A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

bookshelves: amusing, sweden, published-2012, radio-4, summer-2014, translation, fradio, those-autumn-years

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Tjörn kommun
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from July 19, 2013 to July 19, 2014

 

BABT

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b048zlgv

Description: Ove is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet. Every morning he makes his rounds of the local streets, moving bicycles and checking the contents of recycling bins, even though it’s been years since he was fired as Chairman of the Residents’ Association in a vicious coup d’etat.

But behind the surly pedant there is a story, and a sadness.

When one morning his new neighbours in the house opposite accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it sets off a comical and heart-warming tale of unexpected friendship which will change the lives of one man – and one community – forever.

The word-of-mouth bestseller in Sweden is Fredrik Backman’s debut novel. The main protagonist was born on his blog, where over 1000 readers voted for Backman to write a book about a man called Ove.

Written by Fredrik Backman
Abridged by Libby Spurrier
Read by Kenneth Cranham
Producer: Joanna Green
A Pier production for Radio 4

1/10 Ove appears to have some incompetent new neighbours

2/10 Ove misses his late wife so much. He decides to end it all and join her in the afterlife.

3/10 Ove remembers that Rune’s takeover of the Residents’ Association soured things for good.

4/10 Ove’s incompetent new neighbours have a habit of appearing at precisely the wrong time.

5/10 Ove finds a cat-shaped hole in the snow drift outside his house.

6/10 Ove appears to have some incompetent new neighbours.

7/10 After some gentle bullying by Parvaneh, Ove agrees to teach her to drive.

8/10 After a shaky start, Ove manages to teach Parvaneh to drive.

9/10 Against Anita’s wishes, the local authority plans to take Rune into care.

10/10 When the authorities come to take Rune into care, Ove and his neighbours are ready.

Rating is three ‘oovers:

The Fly Trap by Fredrik Sjöberg

bookshelves: summer-2014, translation, sweden, net-galley, e-book, entomology, nonfiction, published-2004

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Read from July 10 to 15, 2014

 

Translated by Thomas Teal

Front quote is fun;

There are only three subjects: love death and flies. Ever since man was invented, this emotion, this fear and the presence of these insects have been his constant companions. Other people can take care of the first two subjects. Me, I just concern myself with flies – a much greater theme than man, though maybe not greater than women.–Augusto Monterosso

Description: Fredrik Sjöberg’s mesmerising Swedish bestseller on travel, the joy of collecting and discovering the hidden wonders of life.

The hoverflies are only props. No, not only, but to some extent. Here and there, my story is about something else. Some days I tell myself that my mission is to say something about the art and sometimes the bliss of limitation. And the legibility of landscape. Other days are more dismal. As if I were standing on queue in the rain outside confessional literature’s nudist colony, mirrors everywhere, blue with cold.

Warm, funny and insightful, The Fly Trap is a meditation on collecting; be it hoverflies or fine art. A fascinating web of associations, it begins with Sjöberg’s own tranquil experience as an entomologist on a remote island in Sweden, and takes in heroic historical expeditions to Burma and the wilderness of Kamchatka. Along the way, Sjoberg pauses to reflect on a range of ideas – slowness, art, freedom, – drawing other great writers, like D.H Lawrence and Bruce Chatwin, into dialogue. From the everyday to the exotic, The Fly Trap revels in the wonder of the natural world and leaves a trail of memorable images and stories.’A rare masterpiece . . . graceful, poetic, astonishing and – yes! – absolutely thrilling’ Jyllands Posten’Sjöberg has a witty, erudite, incisive tone reminiscent of travellers and anthropologists such as Barlow, Chatwin or even Robert Byron’ Swedish Book ReviewFredrik Sjöberg is an entomologist and lives with his family on the island Runmarö, in the archipelago east of Stockholm. He is also a literary critic, translator, cultural columnist and the author of several books including The Art of Flight and The Raisin King, which accompany The Fly Trap.

 photo bug.gif

Opening:The Curse of the Starving Class: It was during the times I spent wandering the streets Nybroplan with a lamb in my arms. I remember it so well. Spring had come. The air was dry, almost dusty. The air was chilly but still carried the smell of the earth and last year’s leaves, warmed by the sun.

Opening. Short choppy sentences. May turn out to be a problem. We shall see.

