Friday, December 2, 2016
Ove is a type that's all too familiar in America, sad to say
The eponymous man called Ove rails against what he calls the "white shirts," which signifies anyone in government or authority. The great tragic event in his life was the loss of the house he'd built w/ his own hands - the independent, strong man, the "idea" - by fire, mainly caused because the white shirts had some weird law or regulation that prevented them from extinguishing the fire. Now I know there's a lot of regulation in Sweden, but really that is pretty ridiculous on any level - but falls right into what appears to be the author's, that is, Fredrik Backman's, ideology. I know nothing about Backman, btw, except what I've read in this book, but he seems to be driven by some romantic attachment to quiet, serious, self-sufficient, strong men and a hatred against the educated and in particular against any regulation that restricts the power and autonomy of the individual. Ove is a mean and nasty old man full of prejudices and irrational bias, and over the course of the novel we are supposed to, first, sympathize w/ him because he's been victimized by society, and, second, come to like him as a lovable outsider and be proud of him for overcoming his prejudice and befriending his neighbors, in particular the Asian immigrant next door. But he's not a lovable character, the story of his life does not jibe w/ what he's become - he had a loving father (who died too young but left Ove w/ a find moral upbringing), a great marriage to a smart and sensitive and thoughtful woman, and, yes, of course he's in mourning for her, but that does not explain what appears to be a lifelong condition of irascibility. W/out being too blunt about it, people like Ove, narrow-minded and prejudiced and resentful of others and disdainful of the government (until they need it) are all too familiar in America. Sorry to learn - I actually knew this already - that there are plenty of these types in Sweden as well.