Finland 100: The Year of the Hare

mokkikesa2016

Sometimes – especially in January? – it’s all too much, and you just want to get away from it all.

Quit the job, leave your partner and home behind, and escape.

Just head north and live in the forest, from hand to mouth, borrow someone’s summer cabin and go fishing, take the odd job if you have to, and when you’ve had enough, just move on.

Something is bound to come up. Something will surely happen.

In this book, one man does just that…

A journalist on a work trip runs over a hare. He decides to take care of it until it gets better – or perhaps the hare is taking care of him.

janiksenvuosiThe hare is no respecter of persons: he leaves his droppings in front of the altar in church, and in the dignitaries’ soup at a grand official dinner. He gets the journalist into hot water, but often gets him out of it, too.

Their adventures together are hilarious. They encounter international military exercises, a forest fire rescue operation, a thieving crow, a wild bear, a conspiracy theorist, a busload of German tourists, and Russian border guards. Large amounts of strong alcohol are involved at most stages. It’s all so very Finnish, it is a masterpiece of world literature in the UNESCO Collection of Representative Works.

yearofthehareThe countdown to the 100th birthday of the independent state of Finland has begun. Tomorrow, 100 books from Finland will be presented to the London Library. The Year of the Hare/Jäniksen vuosi by Arto Paasilinna should be one of them.

It is one of publisher WSOY’s twelve classics to receive Finland’s 100th anniversary covers this year. Written in 1975, it became a huge hit in French translation. The English translation is by Herbert Lomas, published by Peter Owen: you can read the first pages and buy it online here. The film is 40 years old this year, but the story won’t go away. It’s even been turned into a hip-hop track by Gasellit – “Bye, I’m leaving town, phone’s off, can’t reach me, see you, I’m starting my year of the hare…”

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