The Year of the Hare – Arto Paasilinna

year of the hareThis is the English translation of a very popular Finnish book with an unusual premise. A journalist, Vatanen gets fed up with his life – work, marriage, the works. So during one assignment he just escapes. And he escapes with a wild hare that his car has an accident with. This is the story of their adventures together.

Vatanen sells his boat and lives off that money. When he runs out, he takes up odd jobs – fixing log cabins for example. During all this time he gets quite attached to the hare. Some of the most intense passages occur when he is trying to rescue the hare from one trouble or another.

The descriptions of the Finnish countryside are very evocative. There is snow everywhere and in everything – in the way he dresses to what he eats to how he travels. At one point he is hunting a bear on skis and he pursues the bear over several days – crossing the border into Russia unknowingly. The Arctic way of life is probably what I will remember from this book.

Existential angst is the overarching theme. Vatanen chooses to resolve this by just abandoning everything and escaping to the snowy Finnish countryside. Does it end well? I am not quite sure the writer resolves the question effectively.

The book is quite short at 135 pages. In fact the last few chapters are a bit abrupt with a new character being introduced quite randomly. I wondered if my copy was missing a few pages. It wasn’t – the writer just seems to have lost patience or was up against a deadline.

On the overall, it is an interesting book – particularly given the short length, but not unmissable.

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