Fredrik Backman was born in 1981 and grew up in Helsingborg, Sweden. After dropping out of college he worked as a forklift driver at a fruit warehouse and chose night and weekend shifts in order to dedicate his days to writing. He is a columnist, a blogger and a novelist writing fiction and non-fiction books. He has written for the Swedish daily newspaper, Helsingborg Dagblad and for Moore Magazine.
“A Man Called Ove”, Backman’s first novel, was published in Swedish in 2012 and English in
2013. The book became an instant success and one of Sweden’s most outstanding literary exports since Stieg Larsson’s thriller “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, published posthumously in Sweden in 2005. “A Man Called Ove”was adapted as a successful stage play in 2015 and an award-winning Swedish feature film. It has sold many copies, has been translated into several languages and an American movie is planned, starring Tom Hanks.
Fredrick Backman was voted Sweden’s most acclaimed author in 2013. He was married in 2009 and presently lives with his wife and two children near Stockholm, Sweden.
“A Man Called Ove”, tells the story of a slave to routine, retired, eccentric, bad-tempered fifty-nine-year-old Swedish widower called Ove. From the first chapter of the novel the reader gains a glimpse of Ove’s character. He is uncompromising and committed to what he believes in. He is a man of few words, set in his ways, who is obsessed with Swedish “Saab” cars, of which he has continuously owned various models.
Overwhelmed and depressed by his loss, Ove is unable to deal with his grief following his wife, Sonja’s demise six months earlier from cancer, after forty years of marriage. He misses her and longs to join her in the after-life. Several times he attempts to commit suicide but fails due to various incidents and interruptions. He ends up dying of heart problems.
The author reveals Ove’s past in strokes, which helps the reader to comprehend his embitterment and his feeling of being rejected by society due to several elements in his life he deems unfair. First, he experienced a harsh childhood, losing both parents at an early age and had to struggle for a living. Second, he was unexpectedly forced to retire after working for the same company for forty-three years. Third, the unfairness of the untimely death of his wife and fourth, because he is no longer the chairman of the neighbourhood Residents Association, having been replaced by his former friend, Rune.
An undesired, challenging, as well as the unpredictable relationship, starts with a provocation between Ove and a young friendly couple, who move into the neighbourhood next door. This is the Iranian, immigrant, pregnant Parvaneh and her clumsy “lanky” husband, Patrick, accompanied by their lively, uninhibited seven-year-old and three-year-old daughters.
Parvaneh has an entirely different personality to Ove. She is extrovert as well as being self-assertive. She never gives up on Ove until she succeeds in mellowing him by bringing out his altruism, which leads to being forbearing and open to others.
“A Man Called Ove” is an easy read. It is a sad, touching and funny story about a constantly irritated misanthrope character who warms up to thoughtful, friendly, persistent approaches which reach their target by taming him unexpectedly. It reveals goodness hidden under his hard shell, gaining him the empathy of his neighbours as well as the reader and turning him into a lovable, sympathetic character.
In an interview, Frederik Backman admits his susceptibility and justified exasperation toward people who do not comprehend his anger. He says about himself: “I’m not very socially competent” and he says, referring to Ove: “There’s a lot of me in him. When we get angry, it’s about a principle, and we get angry because people don’t understand why we’re angry.”
We all have some of Ove in us, sometimes hidden deep and sometimes revealed when the opportunity presents itself, indicating that: “No man is an island” and there is always hope for the human race.