Later: a fun read, loved the whimsy and the rambling, and Hej! who knew THAT about Peter Stormare; August Strindberg is shown to great effect too.

I have a neice who is obsessed with butterflies – she and her professor flit around the Lund area just as Fredrik did/does on Runmarö, so I get the compulsive side of collecting.

The writing style became reader friendly soon enough and in fact some sections are, to me, very amusing; take this snippet re hoverfly collectors:

‘We are quiet, contemplative people, and our behaviour in the field is relatively aristocratic. Running is not necessarily beneath our dignity but it is in any case pointless because the flies move much too fast. Consequencly, we stand still, as if on guard, and moreover almost exclusively in blazing sunshine, little breeze and fragrant flowers. Passersby can therefore easily get the impression that the fly hunter is a convalescent of some kind, momentarily lost in meditation. This is not wholly inaccurate.’

‘Of all the hoverflies in the country, criorhina ranunculi is not only one of the largest and most beautiful, it is also so rare that in the early 1990s the decision was made to list it as extinct in Sweden.’

Dr René Edmond Malaise (1892-1978) was a Swedish entomologist, explorer and art collector who is mostly known for his invention of the Malaise trap and his systematic collection of thousands of insects. — Wiki sourced

Lovely read. Rating is three and a half malaise traps.

Into a Raging Blaze Andreas Norman

bookshelves: spring-2014, e-book, sweden, translation, published-2013, net-galley, afr-egypt, politics, spies

Read from April 22 to 29, 2014

 

Quercus Books. Originally published as ‘En rasande eld in 2013.

Description:

Carina Dymek is on a fast track for promotion at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when she is approached by a stranger and given a USB stick containing a report to circulate in her department. Unwittingly, she delivers a time bomb of classified information that sends her career up in flames and puts her on the radar of the security service, Säpo.

Tasked with investigating how Dymek gained access to the confidential report, the formidable Bente Jensen of Säpo is quietly approached by the British MI6, who have an undisclosed interest in the leak. She finds out that Dymek’s boyfriend is an Egyptian Swedish national. But it’s MI6 who link his family to an extreme faction within the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo. The case explodes into an international manhunt. Liaising with the ruthless MI6, Bente uncovers the secretive plans contained in that leaked report: plans for an omnipotent Europe-wide Intelligence Service. Forces hone in on Dymek, while Bente begins to suspect she is a red herring caught in a far wider net: one in which social media is abused for intelligence and civil rights are sacrificed to national security.

Andreas Norman, a former Swedish Ministry official, has written an explosive expose of Anglo-American spying and surveillance on European civilians in the name of counter-terrorism. This dizzying thriller anticipated the Edward Snowden revelations and rocked Sweden on publication.

Dedication: To Anna K

Opening: The man came out of the entrance to the EU Commission, went around the building and started to walk down Archimedisstraat. Dark hair, grey suit and a blue shirt. For a moment he disappeared out of sight.

It’s a shame that political novels can be become outdated pretty fast and that is the sad fact for this Andreas Norman thriller. Since he penned this, Snowden blew the whistle, and those sections about Ukraine in general, and Crimea in particular do not look so clever.

The writing is competent and the main storyline was suspenseful and scary, even nail-biting at times; it was hard not to feel sorry for Carina as everything was aginst her. Solid three star.

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The Son of a Servant by August Strindberg

bookshelves: e-book, gutenberg-project, spring-2014, published-1913, under-10-ratings, translation, nutty-nuut, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, politics, sweden, stockholm, filthy-lucre, next

Read from April 08 to 10, 2014

 

And here is Strindberg and Helium at the Beach , my favourite so far.

Tjänstekvinnans son
TRANSLATED BY CLAUD FIELD
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
HENRY VACHER-BURCH

Opening: In the third story of a large house near the Clara Church in Stockholm, the son of the shipping agent and the servant-maid awoke to self-consciousness. The child’s first impressions were, as he remembered afterwards, fear and hunger. He feared the darkness and blows, he feared to fall, to knock himself against something, or to go in the streets. He feared the fists of his brothers, the roughness of the servant-girl, the scolding of his grandmother, the rod of his mother, and his father’s cane. He was afraid of the general’s man-servant, who lived on the ground-floor, with his skull-cap and large hedge-scissors; he feared the landlord’s deputy, when he played in the courtyard with the dust-bin; he feared the landlord, who was a magistrate.

