A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

★★★★★ (5/5)

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

• If it said twenty-four hours on the sign, that’s how long you were allowed to stay. What would it be like if everyone just parked wherever they liked? It would be chaos. There’d be cars bloody everywhere.
• if men like Ove didn’t take the initiative there’d be anarchy.
• People have no respect for decent, honest functionality anymore, they’re happy as long as everything looks neat and dandy on the computer. But Ove does things the way they’re supposed to be done.
• Ove feels an instinctive skepticism towards all people taller than six feet; the blood can’t quite make it all the way up to the brain.
• Opened his garage with a key. He had a remote control for the door, but had never understood the point of it. An honest person could just as well open the door manually.
• He was a man of black and white. And she was color. All the color he had.
• He was never at the heart of things and never on the outside. He was the sort of person who was just there.
• She believed in destiny. That all the roads you walk in life, in one way or another, “lead to what has been predetermined for you.”
• And that laughter of hers, which, for the rest of his life, would make him feel as if someone was running around barefoot on the inside of his breast.
• Nowadays people changed their stuff so often that any expertise in how to make things last was becoming superfluous.
• This was a world where one became outdated before one’s time was up. An entire country standing up and applauding the fact that no one was capable of doing anything properly anymore. The unreserved celebration of mediocrity.
• How can one fail to manufacture rope, for Christ’s sake? How can you get rope wrong?
• A job well done is a reward in its own right,
• A time like that comes for every man, when he chooses what sort of man he wants to be. And if you don’t know the story, you don’t know the man.
• You go to the hospital to die, Ove knows that. It’s enough that the state wants to be paid for everything you do while you’re alive. When it also wants to be paid for the parking when you go to die, Ove thinks that’s about far enough.
• But now when Ove actually wants to use that damned plastic card, it doesn’t work, of course. Or there are a lot of extra fees when he uses it in the shops. Which only goes to prove that Ove was right all along. And he’s going to say as much to his wife as soon as he sees her, she had better be quite clear about that.
• And she wept. An ancient, inconsolable despair that screamed and tore and shredded them both as countless hours passed.
• Ove obviously doesn’t trust medicine, has always been convinced its only real effects are psychological and, as a result, it only works on people with feeble brains.
• As if he sort of crumpled with a deep sigh and never really breathed properly again.
• But sorrow is unreliable in that way. When people don’t share it there’s a good chance that it will drive them apart instead.
• Maybe it’s the insight that a simple battle won is nothing in the greater scheme of things. A boxed-in Škoda makes no difference. They always come back.
• Before then he has had time to wave his rifle at them, making Adrian scream like an air raid warning.
• “The great thing about scrutinizing bureaucracy when you’re a journalist, you see, is that the first people to break the laws of bureaucracy are always the bureaucrats themselves.”
• It is difficult to admit that one is wrong. Particularly when one has been wrong for a very long time.
• Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it’s often one of the great motivations for living. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become so preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before it has announced its arrival. We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.
• Something inside a man goes to pieces when he has to bury the only person who ever understood him. There is no time to heal that sort of wound.
• One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead.

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