Popular Music from Vittula: A Novel

Popular Music from Vittula: A Novel

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by Mikael Niemi
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
In Laurie Thompson's deft translation, the novel is shot through with vivid and often funny depictions of daily life in an exotic corner of the world … I can't think of many recent novels that have better captured the intricacies of social life in a rural community. — Richard McGill Murphy
Kirkus Reviews
Niemi’s debut ("the single bestselling book in Sweden’s history," we’re told) describes life in a remote northern Swedish village during the 1960s. If Vittula were in the US, it would probably be someplace in Alaska, Arkansas, or Idaho—somewhere very far off the beaten track. A little town north of the Arctic Circle, Vittula is close to the border of Finland, and most of the townspeople are as likely to speak Finnish as Swedish. There’s not much work there outside the timber industry, and with the advent of mechanization most of the lumberjacks are chronically unemployed. Narrator Matti grew up in Vittula in the 1960s and saw the area decline. The fathers all went on the dole, the children moved away or went on the dole themselves, and the rest of Sweden forgot—if it ever knew in the first place—that Vittula existed. Matti tells his story in a series of episodic chapters that come together in a narrative mosaic portraying a time and place long since past. One Sunday the villagers flock to church en masse—even the Communists crowd in—to see an African missionary, the first black man ever to set foot in Vittula. A German tourist who rents a summer cottage in town turns out to be an old SS officer. The new music teacher at school has no fingers on his right hand. Matti’s father explains the facts of life to him in the sauna and tells the boy a bit more about his grandfather’s exploits than he might have wanted to hear. The teenagers from the region gather in an abandoned sewage plant for a drinking contest. And Matti, having long worshipped from afar a mysterious girl in a black Volvo, finally meets and is seduced by his dream woman—without ever learning hername. A portrait of growing up, in other words. A sentimental tale saved from pure nostalgia by the unfamiliarity of its setting and a nicely understated narration. Author tour

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781609802882
Publisher:
Seven Stories Press
Publication date:
01/04/2011
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
459,118
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

MIKAEL NIEMI was born in 1959 and grew up in Pajala in the northernmost part of Sweden, near the Finnish border, where he still lives. He is the author of several books of poetry and fiction for both young people and adults.

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Popular Music from Vittula 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an incredibly funny novel, and you will laugh out load when reading. At the same time it gives such an insight of a completely different childhood than I usually read about. It is mystic as well and the stories sometimes goes wild. I was so deeply taken by the personalities that you really get to know.