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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

A Fool's Paradise

Anita Konkka

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To purchase A Fool's Paradise

Title: A Fool's Paradise
Author: Anita Konkka
Genre: Novel
Written: 1978 (Eng. 2006)
Length: 88 pages
Original in: Finnish
Availability: A Fool's Paradise - US
A Fool's Paradise - UK
A Fool's Paradise - Canada
  • Finnish title: Hullun taivaassa
  • Translated by A.D.Haun and Owen Witesman

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Our Assessment:

A- : deceptively simple, appealing, well-told

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 26/8/2006 Jerome de Groot

  From the Reviews:
  • "(A)n elliptical novel of alienation and marginalisation (.....) It is kind of existential, but in a gentle way. Very little of note happens, and the novel drifts around. Sometimes sharp and funny, often poignant, and more than a little strange, it is on the edge of surrealism but perhaps more interested in the fact that, as the narrator says, "there are a lot of things in this world that can't be explained"." - Jerome de Groot, The Guardian

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The narrator of A Fool's Paradise is a woman who "was supposed to become a scholar" but gave up academic life a few years earlier and is now drifting rather aimlessly through life. She acknowledges that she's "crazy" -- but:

I don't reveal it to anyone and don't disturb the environment because I don't want to end up in the madhouse, having worked there and seen what it's like.
       Compared to many of the people she meets she's certainly not particularly mentally unhinged, but despite an outward appearance of being relatively grounded she does live in a world where reality is given no preference over fantasy. Much of her narrative is devoted to her dreams, which are as significant to her as what she encounters in real life (which, surreal as some of this is, often is hardly less odd than what she dreams). But she admits: "Dreams confuse my feelings" -- perhaps because she doesn't know which world to opt for.
       Even in reality she moves differently than most: hers isn't the most straightforward approach (though she can play along in society as well as most if she feels like it). Typically, she describes a boy she was in love with two decades earlier:
He seemed so lonely that I fell in love with him. I thought that he was shy and that was why he didn't call me. I started calling him because I imagined that he loved me. In the end he got tired of it and said that he didn't love me. I wasn't his type. I was too forward. He said he wanted to live his life in a transit lounge, and then he left the country and I haven't heard from him since. A couple of years ago I was waiting in the Frankfurt airport for a flight to Finland and looked carefully, but I didn't see him.
       Though focussed on the everyday -- the small occurrences and encounters (and dreams) -- there is some progression in the novel (though she admits at one point: "I'm like Oblomov", and she is, indeed, not much more active than him). She avoids work (and the pressure from the unemployment office), for example, but then ultimately takes a job. But it is her relationship with Alexander which is the most prominent of the storylines. He's married, and wife Vera is also a constant issue -- and sometime presence. The narrator doesn't really seem to mind taking things however they come -- and with Alexander, as with almost everything else, she's almost entirely subjective: "He's so complicated, and I only see him from one perspective: rose-colored."
       At one point she finds: "It's the time of year when I can't sleep and can't stay awake", but that seems merely a physical manifestation of her (all-season) blurry state between the real world and her dreams. Yet, as she mentioned, she hides this 'craziness' well and goes through life appearing, more or less, normal -- and it's this drifting through life, observing more than participating, putting her own spin on things, and living also in her dreams that makes for much of the book's appeal.
       Konkka has found exactly the right tone for her novel, and it's this that makes A Fool's Paradise such a success. It could be terribly annoying (and, in summary, perhaps even sounds inevitably so), but Konkka's narrator surprises almost on every page with her unusual approach and outlook and easily wins the reader over. Most enjoyable, and very appealing.

Note: Unforgivably, the name of the great Polish aphorist Stanislaw Jerzy Lec is mangled in the book (as 'Lecia'). It speaks for Konkka that she quotes him -- but what a sad sign it is that apparently neither the translators nor the (copy-)editors recognised it (and this at the otherwise so worldly Dalkey Archive Press !).

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A Fool's Paradise: Reviews: Anita Konkka: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Anita Konkka is a leading Finnish writer.

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© 2006-2021 the complete review

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