Getting old provokes a mixture of feelings, some look forward to a long life while some others fear what might happen to them as time progresses. The truth is time never stops, at least not objectively; and times are always changing, leaving behind everything and everyone which or who refuses to cope — oh, hello Darwin’s natural selection. Could this be the real reason why we develop relationships? why we come together as groups, couples or friends? To have someone to grow old with, to have witnesses, a thread to the world, connections to reality, to avoid being left behind, feeling left out of the race…
What happens when we lose all of that and end up alone with ourselves? We would say that we still have ourselves and our skills, but what about when this happens at an age where we are also being displaced from a productive working life, when society finds us obsolete, where ways narrow and doors close? This is where we find Ove.
Ove is a tough old man that has been brought up with strong values, believing in fairness, in the clearness and weight of actions over words. To him things should be done in a certain way and as this allows little space to flexibility, ends up putting to the test the patience of others that surround him.
To have your life resumed on paper could be difficult, all of your struggles and hard moments, surfacing to those shallow waters of memory’s deep sea. Sounds smart to be avoided and yet memoirs are so popular nowadays. Let’s say that Ove didn’t sign up for this but we have been given a ticket to sit through glimpses of his life, those that defined his character, to better understands how a person becomes what a person presently is.
As it is common in life, plans change course most of the time, as ships thrown into stormy waters. So, as non-oficial guardian of his neighbourhood, Ove sets himself to keep busy with his customary tasks and making sure everyone follows the rules. Nonetheless some days these little things become minimally fulfilling and Ove, as a practical man, has his mind set on his next logical step.
If we think about it, the relationships that are most meaningful for us today surely started in a peculiar way, by chance, creating havoc inside our little closed worlds, marking us forever. To Ove was a turmoil indeed to have new neighbours moving in the house in front of his, mostly in moments he most wanted to be left alone with his business.
From that moment on we will meet a display of characters that soon invade Ove’s reduced bubble, allowing us to meet him not all over again, but then again not as a loner and inside himself, and more as the caring and sweet being we knew was in there all along protecting itself from a cruel environment.
Fredrik Backman delivers a well elaborated story that gives us lots to think about, mostly on regards of the ways of our current society. A Man Called Ove was published in 2012, originally in Sweden, was -to our delight- translated to English around 2014 by Henning Koch and published by Atria Books with an approximate of 337 pages on his paperback presentation.
I personally listened to this story on Audible, narrated by George Newbern, with a duration of 9 hours and 9 minutes. This is one of those books that I have listed “have to own”, so I will be buying it soon and giving it a home on my bookshelf.