Thursday, December 1, 2016
Taking a nasty nativist message and making it "cute"
What is really starting to bother me about the eponymous Ove in Fredrik Backman's A Man Called Ove is not only his crankiness and misanthropy, which tend to lead to some pretty funny scenes and stretches of dialogue, and not only is self-pity, which is at least giving the narrative some shape, as Ove tries, twice now, to kill himself, presumably to join his late wife in some less contentious afterlife (is that really believable? he does not in any way seem clinically suicidal - it's just a narrative device), but his reactionary political views - not that they're ever expressed overtly, they're just part of the atmosphere he breathes. Bottom line, in Ove's view anything collective, anything done by society or, worse, the government, is bad, evil, a corruption of the social fabric; the only good action is that by an individual, preferably an isolate living by his own strict moral code, as is and does Ove. But the tenants' association? Bad. Unions? Bad. Schooling? Bad. Immigrants? Very bad. (One "lovable" quirk is that Ove hates anyone who drives a BMW - as opposed to a Swedish car, of course - this takes a nasty nativist message and makes it "cute.") I can probably find many more and better examples as I read along. Of course Ove is living in a country where the society at large is concerned about the welfare of all. He may sit on his high horse and hate the government but you can be sure he's benefiting from strong labor laws, great national health services, great national pension system. I don't know anything about author Backman, but suspect there's at least a part of him in Ove (that's true of every character by every author, to varying degrees), and hoping it's not the political part.