on September 23, 2003
If you like Vonnegut, read this book. Paasilinna's humor and sarcasm are very similar to Vonnegut's. However, it is unique in that it has a distinctly Finnish touch to it. Although I have not read it in it's original Finnish text, I believe the translator, Herbert Lomas, must have done a wonderful job. I was laughing out loud in during many parts of this book.
'The Year of the Hare' is a Finnish book that has been translated into English. In it, Vatanen picks up an injured hare and walks away from his life to just hang out for a year. Interesting premise but I think it loses something in the translation.
The most endearing character in the book is, without doubt, the hare who heals from his injuries and becomes unfailingly loyal to Vatanen. The book would have benefited from being told from the hare's perspective. As it is, Vatanen comes off as boring and one dimensional. He is easily distracted and seems to view the events around him with an almost clinical detachment. Despite the hare's undying devotion, when the hare is in danger of being killed by an enraged vicar, Vatanen hides and waits to see what will happen. This, along with other events in the story, served to distance me emotionally from Vatanen.
Some of the characters Vatanen meets in his travels had great potential to influence the story and other characters in either a stabilizing or totally insane way. Had either of these happened, the story could have been uproariously funny and/or inspiring and thought provoking. As it was, each character Vatanen met seemed to pass through his life without making any impact on the story or on the growth of the other characters.
Knowing that national identity and experiences change how we view situations, I believe that this book is "more" when read in it's original language by people who share the ethnicity of both the author and characters. Some books translate well and others don't. This one didn't.