The Year of the Hare - Arto Paasilinna

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The Year of the Hare

Arto Paasilinna

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To purchase The Year of the Hare

Title: The Year of the Hare
Author: Arto Paasilinna
Genre: Novel
Written: 1975 (Eng. 1995)
Length: 135 pages
Original in: Finnish
Availability: The Year of the Hare - US
The Year of the Hare - UK
The Year of the Hare - Canada
Le lièvre de Vatanen - France
Das Jahr des Hasen - Deutschland
L'anno della lepre - Italia
  • Finnish title: Jäniksen vuosi
  • Translated by Herbert Lomas
  • The Penguin edition (2010) comes with a Foreword by Pico Iyer

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Our Assessment:

B+ : enjoyable, very Finnish yarn

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
World Lit. Today . Spring/1996 Kathleen Osgood Dana

  From the Reviews:
  • "Perhaps Paasilinna's novel is so popular for this precise reason: it stands in stark contrast to the urge toward Europe that animates so much of Finnish urban life and culture today. (...) Herbert Lomas's translation is appropriately comic, although highly individualistic. (...) Despite these small oddities, the translation is as fluent and as highly readable as Paasilinna's delightful original version." - Kathleen Osgood Dana, World Literature Today

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:

       Kaarlo Vatanen isn't particularly happy with his life. He doesn't like his wife, and his job as a journalist isn't very satisfying either:

The magazine succeeded, but not by transmitting information -- by diluting it, muffling its significance, cooking it into chatty entertainment. What a profession !
       He's pretty fed up, and when the colleague he's driving with hits a hare with his car and Vatanen goes off to look for the injured animal everything comes together suggesting and allowing for a more or less clean break. Vatanen finds the hare and patches it up -- and lets his colleague drive off without him, leaving him in the middle of the wilderness. But rather than hitch a ride and follow him, and just return to the same old deadening life, Vatanen opts to give it all up. He sells his one luxury, a boat, and decides to go it more or less alone in the Finnish countryside. Well, with his hare.
       It's an escape-from-civilisation, back-to-nature story in the tradition of Aleksis Kivi's Seven Brothers (though Vatanen isn't nearly as hapless as the brothers are). Vatanen takes odd jobs in secluded places -- fixing up a hut, breaking up a log-raft, working in the forest. He's not totally on his own, joining up with others for some jobs, confronted by others at some of his secluded workplaces (such as when the military shows up for some war-games). But the hare is his only true companion, and one from which he will not be parted -- though several times others show far too much interest in the animal.
       Fighting fires and wildlife -- from bears to a very pesky raven --, carrying cows (and pulling them out of marshes), teaching "an old Lapland roué to swim", and the occasional alcoholic over-indulgence, Vatanen and his hare have quite a few adventures. Told in short chapters, The Year of the Hare offers enjoyable yarns: fun adventures, agreeably related -- though at times Paasilinna seems in a bit of a rush to get to the next wild story and doesn't flesh an idea out as fully as he could.
       The book culminates with a wild chase across the snow that leads Vatanen (and his hare) into the Soviet Union, and eventually lands him in jail when he's sent back to Finland, a long count of charges against him having accumulated over the course of the year. Even prison wouldn't be that bad if he could share his cell with his hare, but that's prohibited. Good for Vatanen, then, that he has some very damning evidence against a very, very important figure in hand, which makes for an immediate special dispensation reuniting man and hare. But it's also no surprise that prison, too, can't hold Vatanen or his hare for long.
       Paasilinna tells a good story -- or rather: tells many good stories. The Year of the Hare is more an accumulation of episodes, not always neatly connected, but it's so good-natured and has so much varied action -- and that animal-appeal -- that it makes for a consistently enjoyable read. Paasilinna doesn't weigh things down with too much social or political commentary, and has fun at almost everyone's expense; it leaves the book feeling fairly light but there's quite a bit of cleverness in all the fun as well.
       Typical Paasilinna, it's an easy and worthwhile read, an escape from civilisation Finnish style (centred around a man -- and a hare -- who are more resourceful than most).

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The Year of the Hare: Reviews: Arto Paasilinna: Other books by Arto Paasilinna under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Prolific author Arto Paasilinna lived 1942 to 2018. One of the most popular authors in Finland, his work has been widely translated.

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