There is no getting away from the fact that Strindberg is important and when I moved to Sweden at the end of 2001 I vowed to read him. Nary a sentence goes past without mention of status, class or filthy lucre but he was born into a quickly changing time and the seeds of a future social democracy were firmly rooted.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/44109
http://www.freeliterature.org/

3* Miss Julie
3* The Father
4* Röda rummet
2* The Son of a Servant

Désirée by Annemarie Selinko

bookshelves: hardback, one-penny-wonder, paper-read, published-1953, spring-2014, tbr-busting-2014, sweden, napoleonic, france, revolution, epistolatory-diary-blog

Read from February 22 to March 10, 2014

 

Translated by Arnold Bender and E W Dickes. Bender and Dickes, eh?

My edition was published by the Reprint Society Ltd., by arrangement with William Heinemann Ltd. 1954.

The pages are tissue thin and the print is super small; the dust jacket is in good nick considering it is two years older than I am. Page count of my edition is 510.

TO THE MEMORY OF MY SISTER
LISOLETTE
HER JOYOUS SPIRIT
HER GREATNESS OF HEART

Opening: PART I
THE DAUGHTER OF A SILK MERCHANT OF MARSEILLES

MARSEILLES, at the beginning of Germinal, Year II (the end of March 1794 by Mama’s old-fashioned reckoning.)

I think a woman can get her way better with a man if she has a well-rounded figure. So I’ve decided to stuff four handkerchiefs into the front of my dress tomorrow; then I shall look really grown up. Actually I am grown up already, but nobody knows that, and I don’t altogether look it.

From the frontispiece by Nancy Mitford:

In 1823 Désirée went to Sweden for good and was crowned queen, though always keeping in the background of public life.

It took perserverance to get through the diary of a fourteen year old yet Selinko did a good job of character progression and we wound up with a sensible woman. Needless to say I found the Swedish connection very interesting. Whilst I could not recommend this to anyone, it was good to get it off the TBR Mountain.

6 likes

The Almost Nearly Perfect People

bookshelves: radio-4, winter-20132014, lifestyles-deathstyles, history, nonfiction, emperor-s-new-clothes, fradio, published-2014, sweden, norway, iceland, finland, denmark

Read from February 07 to 14, 2014
BOTWBBC description: Journalist, Michael Booth’s timely new book sees the author embark on a revealing and humorous journey through all five of the Nordic countries to discover the secrets of their success.

Across the week, five post-cards from each of the countries which challenge the often rose-tinted view of this part of the world offered up by the Western media. Along the way, a more nuanced, often darker picture emerges of the region – it isn’t always easy being Nordic.

First up the Danes – consistently rated as the happiest people on earth and yet they pay the highest taxes.

Reader: Gunnar Cauthery
Abridged by Richard Hamilton
Produced by Gemma Jenkins.

1. Denmark: The Danes are consistently rated as the happiest people on earth but pay the highest taxes. In the year that sees a major new exhibition on Vikings at the British Museum our fascination with all things Scandinavian shows no sign of abating.

2. Iceland and the part the Viking spirit played in the country’s response to the 2008 financial crash.

3. Norway – a country taking stock post-Breivik and the impact of the nation’s colossal oil wealth on the Nordic psyche.

4. Enigmatic Finland – a visit to what lies at the heart of the country’s social and political life – the sauna.

5. Sweden – a country held up as a beacon of perfection by the Western world and yet disliked by its neighbours.

The format is pure ACME Hack Methodical Xenophobia
1. some snigger
2. some stats that can be made to mean anything you want
3. some history
4. some smug swagger

This has all been done before in the Xenophobes Guide series. And really, this could be seen as a skit on Mrs. Mortimer’s Bad-Tempered Guide to the Victorian World where the title should be: The Clumsiest People in Scandinavia: Mr Booth’s Bad Tempered Guide to the Perfect-ish World.

The Local runs these cheap country comparisons and national psyche prods as column fillers as a matter of daily routine.

Michael Booth has whipped up interest in the book in following manner: ‘The grim truth behind the Scandinavian miracle’ – the nations respond

So move along, nothing to see here – go spend your hard-earned book money on something worthwhile.

