Popular Music from Vittula: A Novel (Paperback)

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By Mikael Niemi, Laurie Thompson (Translated by)
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Staff Reviews

Pop culture meets remote, rural Finland. A coming of age story that you will love.

— From Marie


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 disk, the Beatles.
The story unfolds in sweltering wood saunas, amidst chain thrashings and gang warfare, learning to play the guitar in the garage, over a traditional wedding meal, on the way to China, during drinking competitions, while learning secret languages, playing ice hockey surrounded by snow drifts, outsmarting mice, discovering girls, staging a first rock concert, peeing in the snow, skiing under a sparkling midnight sky. In the manner of David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green, Mikael Niemi tells a story of a rural Sweden at once foreign and familiar, as a magical childhood slowly fades with the seasons into adult reality.

About the Author

MIKAEL NIEMI was born in 1959 and grew up in Pajala in the northernmost part of Sweden, near the Finnish border, where he still lives. He is the author of several books of poetry and fiction for both young people and adults.

Praise For…

“Niemi’s entrancing debut novel is a coming-of-age story set in Pajala, Sweden, a remote district above the Arctic Circle. It is the early 1960’s, and Matti and his peculiar sidekick, Niila, are fascinated by their exotic corner of the world as by their newest discoveries: girls and rock music.” -New York Times Book Review

“Niemi’s finest achievement is to have created a world poised between an adult’s fantastic memories of childhood and a child’s naive dreams of his future.” -Los Angeles Times Book Review

“It’s safe to say that contemporary Finnish fiction is pretty much unknown in North America, but Mikael Niemi’s tale, a runaway bestseller in Scandinavia, should go some way toward changing that...This “playful, rueful, and wondrous” novel with a magic realist touch is also funny and moving.” -The Globe and Mail: The Globe 100 (Canada)

“Matti and Niila, transfixed by a Beatles record, decide they must form their own rock band, and their devotion to music and to each other is the theme that dominates the rest of the novel. The boys become men, life expands, and the bittersweet feeling of nostalgia remains once the last page has turned … Through Laurie Thompson’s excellent, lively translation, the English-speaking population can now experience this small corner of the planet called Pajala -- and be glad they’ve taken the trip.” -World Literature Today

"Matti’s narrative voice is as distinctive and charming as that of Huckleberry Finn. But, as with Mark Twain, the comedy is shadowed with melancholy -- even terror that will unsettle the reader sometimes. The book is filled with eccentric. Grotesque, even unsavory characters, but Niemi shows large tolerance, kindly spirit and even clear pleasure in these odd neighbors. They are human, too.”  -Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Popular Music From Vittula
is bound to become a classic of cold-weather literature. Jack London with the imagination of a Borges might have produced a work so wise and witty in weather so unpleasant, but, probably only Mikael Niemi, with his intrepid translator, Laurie Thompson, could have made so much art out of so much ice. It’s like the invention of ice cream.” -Paul Ingram, Priarie Lights Bookstore, in Booksense

“In British translator Laurie Thompson's hands, Niemi's language is a constant, fresh poetic surprise … Even the alphabet—'a scary army of sticks and halfmoons'—comes strangely alive in this marvelous book.”
Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times

“An exquisitely beautiful novel, artfully translated.” –Paula Luedkte, Booklist

“A blissfully eccentric, fiction-enhanced memoir … Niemi tells his stories with stoic wit and a dusting of magic realism, as if the extreme climate knocks the senses off kilter. (Or perhaps it's the vodka.) His prose buzzes with wonder, fearlessness, and ecstatic ignorance: the sensations of youth. Each chapter is an epic in miniature …” –Hugo Lindgren, New York Times Magazine

Product Details
ISBN: 9781583226599
ISBN-10: 1583226591
Publisher: Seven Stories Press
Publication Date: October 5th, 2004
Pages: 240
Language: English
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