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The Year of the Hare: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, December 28, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
First published in 1975 at the height of the back-to-nature movement, Paasilinna's charming, low-key allegory pursues a journalist abandoning his Helsinki life for the companionship of a pet hare. Approaching middle age--"the hopes of youth had not been realized, far from it"--Kaarlo Vatanen takes off after a hare he and his friend have accidentally hit while driving. He tends to the hare's leg, befriends the critter, deserts his friend, gradually sheds his former life, and eventually refits a cozy cabin in the wilds of Lapland. Paasilinna fashions in each step of Kaarlo's transformation a test of society's institutions, and finds each, not surprisingly, wanting, from law enforcement and the construction industry to the army. The hare, meanwhile, is innocently plucky, leaving his droppings on the altar of a church and in the soup of a Swedish lady. It's cute enough, if baldly obvious in the way that parables often are. (Jan.)
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A Finnish journalist and a photographer out on assignment one June evening suddenly hit a young hare on a country road. The photographer, ultimately unsympathetic, abandons his journalist companion Vatanen, who sets off to find the wounded hare. Vatanen develops a close bond with the hare and in their adventures together, they witness people's avarice, inhumaneness, hypocrisy, cruelty, participation in bureaucracy, and mere existence, rather than living, in the world. This last realization in particular is life altering for Vatanen: he quits his job, discards his hopeless marriage, sacrifices financial security, and sells his most prized possession (a boat). All this Vatanen replaces with a life of odd jobs and on-the-road experiences. This picaresque novel could simply depict a middle-age crisis, but it reaches beyond fantasy or fiction, becoming mythic in its universal themes. The story is inventive, satirical, and quite humorous. It is also refreshingly sentimental in the sense that Paasilinna reaffirms our connection with the animal world and our inherent need for happiness and freedom to maintain quality of life. Janet St. John --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The Year of the Hare is not a boring book and you can read it in an afternoon or two and it's pleasant and has some undercurrent of swirling meaning that is more than apparent. I have read The Life of Pi and found it to be much more substantial. The book jacket compares this book to The Life of Pi, but the comparison is lost on me.
I am certain Arto Paasilinna is very talented and his writing shines in the easy to read, entertaining prose. The story was entertaining enough and the writing had an other worldly quality to it but the adventures and story were not enough to be life altering, but it did provide a morsel of food for thought in a mild, soupy way. The story is comedic with Vatenen rambling about meeting a lot of different people and getting mixed up in different situations as most everyone falls in love with the hare (who is more of the central character), so it's cute and has some mild adventure and light comedy and social commentary.
If you want to read an adventure story that might change your point of view or get you to thinking (hard) - try to read The Life of Pi and let me know if you think the two books compare with one another. I recommend this book if you are a fan of the author or of Finnish lit, or if you need to kill some time in the airport. It's not a bad read it just isn't what it's hyped up to be.
The trouble is, his adventures seem so improbable I just couldn't believe any of it. On top of that, the translation from the original Finnish is atrocious. Instead of the translator taking the author's basic idea and translating it to plane English, he has swapped words for words, and some of the English words he's uses are so complicated and unusual I needed a full blown version of the Oxford Dictionary by my side to understand what the heck he's on about.
Vatanen is the protagonist of this madcap masterpiece of the picaresque. A journalist by profession, his life veers in an unexpected direction after his car hits and injures a wild hare. Vatanen rejects all his responsibilities and relationships and embarks on an intense moment-to-moment existence.
From this new perspective, his former life is revealed as absurd. Our hero falls in with various other misfits and a series of charming and unlikely adventures ensue. Though Vatanen's "achievements" in this new existence are limited, by the end there is no doubt that he is "a man to be reckoned with".
The Year of the Hare is a book at once simple and deep. It's a thoroughly enjoyable read that challenges the reader's assumptions about what's important in life.
The theme is finding out what is really important and following your heart .. and being open to rewarding connections with other people. To me it is a perfect illustration of all the things I find so attractive and appealing about Finns and Finland.
Heartwarming (with a quirky, subversive twist) and highly recommended.