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En bra plats i skallen review

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Issue number: 2024:1


En bra plats i skallen

(A Good Place in the Brain)

by Marcus Berggren
reviewed by Henry Jeppesen

As well as being a writer, Marcus Berggren (born 1990) is a well-known Swedish stand-up comedian and musician. He has appeared on Swedish TV and radio countless times, including presenting Morgonpasset on national radio station P3, and as a participant in several TV comedy programmes such as Idol Extra, Parlamentet and Best in Test. His style of comedy has made him popular all over the country. He also runs the podcast Tombola with fellow comedian Carl Stanley. En bra plats i skallen (A Good Place in the Brain), a semi-autobiographical work, is his first novel.

The book is set in the 2000s in and around Kungälv near Gothenburg, with the main character, teenager Felix, trying to escape his suburban life through music, but not too sure how to go about it. He forms a few bands over the course of the story, including one with school bullies and other unsavoury characters, and plays some rather eventful gigs. He develops an eating disorder at one stage, and throughout the book experiments with alcohol and drugs. He also has a few liaisons with some female ‘companions’ (he even unintentionally gets one of them pregnant). He experiences many ups and downs, both elation and misery, and his journey through his teenage years is very funny in places (such as when he and his friends invite some random girls to a party and end up being robbed by them). Yet, in other places, it gets quite dark; a fellow drug user acquaintance dies of an overdose, his own near-fatal dabblings with illicit substances, and the mother of his child has a miscarriage.

In places, this book reminds me of very different (to each other) films and books in English that I have digested over the years, including Susan Townsend’s series of books about Adrian Mole (because of his teenage musings), and Danny Boyle’s 1996 film Trainspotting (because of the narcotics-related escapades), as well as Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis’s autobiography Scar Tissue (because of even more narcotics-related escapades).

As noted earlier, this book focuses on both serious and humorous subject-matter and would be recommended reading for readers of a similar age to Felix as regards what not to do in similar situations. Plus, the noughties nostalgia elements would appeal to younger readers (or readers younger than me, anyway!). It wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, mainly due to all the drug references. Many people, however, are absorbed and enchanted by books about people trying to make it in the music business. And, on the plus side, the book makes me think of my own teenage years of the 1980s and 1990s, and how thankfully tame and uneventful they were in comparison with Felix’s/Marcus Berggren’s (I think Bailey’s was as strong as it got for me). Although I couldn’t therefore relate to the story of Felix’s teenage years of alcohol and drug addiction, I still really enjoyed the book.

Marcus Berggren sitting on stool in red shirt
Marcus Berggren. Photo: Per Englund.

En bra plats i skallen

Kaunitz-Olsson, 2022

438 pages

Foreign rights: Kaunitz-Olsson

Marcus Berggren is a well-known stand-up comedian and broadcaster. As well as A Good Place in the Brain, he has also written a collection of poems, The Little Worry and The Big Worry, which came out in 2023.