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Popular Music from Vittula

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3.65  ·  Rating details ·  7,427 ratings  ·  353 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 5th 2004 by Seven Stories Press (first published 2000)
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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Manny
Oct 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Real men, real women, rock 'n' roll poets
Matti is a regular teen in 60s Pajala up in the extreme north of Sweden, where they think of themselves as Finns and speak Finnish by preference. These are guys who know how to hold their liquor, laugh at temperatures that go down to forty below zero, handle a gun, an axe or a snowmobile, build a house, butcher a reindeer and treat women the way they really want to be treated. Though it's true, Matti has also discovered rock 'n' roll. Maybe that makes him knapsu (gay), but he doesn't care. A rea ...more
Anna
[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
...more
Maja Ingrid
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just pure brilliance
Jeremy
Nov 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone i like.
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 it...
ok here goes

the 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
...more
Rusalka
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 ...more
Mary Overton
Mar 13, 2013 added it
Recommended to Mary by: Manny Rayner
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
...more
Karl Lehtinen
Jan 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Katherine Furman
Apr 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Bob Newman
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
growing up as a huckleberry Finn

Growing 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
...more
Gail Francis
Feb 06, 2013 rated it liked 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 ...more
Emily (StacksandCats)
Dec 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-ya
Mikael Niemi's Popular Music from Vittula was interesting to say the least. However, I was not fond of it at all, and I tried to be. Unlike Ellen Foster, this book never really grew on me, although part of it could be due to the fact that I am not familiar with the culture, and I have read so few coming-of-age stories that deal with male protagonists. However, there were aspects I found compelling regarding the story, and I greatly enjoyed the importance of music throughout the piece, especially ...more
Lorenzo Berardi
I've got a kind of obsession for Scandinavian literature, having lived for a little while in Norway.

And yet I have to say that Swedish literature has more to offer than Norwegian one with such great novelists like Stig Dagerman, Lars Gustafsson and Torgny Lindgren.

Mikael Niemi belongs to a new generation of Swedish authors and -as I suppose from his surname, he has finnish roots.-
This book is a funny and easy reading which takes place in an exotic northern land, that part of Sweden on the Bothni
...more
Julie
Apr 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one turned out surprisingly good actually. Even tho I've been complaining about it ever since we started reading it at school, I've never laughed so much, nor as hard, while reading something ever before. I think I might even read it again one day, as long as I find a copy with a better looking cover ;)
I also think I need to do some research on the whole Finland-Sweden situation, 'cause I felt like I had to be touched in the head sometimes since nothing made sense. AND I have to warn ya'll
...more
Prisca A.
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Before starting this book, I read a few reviews to see if it would be my kind of thing. The majority of the comments I came across praised it for its comedy and originality; one even went as far as calling the author a Scandinavian Nick Hornsby. Unfortunately, I didn't find it funny, nor original. This novel tells the story of a young man living in a small town in northern Sweden and recounts his teenage experiences. Granted, the content is certainly different from other coming-of-age stories, b ...more
Christy
This was one of the worst books I have ever read (and I read three of the twilight books so I'm no stranger to bad books).
This was terrible writing, run-on sentences and a narrative that legitimately had no linear construction. If this hadn't been a school requirement I would have abandoned it in the first chapter.

The characters were flat and unrelateable. Music was supposed to be a central theme but was just sprinkled here and there. I guess the point was to be the biography of a place like Cr
...more
Karen Rós
brilliant. i read it in swedish and i just love the language so much. i usually say i hate swedish, but this swedish is so..weird... it must be dialect or something and there's finnish words mixed in and it's just so wonderful.
the book is good too. really it is. it left me with a feeling of melancholy but also peace...it's such a warm and heartfelt narrative, yet brutal and harsh and just.. so full of life and truths.
Berit Lundqvist
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Pajala is a half-forgotten village in the far north of Sweden, close to the Finnish border. It’s tough up there. The winters are long and cold.

You really need to know how to survive. How to rake the forest. How to chop the wood. How to hunt the moose. How to do the sauna ritual properly. How to drink and fight yourself into oblivion. In other words, a country where men are men, and reindeer are anxious.

One thing you don’t need to know is how to talk, even if you are fluent in all the three lang
...more
Kati Stevens
Jul 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really loved this book. It's beautifully written, evocative of a place I knew nothing about (a Finnish village in northern Sweden during the '60s), and early on I was thinking about how I would describe this book -- like if Anne of Green Gables were written as memoir, but by a Finnish Nick Hornby, is the best I could come up with -- but no comparison really does it justice. It's one of those plotless books about childhood and culture.

