By Marianne Fredriksson

Masterful storytelling by this widely-read Swedish novelist brings to life one of history’s unheard voices – in history as well as in religion. Enligt Maria Magdalena (According to Mary Magdelene) is an ancient story from another viewpoint, one rarely tackled, but here written with both imagination, considerable theological knowledge and a stern adherence to the facts, geographical, domestic, historical and/or mythical, in as far as they are “known” at all.

Long after the death of Jesus Christ, Mary Magdalene is found married to the much older Greek silk merchant and Christian convert Leonidas. They live a quiet, prosperous and harmonious life in Antioch. Then one day the apostle Peter comes to the market square to spread the word. Mary slips into the crowd to hear what he has to say, but she is not impressed. Most of all, she wants to forget how Jesus chose death over a life with her. But the apostles won’t leave her alone and come to see her as they know that she was the one that Jesus loved the most. They think she can aid them in their great task to spread the word and they persuade her to write down everything she can remember about him. Because of her upbringing she is literate in both her own language and Greek.
Her story starts with the Jewish childhood, the feeling of not belonging (she is fair-haired and blue-eyed while all the others are dark), the terrible death of her father and the slaughter of her entire family at the hands of the Romans. She manages to escape by running for her life and is picked up by Leonidas, who, wounded in the service of the Romans, is on his way home. He leaves Mary in the hands of Euphrosyne at a whorehouse, promising to pay for the child and to return for her. She becomes Euphrosyne’s “Greek daughter” and acquires household and gardening skills as well as intellectual nourishment. She is also beautiful. Her most difficult memory is when she meets a young man, Jesus from Nazareth – a meeting that dramatically changes her life. The women’s position in Judaism has always irked her and the new ideas that the young man presents when he claims that all people are equal, appeals to her. She falls deeply in love with him and accompanies him on his mission to spread the word, and to heal the sick, the lame, the blind and to preach love. She stays by his side to the last dreadful day in Golgotha.

Interwoven in the story of her life with Jesus are her own explanations of Jesus’ words, which he received from God. She interprets what he meant, as it seemed to her, to the apostles; interpretations which are not always entirely to their liking. Thus, Mary senses that they have their own purposes for the future. She becomes wary, discussing each point with Leonidas. Her friends Maria, Susanna, Lydia and Salome plan to continue the teachings of Jesus Christ and found a house to which pupils, especially women, can come to learn what Christ actually said and preached. But this is not what the apostles have in mind…

First published by Wahlström & Widstrand, 1997
255 pages

Sweden, Wahlström & Widstrand
Sweden, Earbooks (audio book)
Sweden, Natur & Kultur
Denmark, Forlaget Fremad
Denmark, Gyldendal (audio book)
Norway, Damm & Son
Finland, Otava
Finland, Suomen Äänikirjat (audio book)
Iceland, Vaka Helgafell
Germany, S.Fischer/Krüger Verlag
Germany, Der Hör Verlag (audio book)
The Netherlands, De Geus
UK, Orion (UK & Commonwealth)
US, Hampton Roads (incl. Canada)
France, Éditions Ramsay
Spain, Emecé Editores (World Spanish incl. Latin America)
Portugal, Editorial Presenca
Italy, Longanesi
Estonia, Hotger
Latvia, Apgads Daugava
Croatia, V.B.Z.
The Czech Republic, Beta Dobrovsky
Bulgaria, Obsidian Press
Slovenia, Eno Certalic Vera
Ukraine, Folio
Russia, Ripol
Korea, Jong Munh Wasa

The Netherlands, Boerhave (film rights)
Sweden, Bauer Art (theatre rights)
Finland, Liiza Toivonen (theatre rights)

This is a playful but deliberately blasphemous book. (…) Her gospel contains many episodes familiar from the others, but it is radical in its feminisation of them.

Intriguing, funny and moving.

Fredriksson leaves us in no doubt of Mary Magdalene’s love for Jesus. (…) I was engaged by Fredriksson’s sincerity and her quest to understand the roots of early Christianity.