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2.5 I started this novel because it was recommended on a Russian book podcast that I really enjoy, promising a funny coming of age story set in the middle of nowhere in Sweden, translated beautifully into Russian I will lie if I say any of this is untrue It is indeed a coming of age story set in the middle of nowhere in Sweden It is indeed funny It is indeed translated astonishingly well into Russian using simultaneously poetic and crude language there were quite some words that I don t 2.5 I started this novel because it was recommended on a Russian book podcast that I really enjoy, promising a funny coming of age story set in the middle of nowhere in Sweden, translated beautifully into Russian I will lie if I say any of this is untrue It is indeed a coming of age story set in the middle of nowhere in Sweden It is indeed funny It is indeed translated astonishingly well into Russian using simultaneously poetic and crude language there were quite some words that I don t think I ve ever seen written, even somewhere on neglected buildings, and I ve seen quite a lot of various words written in such places I assume this was how the original text was constructed as well, but I applaud the translator in any case it doesn t at all read as translated fiction, only the foreign sounding names are giving away its national origin.The novel is presented as a collection of vignettes exploring coming of age of a boy and his friends in a place that is both part of the modern world and set apart from it, where drinking is the hobby of most of its male and often female inhabitants, where gender roles are stuck in middle ages but where women are nonetheless strong and powerful in their own way, the way they have always been in villages, at least in this part of the world There is a feeling that the action could have easily been transported to the middle of nowhere in Russia, barely losing a reference Then there is this sense of the clash of cultures, not just modernity and tradition but also actual cultures the setting is a Finnish enclave in Sweden, which probably hasin common with the Soviet Union than the rest of Sweden Life is rough and hopeless but, like everywhere, it goes on regardless.I had a hard time reading this novel, despite its many merits, or maybe precisely because of them Even though I myself have been mostly living in a bubble of educated, intelligent, liberally minded and internationally conscious populace, I am well aware that it is indeed a bubble and not how people generally are I sometimes catch glimpses of the life outside the bubble and it is very similar to the life in Vittula and its surroundings Such glimpses rattle me slightly, forcing me to withdraw back into my bubble, where life is not perfect either, justfamiliar to my sensibilities In reality, though, it is equally possible to be unhappy both inside and outside the bubble It s just that inside the bubble we have a better vocabulary andpractice to talk about our unhappiness.It is rather curious that a book that is pretty funny has put me in such a gloomy mood It is also curious that intellectually I acknowledge that this is really good literature but I still did not enjoy the process of reading it Lots of food for thought though, as long as the thinking is done inside the bubble (((FREE EPUB))) ☟ როკ ენ როლის სოფელი ↙ ,Independent on Sunday Just pure brilliance This one has it all Humanity, humour up the wazoo, insight, high emotional stakes, great use of language it must be amazing in the Swedish but oh well ,magic, and morals Anyone who grew up in an isolated place will relate to this Spoiler alert, if you already know you re going to read this book, stop now seriously, why ruin itok here goesthe scene where Niila s abusive father gets his ass kicked, then, while convalescing, finds heaven while walking the landscape in the cracks of the ceil This one has it all Humanity, humour up the wazoo, insight, high emotional stakes, great use of language it must be amazing in the Swedish but oh well ,magic, and morals Anyone who grew up in an isolated place will relate to this Spoiler alert, if you already know you re going to read this book, stop now seriously, why ruin itok here goesthe scene where Niila s abusive father gets his ass kicked, then, while convalescing, finds heaven while walking the landscape in the cracks of the ceiling was one of the mostbelievable portrayals of a religious experience that I have read in a long time Ever So beautiful And the rest of the chapter is amazing as well It s almost biblical in it s archetypal weight To me this chapter is the beating heart of the book Not funny like the rest, but the lynchpin, the keystone of a magnificent, humble novel I distinctly remember starting this book I was on a plane home from Japan, finally from our sudden month in the UK They had just turned the lights out after meals and drinks so that people could sleep It was about 12am at night Japanese time, so 1am Aussie time I was already feeling self conscious as my light was on, but Lexx and my brother were on either side of me Lexx had taken a sleeping tablet and my brother still hadn t got the hang of sleeping on planes And I was desperately trying I distinctly remember starting this book I was on a plane home from Japan, finally from our sudden month in the UK They had just turned the lights out after meals and drinks so that people could sleep It was about 12am at night Japanese time, so 1am Aussie time I was already feeling self conscious as my light was on, but Lexx and my brother were on either side of me Lexx had taken a sleeping tablet and my brother still hadn t got the hang of sleeping on planes And I was desperately trying not to piss myself laughing at this book.This book isn t really a book of short stories, but it kind of is It s probably better described as a