Procol Harum


the Pale

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Övajto schejd åvpejl

A Whiter Shade of Pale as a phonetic exercise

"A whiter shade of pale" in a Swedish bestseller

"Popular music from Vittula" was The Great Literary Sensation in Sweden in 2000-2001. Rocket sales by Mikael Niemi, a young author virtually unknown before, propelling him into instant stardom, fame and fortune. Received Sweden's most prestigious literary award, the August Prize, and other prizes. Nominated for the Nordic Council's Literature Prize in 2001. Loved both by critics and the people. It was soon picked for adaptation for the screen. Disagreement between producer and director has delayed the film for a year, but a new director was recently brought in.

"Popular music from Vittula" is a kind of "tall tale" - drastic, funny, moving, sometimes bizarre - about growing up in a small village in the far North of Sweden, in the sixties. This part of Sweden - Pajala and Tornedalen - is close to Finland, and the native language is Torndedalsfinska, related to Finnish rather than Swedish. (Look at the cover again - it's the record player to the left and the sauna stove to the right. Get it?)

So... let's jump right to chapter 8, which has the motto "In which an electric guitar is manufactured, a mouth is opened and the scene is entered for the first time". The author is about ten years old (click here to see a full page):

"The sixties were coming to an end, and pop music exploded in the outside world. Beatles went to India and learned to play the sitar, California was flooded with flower power and Great Britain was cooking with band like Kinks, Procul [sic] Harum, The Who, Small Faces and The Hollies.
Fairly little of this reached Pajala. Sis did her best to catch up, she stretched a copper wire between the furs in our garden and found Radio Luxembourg on our old tube radio..."

Later in the same chapter:



"Since it was said to be useful to know several languages we were taught English. At the same time, our old Finnish was heard more seldom in the school yard. I started to copy English pop songs by listening to the Swedish Charts, "Tio i topp". Since we didn't yet have a tape recorder at home, I had to write down the lyrics as fast as I could during the show. I didn't understand the words yet, but spelled phonetically, learned everything by heart, and in the garage I sang to Niila tunes like Åljo nidis lav and Övajto schejd åvpejl.
Niila was tremendously impressed. Who had taught me English?
- Myself, I said carelessly."

Note: yes, "Övajto schejd åvpejl" is a rough phonetic transcription of "A whiter shade of pale". And "Åljo nidis lav" is of course "All you need is love".

Another Swedish literary link: "A whiter shade of pale" in another Swedish bestseller

Jonas Söderström

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PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home