In ‘A Man Called Ove”, a bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Swedish author Fredrik Backman, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.
Ove is a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse.
People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?
But Ove is fed up. So fed up that he intends to end it all.
Fredrik Backman, a well-known blogger and columnist in his native Sweden, launched the character of Ove in a blog post and his readers demanded more. So A Man Called Ove was born. but Backman got tepid responses when he sent out the manuscript for his debut novel, “A Man Called Ove.” Most publishers ignored him, and several turned it down.
“It was rejected by one publisher with the line, ‘We like your novel, we think your writing has potential, but we see no commercial potential,” said Mr. Backman, 35, who lives outside Stockholm with his wife and two children. “That note I kept.”
Behind the cranky exterior there is a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.
Much to his annoyance, Ove is a man who people come to rely on, even though he makes it clear he is not in the least bit interested in making friends.
Now “A Man Called Ove” has sold more than 840,000 copies in Sweden and 2.8 million copies worldwide, making the book one of Sweden’s most popular literary exports since Stieg Larsson’s thriller “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful and charming exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others.
The book has been adapted into a successful stage production and an award-winning Swedish feature film, which recently opened in the United States. Translation rights have sold in 38 languages, including Arabic, Turkish, Latvian, Thai and Japanese. Mr. Backman has gained a passionate fan base in South Korea, where the novel became a huge best-seller.
In 2012, Backman debuted as an author, publishing two books on the same day: a novel, A Man Called Ove (U.S. release in 2014), and a work of nonfiction, Things My Son Needs to Know About the World. His second novel, My Grandmother Sent Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, came out in 2013 (U.S. release in 2015). (Adapted from Wikipedia and the publisher. Retrieved 7/23/2014.)
Feature image (on top) Fredrik Backman portrait by Edward Kolnberg
Sweden’s Latest Hit Novel, compiled by Tor Kjolberg