“I was born in 1959 and grew up in Pajala, right on the Finnish border. My grandmother was Sami and my father is aTornedaling. I thus have my roots in two cultures, which provides both power and inspiration. At the age of fifteen I started writing poems and short stories and the dream of becoming a writer grew stronger. I trained as an electrical technician and moved to Luleå. After high school I worked a variety of jobs: in an auto repair shop, as a substitute teacher, a student assistant, and at a small publishing house. All the while, I kept writing, and in 1988 my first book was published, the poetry collection Nosebleed During Mass.”
Since then, Mikael Niemi has written poetry, prose and drama. His first young adult novel, The Church Devil, was published in 1994. Set in Pajala, it depicts three young people who have to fight scary beasts in an ancient battle between good and evil. The same protagonists are in the sequel The Blood Suckers (1997). Mikael Niemi’s latest young adult novel is Shoot the Orange, published in 2010.
Mikael Niemi’s first adult novel, Popular Music from Vittula (published in 2000), became the author’s major breakthrough both in Sweden and beyond. The book is a comical tall tale about a boy’s life in Pajala during the 1960s and 70s. It was awarded the 2000 August Prize and has sold almost one million copies in Sweden alone. Popular Music from Vittula has been translated into more than 30 languages and adapted to cinema.
In 2004, The Gristle Hole – Stories from Space was published, and in 2006 The Man Who Died Like a Salmon. In 2012 came Fall Water, a breathtaking disaster novel that takes place during a single, fateful day. Mikael Niemi’s latest book is the internationally acclaimed historical novel To Cook A Bear (2018), a gory and fantastical story about revivalist preacher Lars Levi Laestadius and the young Sami boy he saves from a ditch.
The 2000 August Prize
The 2000 Vi Magazine Literature Prize
The 2000 Norrbottning of the Year
The 2000 Your Book – Our Choice Award
The 2002 Book of the Year from major book club Månadens bok
The 2002 Piraten Prize
The 2009 Albert Engström Prize