A SUNDAY TELEGRAPH AND GUARDIAN BOOK OF THE YEAR
WINNER OF SWEDEN'S AUGUST PRIZE
'Osebol is a magnificent success; it is hard to imagine it better ... Kapla is a magician ... mesmerizing' Sara Wheeler, TLS
'A simple, pared-back and down-to-earth masterpiece' James Rebanks
'We listen to them like something caught on the wind ... so moving and so strangely beckoning' Nicci Gerrard, Observer
'Fascinating ... I was riveted' Lydia Davis
'Like standing outside an open window on a warm summer evening and listening to a piece of contemporary history' Länstidningen
'What a wonderful book . . . You want to move into it' Expressen
Near the river Klarälven, snug in the dense forest landscape of northern Värmland, lies the secluded village of Osebol. It is a quiet place: one where relationships take root over decades, and where the bustle of city life is replaced by the sound of wind in the trees.
In this extraordinary and engrossing book, an unexpected cultural phenomenon in its native Sweden, the stories of Osebol's residents are brought to life in their own words. Over the last half-century, the automation of the lumber industry and the steady relocations to the cities have seen the village's adult population fall to roughly forty. But still, life goes on; heirlooms are passed from hand to hand, and memories from mouth to mouth, while new arrivals come from near and far.
Marit Kapla has interviewed nearly every villager between the ages of 18 and 92, recording their stories verbatim. What emerges is at once a familiar chronicle of great social metamorphosis, told from the inside, and a beautifully microcosmic portrait of a place and its people. To read Osebol is to lose oneself in its gentle rhythms of simple language and open space, and to emerge feeling like one has really grown to know the inhabitants of this varied community, nestled among the trees in a changing world.
It is an unlikely subject for a bestseller. Yet in Sweden, the voices that have come from this ordinary little village have become like an existential meditation on what it is to be alive, to be human, creatures living in time while the river runs on and wolves howl in the woods ... Its specificity allows it to be universal. ... Garrulous, taciturn, gossipy, warm-hearted, reserved or matter-of-fact, a character speaks and then they slip quietly away ... we listen to them like something caught on the wind ... Why is this so moving and so strangely beckoning? I think precisely because Osebol bears witness to ordinary lives. It gives us, unmediated, the voices of people who are usually unheard and invites us to pay attention to small things. It's also a book ... about the many meanings of home ... what it is to put down roots and belong ... Compelling
Transporting ... It is particular in its focus on one place ... and universal in its reminders that nothing stays the same. You feel as though you're in among them
A fugue in many voices ... Osebol comes to life as the book progresses, like a dusty mosaic splashed with water ... [In] sudden shifts of tone, the book catches the rhythm of life itself ... Osebol is a magnificent success; it is hard to imagine it better, or even different - it exists on its own terms. Kapla is a magician. How can she be called 'the author' when not a word is hers? But it was she who crafted it, weighing themes and balancing light and shade ... The translator Peter Graves has miraculously maintained the original rhythm - or perhaps he has smelted Swedish phrases into English and forged a new one ... The book conjures the Welsh notion of hiraeth, that soul-deep longing for the landscape of home ... mesmerizing ... Osebol is a song of the ages
Osebol is a kind of simple, pared-back and down-to-earth masterpiece. I suspect that centuries from now it will be read and loved for the glimpse it gives into the lives of "ordinary" people in this moment in time. There aren't many books I am jealous of, and wish I had written ... but I really wish I had written this. I hope a lot of people read it and understand just how brilliant it is
Osebol is a fascinating and revealing immersion in another culture and landscape. I was riveted by these life stories of young and old, especially the accounts of those who remember how things used to be - of picking berries in the forest and sharing the potato harvest. A wonderful read