A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman
May 16, 2019 § 2 Comments
First published in Swedish in 2012
Translated into English by Henning Koch in 2013
Ove is fifty-nine.
He drives a Saab. He’s the kind of man who points at people he doesn’t like the look of, as if they were burglars and his forefinger a policeman’s torch.
When we first meet Ove, he’s trying to buy an iPad. It quickly becomes obvious that he doesn’t belong in this world of technology—he calls the iPad an O-pad, and insists that the salesperson should throw in a keyboard, too.
He’s grumpy, he never smiles, and he kicks things to make sure they are still rooted in their spots like they are supposed to be. It seems that he isn’t friendly with any of his neighbours, and he follows signs and instructions to a fault. He comes across almost as an obsessively disagreeable old man, hell-bent on being irritable and unforgiving.
And in his own mind, surely no one can blame him. He believes that he’s surrounded by idiots who cannot and will not read signs that are clear as day, and clumsy people who can’t even reverse a trailer in proper fashion.
What has happened to the world that no one cares to be proper anymore?
At first, I wondered how it was possible to warm up to this man. But very very soon, he became my favourite person in the world. He was honest, not only to himself, but to the world around him. He was straightforward and frank, so adamant about living the right way.
And yet, he was trying to die.
I don’t know if bittersweet or sad is the better word to describe the overall feeling of the book. It’s a story about Ove and how he deals with all that grief after the love of his life dies. It’s also a story about Ove and Sonja and the life that they had, about how this woman had been his everything, and how everything was just enough.
People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was colour. All the colour he had.
The more I read about him and the life that he could no longer share with Sonja, the more I wanted to crawl into the pages and hug him. But I also knew that Ove was not one who would tolerate complete strangers coming up and physically manhandle him. So I kept my distance, as much as I could. I tried to not pry, to ask questions when it wasn’t yet time for me to know the answers. I let him tell me his story, at a pace he was comfortable with. I waited for him to drop hints and reveal other parts of himself.
I felt my heart cry more and more every time he made his way to Sonja’s grave.
“I miss you,” he whispers.
It’s always so painful to read about those who are left behind and pining for their beloved.
“I miss you” – I often find these three words to be so much more potent than the other three little words.
It’s true. It was painful to read, and I found it even more touching because of the character that Ove is. But painful also in such a beautiful way, because the love was so present and, for a lack of better word, “pure”.