3 June 2011

The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna

'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.


  1. Oh, what a disappointment! That Vatanen sounds annoying! Sorry.

  2. Ya - good thing it's a short book.

  3. You're right, sometimes cultural and linguistic touches lend another dimension to a character who might otherwise seem flat and dull. thanks for the review. I think i'm going to knock this one off my TBR mountain.


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