Per Olov Enquist’s last book to be translated into English was the masterly and prize-winning The Visit of the Royal Physician. Now, once again, he has taken an historical story and used it as a vehicle for enquiry into love, art and death. He treats these big themes with miniaturist care and attention, while his characters, trapped in history like insects in amber, are deeply and sympathetically observed.
The ‘Marie’ of the title is Marie Curie, while ‘Blanche’ is the rather less well-known Blanche Wittman. Indeed, as the conclusion tells us, we do not even know where Blanche is buried. But her life was a fascinating if not a happy one. At eighteen she began to exhibit ‘somnambular