The Stockholm Octavo

bookshelves: paper-read, historical-fiction, sweden, gambling, bedside, autumn-2013, stockholm, paris, spies, published-2012, amusing, france, summer-2013

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Jeanette (jema)
Read from August 13 to September 07, 2013

Dedication: For Erik

French/Swedish timelines 1770-1792

Opening:

Arte et Marte(Art and War); Inscription over the entrance to Riddarhuset – The House of Nobles – in Stockholm

Chapter One: Stockholm 1789

Stockholm is called the Venice of the North, and with good reason. Travellers claim that it is just as complex, just as grand, and just as mysterious as its sister in the south.

A light-hearted and novel way to retell a significant piece of Swedish history. It is not essential to know this history before reading because it is all laid out rather well, however if the history is known there well be more ‘aaah’ moments in the reading.

Needless to say, this had all the right ingredients and I loved it; dare say that Engelmann may be contemplating a sequel, the historical backdrop for what happened next is just as scintillating a subject.

——————-

Gifted from Jeanette, and a lovely pack of tarot cards to go with it.

Thanks You J, A super gift. And of the postcards, Karin Boye is my favourite. There is such a lovely statue of her near the top of Avenyn, to the left as you climb up towards Poseidon.

Also, the photo; is that of sand dunes in Skellefteå? I see you have a swimming pool up there.

The Uninvited by Liz Jensen

bookshelves: winter-20132014, under-1000-ratings, tbr-busting-2014, published-2012, britain-scotland, taiwan, recreational-homicide, casual-violence, mental-health, lifestyles-deathstyles, fraudio, britain-england, psychology, boo-scary, anthropology, mystery-thriller, sci-fi, dystopian, filthy-lucre, forest, mythology, religion, arran, sweden, trolls, fantasy, dubai, environmental-issues, suicide, little-green-men, cannibalism

Read from July 01, 2012 to January 20, 2014

Description: A seven-year-old girl puts a nail-gun to her grandmother’s neck and fires. An isolated incident, say the experts. The experts are wrong. Across the world, children are killing their families. Is violence contagious?

As chilling murders by children grip the country, anthropologist Hesketh Lock has his own mystery to solve: a bizarre scandal in the Taiwan timber industry. He has never been good at relationships. Asperger’s Syndrome has seen to that. But he does have a talent for spotting behavioural patterns, and an outsider’s fascination with group dynamics.

Nothing obvious connects Hesketh’s Southeast Asian case with the atrocities back home. Or with the increasingly odd behaviour of his beloved step-son, Freddy. But when his Taiwan contact dies shockingly, and more acts of sabotage and child violence sweep the globe, Hesketh is forced to make connections that defy the rational principles on which he has staked his life, his career and – most devastatingly of all – his role as a father.

Part psychological thriller, part dystopian nightmare, The Uninvited is a powerful and viscerally unsettling portrait of apocalypse in embryo.

Origami Crane

Origami Praying Mantis

Origami Hermit Crab

In the Dubai gymnast leap sequence Tokoloshe was mentioned three times.

From wiki: In Zulu mythology, Tokoloshe is a dwarf-like water sprite. It is considered a mischievous and evil spirit that can become invisible by drinking water. Tokoloshes are called upon by malevolent people to cause trouble for others. At its least harmful a tokoloshe can be used to scare children, but its power extends to causing illness and even death upon the victim. The way to get rid of him is to call in the n’anga (witch doctor), who has the power to banish him from the area.

The children start forming a collective consciousness, show signs of arrested development and an addiction for salt.

Hesketh narrates the first person action from an anthropological and autistic viewpoint and it works very well. In Wyndham’s ‘Midwich Cuckoos’ the story is satisfactorily resolved (view spoiler), all tied up with bows; here was a somewhat wobbly ending as the author mounted her own environmental soapbox, her viewpoint working through the Professors notebooks and Hesketh’s epiphany. Lost a star right there. It has been a while since I read The Rapture but I have a feeling the same thing happened there too. Time for a re-visit of that before I spend future money on habitual preachy endings.

That said, 95% of this was very exciting and fresh.

4* The Rapture
4* The Uninvited

Trivia: Liz Jensen is married to author Carsten Jensen:

5* We, The Drowned
3* I Have Seen the World Begin

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