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The Year of the Hare


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In this back-to-nature picaresque from Finland, a ``dissatisfied, cynical'' journalist adopts an injured leveret as his companion on a series of mildly quixotic, satirically rendered wanderings. Leaving behind a spiritless job and a loveless marriage in Helsinki, middle-aged Kaarlo Vatanen lights out for the territories, the hare de-civilizing him as much as he tames it. While the hare wavers between companion, pet and symbol, the pair's innocent retreat is complicated at every turn by either man or nature. Foresters, bureaucrats and endangered-species laws are as likely to threaten them as bears, ravens and forest fires as they travel to the Arctic Circle and across the Russian border. Paasilinna's low-key narrative is translated plainly, but it never makes the most of its protagonists' experiences, despite such tempting scenarios as a bear hunt hosted for diplomats by the Finnish military or a defrocked divinity student looking for animal sacrifices for Finno-Ugric rituals. Instead, these adventures of a man and his hare unfold as superficially, though with as much ease, as a daydream. (Sept.)

"His protagonists...are like Vatanen, strong - some very strong - eccentric and often loners. He makes sardonic fun of Finnish bureaucrats, German tourists, the Finnish military and selfish young people."

While he is out on assignment, Vatanen, an unhappy Helsinki journalist, accidently hits a hare with his car. A sudden urge prompts him to leave the car and follow the animal into the woods where he bandages its injured leg. Then Vatanen keeps going. With the hare as his buddy, the former journalist ditches his wife, sells his boat, and begins anew in northern Finland, making a living doing odd jobs and finding trouble wherever he goes. In a series of hilarious adventures Vatanen and the hare outwit a thieving crow, bloodthirsty hounds, drunken revelers, an angry bear, a religious zealot, and many pompous politicians who wander into the north. Verdict Although the first English translation appeared in 1995, this is the first of Paasilinna's works to be released in the United States. With its fiercely independent protagonist and its depiction of Finland's wild northland, this comic novel will offer readers a rare opportunity to experience Finland and read one of that country's most popular authors.-Andrea Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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