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A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Fredrik Backman's A Man Called Ove. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman was born in Söderort, Sweden (the suburbs south of Stockholm) on June 2, 1981. As a young man he wrote for the Swedish newspaper Helsingsborgs Dagblad. He started a blog in 2009, which is where early material for A Man Called Ove first appeared. A Man Called Ove was Backman's first book. His second book, Things My Son Needs to Know About The World, has not been translated into English, but has received positive reviews in Sweden. A Man Called Ove, on the other hand, became an overnight success. Since its publication it has been translated into over 25 languages and was made into a movie in 2015. Backman has written several books since then and continues to update his blog. He lives in Sweden with his wife and two children.
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Historical Context of A Man Called Ove

Ove gripes about a number of things that are marks of changing times in Sweden: for instance, although Ove finds debit cards ridiculous, they're a far more common form of payment than cash in Sweden, and young people in particular tend to avoid cash. Iranian immigrants like Parvaneh make up nearly 2% of the Swedish population, and the Swedish parliament legalized same-sex marriage in May of 2009. All of this is to say that the historical event of greatest importance to Ove is not one event, but rather the sum of all the changes and innovations that have made up the tide of modernization, right down to the invention of the iPad. Much of the conflict in the novel, however, has to do with Sweden's system of caring for elderly people like Rune. Because Sweden has socialized healthcare, it falls to municipalities and local government to provide elder care services for their citizens. Although most elderly people in Sweden get in-home healthcare services from public providers, many municipalities have begun using private companies. The number of private care providers increased dramatically between 1995 and 2005, and by 2013 private companies provided care for 24% of all elderly citizens requiring care. However, many of the private companies have been accused of prioritizing profit over quality of care, and there have been a number of media investigations into the issue.

Other Books Related to A Man Called Ove

Fredrik Backman has said in interviews that he is particularly interested in characters that are either very young or very old. Several of Backman's other books are also about the relationships between young and old characters, most notably My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry, which follows the journey of a young girl after the death of her grandmother. Novels like Still Alice by Lisa Genova deal directly with Alzheimer's and memory loss, and Ove also shares broad thematic similarities with classic novels that examine the consequences of holding onto memories like Toni Morrison's Beloved. Finally, it is impossible to ignore the similarities Ove bears to Ebenezer Scrooge of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
Key Facts about A Man Called Ove
  • Full Title: A Man Called Ove (En man som heter Ove)
  • When Written: 2009-2012
  • Where Written: Sweden
  • When Published: The novel was first published in Sweden in 2012. The English translation was published in 2013.
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Contemporary fiction
  • Setting: An unnamed town in Sweden, early 2010s
  • Climax: Ove has a heart attack
  • Antagonist: The men in white shirts
  • Point of View: Third person limited

Extra Credit for A Man Called Ove

Chapter length. The length of chapters in A Man Called Ove is intentional. Each chapter is written to be about the same length as an average magazine article, which Backman has said in interviews makes the book more readable.

"Please Ove, just let it go!" Backman borrowed Ove's name and grouchy character from another blogger, Jonas Cramby. On his blog, Cramby recounted being in line at a museum behind an angry old man named Ove who fought with a docent about the correct pronunciation of a painter's name. Ove's wife sighed, led him away, and asked him to let it go.