Once Upon a Time in Scandinavistan

Praise for the novel:

"Zac O’Yeah, who seems to possess unerring comic pitch as well as a sharp social vision, pulls off a charming conceit In Once Upon a Time in Scandinavistan."

Pankaj Mishra, author of “Temptations of the West”


"Who knew that the ultimate manifestation of ‘Swadeshi’ would be ‘Swedishi’? Zac O’Yeah’s detective novel, set in a Sweden taken over by India, shows us why and how. In giving us a comic and suspenseful story that reimagines the relationship between east and west in utterly new terms, Once Upon a Time in Scandinavistan hustles its way onto the small shelf occupied by such counterfactual classics as Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle and Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union."

Siddhartha Deb, author of “The Point of Return”


"Uncanny, and original, and always funny. At first glance, Zac O’Yeah’s new novel seems to be about Stieg Larsson coming to India. But then you spot other clues. This thriller isn’t even about Europe being colonized by Indians. This is a sly, remarkable book about the death of the present, and the future that is already here."

Amitava Kumar, author of “Home Products”


"And as the pages keep turning, it becomes clear to the reader that the social narrative of the city is as important to the tale as the solution of the crime itself. O'Yeah's first work of fiction is a brilliant English debut. It plays on the sensibilities of the reader, making sure he or she blinks hard while reading about this strange world."

The Kathmandu Post


"WHAT would happen if Stieg Larsson came to India, wandered into a nondescript town in the middle of the cowbelt, started to abuse controlled substances, and then proceeded to write a crime novel? You might, just possibly, get a book like Once Upon A Time in Scandinavistan. Or possibly not. Because Zac OYeah is that rara avis in the world of crime fiction, a genuine original."

The Mail Today

"Though likely to be compared with Nordic noir such as the work of Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell, this is closer in its antic spirit to the environmental thrillers of Carl Hiaasen, with his deranged characters running amok over Florida swamplands. Once Upon a Time in Scandinavistan, then, is audacious in conception and has much brio in narration."

The Sunday Guardian

"The language is so precise that he is able to keep his kaleidoscope of cultural allusions from getting too intricate. To establish Gautampuri in all of its contours, he gives us electrifying nomenclature of Jasper Fforde quality… /---/ O'Yeah makes an important revision to the stark hard-boiled story by creating an oddly loveable protagonist, who falls so swiftly and trustingly in love with the ex-Miss Bihar Kumkum, you want to cheer. Consider Once Upon a Time in Scandinavistan a real-time personal reading laboratory to observe the joys of genre fiction: it is not culturally offkey, so we nod in recognition, but it is suitably inauthentic, so we are not bored."

Tehelka Magazine

"I'm usually reluctant to compile year-end lists of my favourite reads, but if I had to list my favourite fictional characters from 2010, Herman Barsk - the detective protagonist of Zac O'Yeah's Once Upon a Time in Scandinavistan - would be near the top. Barsk is the antithesis of the "hardboiled", charismatically world-weary noir hero. /---/ To my mind, O'Yeah's book is a winner not so much because of its unusual fantasy premise (a future Europe colonised by India!) but because it is anchored by this endearing and ungallant hero." 

Jai Arjun Singh's 'Wordsmith' column

"In short, there is nothing remotely dashing or heroic about Barsk. He isn’t even the sort of character who is sometimes referred to as a 'little hero' – the Frodo Baggins-like underdog who triumphs against the odds. The few times he does come good, it feels more like an accident of karma than anything he might reasonably be credited for. Of course, his actions and responses are defined by the chaos that continually unfolds around him, and the narrative is full of passages of inspired absurdity…"

BIBLIO Book Review Journal


"Finnish born. Swedish native. Indian soul. Wondrously wacky writer. Zac O'Yeah is out with another outrageous crime-fiction thriller, Once Upon A Time in Scandinavistan, that's filled with bizarre adventures, weird characters and twisted scenarios. /---/ In his latest work, Gothenburg is Gautampuri and Sweden is reduced to a grubby region colonised by India, run by the Indian Administrative Service. It only gets better from there..."

 Mid-Day Newspaper


"The narrative, from the discovery of the cannibalistic murders to the solving of the crime, spans one week, and involves an intricate network of spies, government servants, film makers, anarchists, reporters, and prostitutes. /---/ Once Upon A Time In Scandavistan is funny and irreverent despite its vile and stomach-churning descriptions of the murders. It is also a horrifying and ghastly tale as it discusses the possible ecological disaster that awaits Earth, if some preventive measures are not taken immediately. /---/ Zac is Swedish but is now based in India. He is obviously very comfortable with both landscapes, especially culturally and linguistically. It is wonderful to read the ease with which he oscillates between the two cultures…"

Daily News & Analysis, DNA newspaper

"The novel is a violent satire of the supposedly global society of the twenty-first century. It’s also a crime thriller that looks at the complicated way in which history is remembered, and how identity and racism can be mistaken for one another."

