Popular Music from Vittula
ORIGINAL TITLE: Populärmusik från Vittula
AUTHOR: Mikael Niemi
ORIGINAL PUBLISHER: Norstedts
Popular Music from Vittula tells the fantastical story of a young boy s unordinary existence, peopled by a visiting African priest, a witch in the heart of the forest, cousins from Missouri, an old Nazi, a beautiful girl with a black Volvo, silent men and tough women, a champion bicyclist music teacher with a thumb in the middle of his hand and, not least, on a shiny vinyl disk, the Beatles The story unfolds in sweltering wood saunas, amidst chain thrashings and gang warfare, learning to play the guitar in the garage, over a traditional wedding meal, on the way to China, during drinking competitions, while learning secret languages, playing ice hockey surrounded by snow drifts, outsmarting mice, discovering girls, staging a first rock concert, peeing in the snow, skiing under a sparkling midnight sky.
In the manner of David Mitchell s Black Swan Green, Mikael Niemi tells a story of a rural Sweden at once foreign and familiar, as a magical childhood slowly fades with the seasons into adult reality.
This is Mikael Niemi’s long awaited first novel – a jolly and rather wild tale from the north, a drastic yet tender description of those formative years, a story told in a glowing language and with a loving insight.
Populärmusik från Vittula was awarded the prestigious August Prize, 2000, and became the biggest breakthrough ever for a first novel in Sweden where it has sold in over one million copies. It has been translated into more than 30 languages and turned into a movie.
“Sometimes, books like this just seem to turn up from nowhere, books that you wished you had written yourself… a delightfully wild yet loving tall tale… I have rarely met with such a text with its joyful mixture of hijinks and thoughtfulness… for the reader, this is cause for celebration.” Gefle Dagblad
“Let’s hope a good film-maker will take it up… it is racy, hilarious and dramaturgically effective… Brilliant, Niemi!” Sundsvalls Tidning
“The glorious sound of ice breaking up … that’s what Mikael Niemi’s book makes me think of. His subject inspires his language, and his language is completely at home in his subject … I can’t find the words to say just how very amusing it is to read him … this is quite simply a masterpiece which vibrates with life, humour and a cutting pain … he is a born story-teller …” Jesper Högström in Svenska Dagbladet
“Niemi’s language is worth a chapter of its own:he can go directly from a concrete detail to the most imaginative use of words … It is in these drastic opposites, which make a mockery of most things, that the translucent humour appears. He can also devote himself to a roundabout of poetic prose, where the associations get all clogged up in one’s brain – and then you come out the other side,nice and pleased over having heard a new and special idiom … An imaginative prose that is always generating laughter in the reader … Niemi makes me happy! Gunder Andersson in Aftonbladet
“Global/local, modern/archaic. Mikael Niemi’s description of a childhood is drastic, concentrated, eye-opening … not just funny, but urgent and moving.” Mikael Löfgren in Dagens Nyheter
“… a really amusing book which will make its readers laugh out loud … a merry and wild story, but also a tender description of life and people up by the Finnish border in the north of Sweden.” Ulla Andersson in Trollhättans tidning
“This prose has a jazzy rhythm of its very own, as it twists and turns. Scrapes, sings and shakes. Bubbles, boils and ferments … Niemi’s literary equals are to be found outside our national boundaries: the Finn Arto Paasilinna, the Icelanders Einar Már Gudmundsson and Einar Kárason, and the Irishman Roddy Doyle. God knows … perhaps this is the northern Swedish answer to ‘The Commitments’. Let’s hope a good film-maker will take it up … it is racy, hilarious and dramaturgically effective. The author tells tall stories, is a fabulist where necessary, and is so in such a way as to start the reader laughing; he presents visions and images that are close to the world of magical realism, the secret being that he nevertheless still touches solid ground in the events, the scenes and the moods … Brilliant, Niemi!” Jan Karlsson in Sundsvalls Tidning
“Niemi, rather like McCourt, but perhaps even more like Mark Twain, has a talent for telling the most tragic of tales with a sympathetic humility.” Andreas Brännlund in Norrbottens-Kuriren
“Creativity … characterizes Niemi’s language, which rushes forth like an unregulated mountain river when the ice has melted up in the north: there is a cracking and a roaring and the spray of words reaches high in the sky. But raging rivers can become calm and flow gently. Then, the poet in Niemi steps forth, and tells of the skylark ‘which hovers in space like a frayed propeller’ or of the house swallows sitting on the telephone wires and picking ‘lice from their metallic winged pens’ … If you let yourself go, and abandon any desire for realism, then you will have lots of fun … between these exhilarated tall tales, the blackness pushes its way to the fore: bullying … religious narrow-mindedness and spiritual poverty. All of this only serves to make the novel richer … Niemi is probably the funniest of all today’s Swedish writers.” Lars Wolf in Nerikes Allehanda
“Sometimes, books like this just seem to turn up from nowhere, books that you wished you had written yourself … a delightfully wild yet loving tall tale … I have rarely met with such a text with its joyful mixture of hijinks and thoughtfulness … for the reader, this is cause for celebration.” Christer Forsberg in Gefle Dagblad
“Niemi gives us a completely candid and uncensored description of what it was like to grow up through the first fog and turbulence of puberty in a little country town in the far north of Sweden.This is a childhood and adolescence that has not been seen in out literature until Niemi …” Gunnar Balgård in Västerbottens-Kuriren
“Without the slightest attempt at embellishment, but with all respect, all love intact, Niemi recalls a hard and barren landscape of snow and ice, extreme Free Church fundamentalism, a fear of change, a mix of languages and language repression, and death-defying competitions in extremely hot saunas and home-distilled drunkenness – this is a description of growing up that really fits the bill!” Jan Arnald in Göteborgs-Posten
“Populärmusik från Vittula is a wonderful read … an experience that will bring tears of laughter to your eyes … and while the tears flow on account of it being so hilariously funny, you also come to love everything that happens and in the end you can’t help be a little jealous. This was obviously the place to grow up in.” Jan Wolf-Watz in Tidningen Ångermanland
“Populärmusik från Vittula is the most colourful novel type of book I have read in ages … Mikael Niemi, who knows that he must push all his predecessors and the traditions out of the door, and then – with his drastic humour and brilliant northern perspective – create a tale that is as absurdly screwy as it is funny … a novel about growing-up that is miles away from those standard conventions … There is a fantastic, continually bubbling delight in words in Populärmusik från Vittula … you can’t help but laugh out loud while you read it … but there is also a noble heart behind the author’s drastic tirades … a sort of Gogol of the far North.” Lennart Bromander in Arbetet Ny Tid
“… incredibly entertaining!” Daniel Sandström in Sydsvenska Dagbladet
“…All the ingredients are there for a tender and bittersweet coming-of-age story: Roddy Doyle meets Fever Pitch… grotesque, scary, hilarious, ribald, obscene… I’ve never read anything like it.” Nicci Gerrard in The Observer
“A blissfully eccentric, fiction-enhanced memoir. … Niemi tells his stories with stoic wit and a dusting of magic realism, as if the extreme climate knocks the senses off kilter. (Or perhaps it’s the vodka). His prose buzzes with wonder, fearlessness and ecstatic ignorance: the sensations of youth. Each chapter is an epic in miniature…” Hugo Lindgren in The New York Times Magazine