collection of vignettes of the author s childhood How many of them are true God knows He probably doesn t know entirely himself This is what is the most gripping part of this book It tells stories of his childhood growing up on the far northern border of Sweden and Finland above the Arctic Circle, where they speak their own language which isn t quiet Swedish, but not quite Finnish, and considered a bastard kind of area by both Finland and Sweden With all this in the background, he tells you these stories as absolute truths that just sort of get carried away on a child s imagination until they are fantastical in nature and far too big to be true But you can imagine little Mikael swearing black and blue that s exactly what happened.This element diminishes slightly as he gets older, and the fantastic, almost magical realism of the book settles back into ameasured reality But was it is replaced by is a humour and a heartbreaking assessment of the reality of the town that only teenagers can really give.That s the thing that sucks you in really It s the brutal honesty of this book Whether it s him telling you a story at 5 or 15 or 25 You believe his complete sincerity In a world that undervalues honestly so much, this is a very rare gift.Forreviews visit On the link of literature to madness Excerpt from a lecture delivered in the sauna by Dad he explicates the facts of life for 14 year old Mattie so his son will know how to be a man Then Dad started going through a list of all the family idiots I d already met some of them one was in the psychiatric hospital in Gallivare, and another in Pitea In medical jargon it was called schizophrenia, and it seemed to run in the family It would appear when you reached the age of eighteen or so, and On the link of literature to madness Excerpt from a lecture delivered in the sauna by Dad he explicates the facts of life for 14 year old Mattie so his son will know how to be a man Then Dad started going through a list of all the family idiots I d already met some of them one was in the psychiatric hospital in Gallivare, and another in Pitea In medical jargon it was called schizophrenia, and it seemed to run in the family It would appear when you reached the age of eighteen or so, and was due to certain causes Frustrated love was one, and Dad begged me to be very wary of getting involved with complicated women who were scared of sex Dad urged me never to be too persistent with the fair sex if they declined to open their legs, but rather to follow his own example and find myself an unabashed peasant girl with a big ass The other cause of lunacy was brooding Dad strongly advised me never to start thinking too much, but to do as little as possible of it, since thinking was a menace that only got worse theof it you did He could recommend hard manual labor as an antidote shoveling snow, chopping firewood, skiing cross country, and that kind of thing, because thinking usually affected people when they were lolling about on the sofa or sitting back to rest in some other way Getting up early was also recommended, especially on weekends and when you had a hangover, because all kinds of nasty thought could worm their way into your mind then It was particularly important not to brood about religion God and death and the meaning of life were all extremely dangerous topics for a young and vulnerable mind, a dense forest in which you could easily get lost and end up with acute attacks of madness You could confidently leave that kind of stuff until your old age, because by then you would be hardened and tougher, and wouldn t have much else to do Confirmation classes should be regarded as a purely theoretical exercise a few texts and rituals to memorize, but certainly not anything to start worrying about The most dangerous thing of all, and something he wanted to warn me about above all else, the one thing that had consigned whole regiments of unfortunate young people to the twilight world of insanity, was reading books This objectionable practice had increased among the younger generation, and Dad waspleased than he could say to note that I had not yet displayed any such tendencies Lunatic asylums were overflowing with folk who d been reading too much Once upon a time they d been just like you and me, physically strong, straightforward, cheerful, and well balanced Then they d started reading Most often by chance A bout of flu perhaps, with a few days in bed An attractive book cover that had aroused some curiosity And suddenly the bad habit had taken hold The first book had led to another Then another, and another, all links in a chain that led straight down into the eternal night of mental illness It was impossible to stop It was worse than drugs It might just be possible, if you were very careful, to look at the occasional book that could teach you something, such as encyclopedias or repair manuals The most dangerous kind of book was fiction that s where all the brooding was sparked and encouraged Damnit all Addictive and risky products like that should only be available in state regulated monopoly stores, rationed and sold only to those with a license, and mature in age Kindle location 2712 2741In the oral tradition of hyperbolic tall tales Chapter 10 tells the most frightening ghost story of all time.Chapter 12 tells the darkest, most evil story of all time.Chapter 13 tells the funniest mentor story of all time.Each chapter is the self contained narrative of an event during the journey from innocence to experience Best Finnish book ever.Well, OK, I haven t read any others.But this is what I imagine my childhood may have been like if my father had never left Finland.Some of the most endearing scenes and stories I have ever read Too god damned cute to put down Nothing life changing in here, but it shouldn t be missed. Popular Music from Vittula is an ingenious blend of memoir, folklore, magical