God was horny.” So begins Erik Wahlström’s novel about the Lord of all the universe. Wahlström has read his Bible word for word, from beginning to end. He has livened up ecclesiastical history and brought God down to Earth in a book that could be called a Finland-Swedish answer to Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses.
In this coming-of-age tale, simply and cheekily entitled Gud (“God”, 2006), God goes from being a virile young buck to a tired, grizzled old man. He can be likened to a human because he undergoes an ageing process, and this fact is used to explain his actions and vagaries. This novel spans the period from the Creation to the contemporary digital age, and Wahlström follows the events in the Bible in chronological order. God is constantly adapting to circumstances, tries his best, has to keep things in check – that would tire anyone out in the long term. “The world is fascinating. But I’m dull,” God admits dejectedly. The Archangels Michael, Raphael and Gabriel start out as eager enforcers of the Lord’s orders, but over time they turn into a bunch of flabby desk jockeys who think the Boss is a has-been, a drip. Wahlström also takes care to liberate the Virgin Mary from the first part of her title. And what about Satan? Yes, he’s here too, and he also grows old and grey with the years.
Gud is an intelligent fusion of an essayistic novel and a picaresque. It contains a great deal of philosophy and history of ideas, yet is written with a light touch. In interviews, Erik Wahlström has maintained that this book is not profound, but is instead a literary joke and a playful thought-experiment. As we know, play is by its very nature beneficial and improving. We just have to grasp Wahlström’s fearless hand, seize God’s gnarled fist and enjoy the fun, which will be mainly about people and humanity.