On 28 February 1986, the Prime Minister of Sweden, Olof Palme, was shot through the back at point blank range.
Cruel Awakening, written by Chris Mosey and published in 1991, is a political biography about the assassination of Olof Palme and the development of social democracy in Sweden. Mosey aims to illustrate his belief that the true explanation of the Palme assassination lies with 'the feeling of the place itself (Sweden), how it is to live there and especially the strange mentality of its people.'
Mosey encountered incredible opposition to the book ranging from an inability to get interviews with any of Palme's friends, family or colleagues to the halting of publication of the book in Britain. Mosey is defiantly critical of Sweden from its political system and actors to the national characteristics of the people. The 'warts and all' portrayal of Palme and the unattractive generalisations made about the Swedish people themselves have made Mosey extremely unpopular and unwelcome throughout Scandinavia.
The first step Mosey takes is to give an insight into the mentality of the Swedes. This is best summarised by a version of the Ten Commandments by which Swedes are supposed to live. These basic rules of behaviour cripple personal aspiration and give rise to massive guilt when disobeyed.
1. You shall not believe that you are something.
2. You shall not believe that your are as good as us.
3. You shall not believe that you are wiser than us.
4. You shall not imagine that you are better than us.
5. You shall not believe that you know more than us.
6. You shall not believe that you are superior to us.
7. You shall not believe that you are worth anything.
8. You shall not laugh at us.
9. You shall not believe that you can teach us anything.
The Law of Jante, or the Jantelag, is locally known as the 'famous Swedish Jealousy', describing the envy of anyone who breaks the Law of Jante, does well and pays no heed to the collective. Mosey argues that Palme broke the Law of Jante and engendered envy and hatred through self-promotion.
Mosey continues with detailed histories of Palme's personal development from youth to politician as well as the development of the Social Democratic Party into the ruling party of Sweden. Mosey is critical of the government of the time, showing both its strength and weakness through the eyes of the people. Similarly with Palme, Mosey illustrates his brilliance as well as his failures through his rises and falls in popularity with the Swedish public.
Mosey plays with many theories surrounding the assassination including the suspicion of police cover-ups, international assassins and CIA involvement. Mosey doubts a conspiracy and is more inclined to see the issue as impulsive and close to home.
Mosey reaches his aims and is convincing in his argument. At first I found his criticism of the 'Swedish mentality' much too general but later came to realise it was essential to establish the argument and was effective in establishing the broader picture. Mosey's style is free-flowing and enjoyable to read. His descriptions of the Swedish landscape and seasons, that introduce each chapter, are an excellent tool and are used to create new scenes perfectly.
Although it seems Mosey is cruel and harsh in his criticism of Sweden he is also hopeful that the 'cruel awakening' of the Swedish people by the Palme assassination will end the 'spiritual impoverishment of the homeland' and the blind trust Swedes have in their authorities. Cruel Awakening is an excellent political biography that gives a gutsy and unique perspective of a tragic yet historically significant time in Swedish history.