The only thing that keeps me from giving it a full five sta
...more
whaley
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Had to read this for school, and it's not really my type of book, but it was okay... (kinda)...
Malene
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Read in Danish. Utterly phenomenal tale from the furthest North Sweden in 1970s and the author's teenage years. Rockn'roll...
Lars Eggen
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the funniest books I’ve read. Nothing less than a masterpiece
Evcprice
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm in love 😀
Malin
Matti grows up in a tiny town in the remote north of Sweden in the 1960s and 70s. The chapters in this book are more like little short stories about different aspects of his childhood and adolescence, chronicled with humour and the occasional forays into strange, magical realism-inspired fantasy sequences. The inhabitants of his town and the surrounding areas seem to be either deeply puritanically religious or Communists, not caring for the trappings of religion at all. The gruff and peculiar in ...more
Christie
Sep 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club-reads
I didn’t get this book – at all. Everyone from the New York Times to Entertainment Weekly waxed poetic about its beauty and prose that “buzzes with wonder, fearlessness and ecstatic ignorance.” Um. I didn’t get it.

Translated from the Swedish, Popular Music from Vittula is a “novel” that actually seems more like a memoir – or a series of loosely connected short stories – because if there was a narrative thread here, I wasn’t seeing it.

The main character and narrator is Matti and we meet him as
...more
Vår Ane
May 28, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I hated this book, I wish I'd never read it. Its really not my type of book at all.
Its about a man and his journey trough life back home in Finland or Sweden or wherever. A lot of things happens to him and he seems a little unintelligent when he deals with these situations.
I understand that its suppose to be funny, and if you like these type of books I think you could enjoy it, but its definitely not for me.
Darya Conmigo
Oh man. This is like a perfect anti-Moomin book. All street smarts and zero coziness.

It’s 1960s in the (very) (extremely) rural Sweden on the border with Finland, the protagonist Matti is growing up and discovering rock music, and there is always someone puking or pissing or both.

I mean, the book is really well written and at times hilariously funny or even strangely poetic. But, you know, it would be really nice if people were puking only every other page or something?
Briankiwi
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Entertaining, funny and warmhearted, and yet brutally honest in dissecting the darker parts of the psyche of ordinary people getting by in northern Sweden/Finland. Surprisingly good to read when translated into English, "a language for idlers, grass-eaters, couch potatoes, so lacking in resilience that their tongues slop around their mouths like sliced-off foreskins." (p204)
Slava Kuzminsky
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Kind, musical, literary marvel from rural Sweden. Sad and a bit hopeful smile on my face. Will re-read it someday
Clare
Sep 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unusual-fiction
I'm not quite sure how I feel about this one. As a coming of age story about a boy it is filled with thoughts of girls and their anatomy, sneaking drinks of liquor and trying to project manliness. Added to all this posturing and teen angst is the backdrop of a small town in northern Sweden in the 1960s. Music plays a part in the young protagonist's life when rock n' roll finally makes an appearance in his home town. Small town life also comes with its entangled alliances and grievances, loyaltie ...more
Jing
Jun 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I heard about this book for the first time during my Swedish class at the university time. Now after 7-8 years I finally finished it. Niemi is indeed a great story teller. He narrated the stories of a timid Finnish-Swedish boy, his friends and his village with a very “spicy” tone. The rock and roll music is the red thread, but the main theme is to show how life was up in the north in his upbringing, in the middle of nowhere, and the love and hatred, all the alcohol blended in, the sexual jokes, ...more
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Mikael Niemi is a Swedish author. He wrote the novel Populärmusik från Vittula (in English as Popular music from Vittula). It became a best-seller in Sweden and was subsequently translated into 30 languages.
He first became famous by writing poetry, and he has published many collections of poetry, such as Änglar med mausergevär (Angels with mauserguns), Med rötter här uppe (With roots up here) and
...more

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“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 was more pleased than the could say to not 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.”
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“Greger gave us a faraway look.

'Now you'rrre getting somewhere, lads! This is Holgerrri.'

I turned to Niila and muttered a gruesome premonition:

'By God, but he's going to get beaten up."

'What?' said Greger

'Oh, nothing.”
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