The Mumbai Boss

"If you were drawing up a map of crime fiction, the bleak, snow-bitten landscape of Sweden would have to be on it, as much as John Rebus’s sour Edinburgh or 221B Baker Street. Here, a girl with a dragon tattoo kicks hornet’s nests and killers into submission, and detective Kurt Wallander battles his personal demons as he investigates another murder in Ystad. Zac O’Yeah’s Once Upon a Time in Scandinavistan reconfigures this geography with audacity."

The Indian Express

"This book is subtitled 'A crime novel', but few which claim the name achieve all its resonances. Most such books do less than they aver; this is one of the few I have read which does more than it claims without, in fact, fulfilling all the tenets of a crime novel. /---/ All the characters in O’Yeah’s book are weird, but these are weird times and they’ll get weirder as we go along. /---/ Barsk is not a good detective – his doctor tells him his systolic blood pressure is higher than his IQ – but things happen to him, and he happens to things. His love affair with Kumkum is beautifully written, as is his discovery of the corpses – not just cooked in a tandoori oven, but marinated as well, with what Dr. Chatterjee at the morgue says are 'South Asian spices'. The best things about this book are O'Yeah's throwaway lines, which are there in plenty… /---/ O'Yeah's characterisations are brilliant… his wit is sufficient to enliven a dull day."

The Hindu Literary Review



"This isn’t your typical whodunit that has you biting your nails wondering whodunit as it slowly and cosily unravels clue by clue. /---/ At the risk of forever being put off your Tandoori chicken, do have a read."

Reading Hour Magazine


"An ingeniously stylised dystopian crime novel."


  The Deccan Chronicle 


"…wit, style and that wonderful, cinematic obsession with detail you’ve been missing in novels lately. /---/ There are enough plot twists and romantic encounters that healthy, turn-the-page crime novels are the stuff of, and the socio-political comment, inherent to dystopic visions, makes it presence felt too, in all its bite. Cater to your what-happens-next instinct, and the one that demands smart, kick-ass futuristic prophecies."

First City Magazine


Translation rights managed by  Bridget Wagner Matzie at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency, 1776 Broadway, Suite 1405, New York, NY 10019, USA. Phone: 212-765-6900. http://www.zshliterary.com

About the novel:

“Gautampuri city, Sweden Pradesh. Public Intelligence Officer Barsk reported several deaths due to charring of body parts and possible foul play involving cannibalism, at the Tandoori Moose restaurant, off Friendship Chowk. One BC (bad character) absconding. Suspect is a deviant girl, blonde, around twenty, no particular distinguishing marks except that she was last seen wearing a cook's uniform. Officer requested backup, forensic team. A memo has been sent to all concerned parties...”

This is a novel about a hypothetical if necessarily not entirely true future. In this imagined world, India has been entrusted with the difficult task of governing a Europe in utter chaos. Global warming and the collapse of European Union finances have conspired to wipe out many countries, some of them simply buried under the sand dunes of a growing Sahara desert, and those that remain, such as Sweden, are – I’m sorry to say – reduced to slummy badlands. At this point the population votes for joining an Asian Union for reasons of stability, security and, well, in the hope of getting tastier food and more vegetarian options on the restaurant menus. Trouble is, there remains a disgruntled group among the Swedish natives, who want everything to be like before this futuristic fusion-culture happened. These troublesome folks live in a grungy, crummy native reserve, in the middle of the otherwise shining and prosperous city of Gautampuri (née Gothenburg), and they simply refuse to adjust, they won’t stop speaking Swedish, or stop drinking and fighting (two of the oldest and most glorified Viking cultural traditions), and they will absolutely not turn vegetarian, and they would only embrace nonviolence over their own dead bodies. This is the story of that clash of civilizations. (Please note: this is a fictitious story and the European Union still existed the last time I checked. Which was about two months ago. It may have disappeared by now.)



IN THE CARAVAN MAGAZINE Once-Upon-a-Time-in-Scandinavistan, page 2, page 3 July 2010 issue 

& more in MINT LOUNGE: Adventures in Sweden Pradesh, page 2, page 3.

Now available in all well-stocked semi-decent bookshops all over India! If there's no shop nearby, get it online!