realism, and talented story telling Who knew growing up in the Arctic Circle would be so enchanting I thought it would be too frigid to do anything but shiver But Niemi forms a beautiful landscape where men half a step away from Vikings raise kids who listen to The Beatles The modern age quite literally steam rolls into an edge of the world village where citizens are treading the waters between the religions and Popular Music from Vittula is an ingenious blend of memoir, folklore, magical realism, and talented story telling Who knew growing up in the Arctic Circle would be so enchanting I thought it would be too frigid to do anything but shiver But Niemi forms a beautiful landscape where men half a step away from Vikings raise kids who listen to The Beatles The modern age quite literally steam rolls into an edge of the world village where citizens are treading the waters between the religions and myths of their ancestors and the consumerism of the modern age Modern marvels meets old world is not, however, what makes this book so captivating Instead it s the subtleties of being young that Niemi portrays so perfectly The nuances of grade school hierarchies, the machismo of the adolescent male, the intricate blends of fantasy and reality that compound to make the world that all little kids live in Niemi calls them up perfectly without an air of adult pandering He doesn t look back and think we were so silly then, if anything he pays homage to the often vicious forces at work in the world of children and how tricky it is to move from the stage of innocence into the thrilling, taboo busting realm of adolescence growing up as a huckleberry FinnGrowing up anyplace isn t smooth, it isn t describable exactly If you search your memories later, trying to ask why you did something, you can t, for the life of you, remember why You just did it Things happened You tried to get to China You mimicked the rock stars when you thought you were alone You might even have licked cold locks if you grew up in northern climes and got your tongue stuck You were never the hero of your own legend Well, folks, thi growing up as a huckleberry FinnGrowing up anyplace isn t smooth, it isn t describable exactly If you search your memories later, trying to ask why you did something, you can t, for the life of you, remember why You just did it Things happened You tried to get to China You mimicked the rock stars when you thought you were alone You might even have licked cold locks if you grew up in northern climes and got your tongue stuck You were never the hero of your own legend Well, folks, this novel captures that confusion perfectly I ve never set foot in Sweden, let alone in its far north by the Finnish border, where all the growing up takes place But now I feel I know what it was like Niemi s description, magical realism and all, gives you such joy, such interest, that I assure you, you will read POPULAR MUSIC IN VITTULA as quickly as you can I haven t laughed out loud over a book so much for years Hey, I even laughed in the Boston subway like some kind of weird, public transport cackler But I didn t care Kids fight in the woods with B B guns, try to start rock bands to impress girls, experiment with sex and alcohol, get up the teacher s nose, visit scary old healers, watch the grownups pass out at huge drinkups, and dream of fast cars In the very end, things turn out quite differently, but that s really familiar too Most of the themes are hardly unique to the area, but it s Niemi s genius that he makes you feel it exotic and familiar at the same time It s contemporary writing at its best and I think all readers in English owe a vote of thanks to the translator too.You ve got to have a strong stomach for a couple sections, say for example, if large piles of dead mice are not your forte If you have ever seen Kaurismaki films like Leningrad Cowboys Go America or The Man without a Past , you will recognize the same deadpan Finnish humor in Niemi s novel, whose characters are mainly from the Finnish minority in Sweden s rural north I could recount a scene or two for the surfing reader, try to deconstruct whatever, go literary if I could, but your best bet would be to read the book You will not regret it The narrator in this self deprecating Swedish coming of age story does a great job at capturing a child s view of things Author Mikael Niemi keeps the reader guessing at time as to the reliability of the narrator as he winds his way through the story of the friendship of two boys, their families, and eventually their band The story reminded me of A Christmas Story with its wry depiction of working class families in a snowy climate The chapter in which two families engage in a drinking contest The narrator in this self deprecating Swedish coming of age story does a great job at capturing a child s view of things Author Mikael Niemi keeps the reader guessing at time as to the reliability of the narrator as he winds his way through the story of the friendship of two boys, their families, and eventually their band The story reminded me of A Christmas Story with its wry depiction of working class families in a snowy climate The chapter in which two families engage in a drinking contest followed by a sauna contest is one of the all time great depictions of stubbornness and stoicism The story bogged down for me when the boys reach puberty Call me a stereotypical female, but there are only so many times I can maintain an interest in reading about boys discovering their sexuality In fact, I think one reading of John Updike twenty years ago had me pretty much set for life in this regard The average teenager s sexual thoughts and actions to say nothing of those belonging to the adult male really just aren t that interesting Even so, Niemi ends the book with a final sentence of such beauty that it perfectly caps the uneven preceding chapters