrated novel »Kapten Nemos bibliotek« (1991; En. »Captian Nemo’s Library«), he lived in Denmark until the early nineties. He gained international acclaim with »Livläkarens besök« (1999; En. »The Royal Physician’s Visit«), which captivates readers with its compelling, multi-voice style and highly imaginative and lyrical illumination of historiographical deficits. In 2008 he published his novelesque, third-person autobiography »Ett annat liv« (2008; tr. »Another Life«). In his latest work »Liknelseboken: en kärlekshistoria« (2013; tr. »The Book Metaphor. A Love Story«), poems believed lost give the narrator the impetus to reflect on his amorous history and the manifold manifestations of love.
Enquist has received numerous honours, including the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize (1969), the Dobloug Prize (1988), the Selma Lagerlöf Prize (1997), the German Book Prize (2002), the Nelly Sachs Prize (2003) and the Austrian State Prize for European Literature (2009). For »Ein anderes Leben« he received the most prestigious Swedish literature prize, the August Prize, in 2008. Enquist lives in Stockholm.