Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The science-fiction story of a maternal deity mirrors Westin’s comment on Margareth’s and Ann’s relationship. He had not realized that what Margareth needed was a mother; the science-fiction story implies that the need for an indulgent maternal figure is universal. This fable constitutes a literal apotheosis of the female principle, a development that started in his poem “Karleksforklaring till en sefardisk dam” (“Declaration of Love to a Sephardic Lady”) and continued with other female figures in the first two volumes of Sprickorna i muren. In The Death of a Beekeeper, Ann is an ineffectual liberator, but the god of the science-fiction story becomes the culmination of liberation—from war, from materialism, from pain, from language, and, eventually, from personality itself.

In the novel, it is the cessation of pain, rather than the absence of pain, which is paradise. If there had never been any pain, it would be impossible to become aware of its absence as something desirable. Without hell, in other words, there could be no paradise.

In spite of Westin’s positive invention of a prayer-granting god, a comment in one of the last diary entries is more revealing of his metaphysical attitude. He says that perhaps a more interesting heresy than the denial that there is a god who has created humanity would be a heresy that says yes, there is a god who has created us, but there is no reason to be either impressed by or grateful for this fact. If there is a god, Westin states, our task is to say no. Westin has consistently said no to life. In burning the letter from the hospital, he attempts to say no to death as well.