Archive for Arto Paasilinna

reading highlights

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2021 by xi'an

A reading questionnaire I picked somewhere I cannot remember, a while ago, and filled in the lazy days after X’mas… Could have substituted each entry with dozens of others.

  1. Your first memorable reading experience : La Panthère Blanche (a pre-1960 children book about an albinos jaguar in the Amazonia I kept reading as a kid, and then I switched to compulsive bi-yearly reads of David Copperfield…)
  2.  Your hidden masterpiece : Kent’s Burial Rites
  3. An official masterpiece you could not complete : Melville’s Moby Dick (too much technical jargon)
  4. A writer you would dream to meet : Patrick Rothfuss (so that I could hear the end of the trilogy!), Karen Blixen, Victor Hugo, many others
  5. A favourite writer you would rather not meet : Louis Céline (definitely not a favourite person!)
  6. A book you would like to be the main character : Zeno in Yourcenar’s L’Œuvre au Noir (The Abyss)
  7. A book you offer by default : Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day
  8. A book that makes you laugh out loud : Paasilina’s The Year of the Hare
  9. A book you would rather read in the vernacular : every book not written in French or English

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead [book review]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , on March 15, 2020 by xi'an

I read (the French translation of) this novel, by Olga Tokarczuk, whose title comes from a poem by William Blake:

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.

Actually Blake is central to the story as the main narrator is helping a former student of her to translate Blake letters and poems into Polish. Although she is a retired civil engineering. And an astrologer. And a free-thinker. And a feminist. And an ecologist fighting hunting and hunters. Plus a potential hypochondriac. While the book is promoted (at least in French) as an unusual type of countryside murder mystery, the rendering of the psychological complexity of the narrator and of the local community is much more powerful than the murder inquiry itself, in a picaresque spirit that reminded me very much of the best novels of Arto Paasilinna. Because, while supported by the many practical aspects of the almost recluse life of this ageing woman, the story keeps escaping reality and realism, to the point I was utterly surprised by the ending of the book. Apart from the lengthy if necessary passages about astrology, I really enjoyed reading about Janina Duszejko (not Dushenko!).

Mördar-Anders och hans vänner [book review]

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2017 by xi'an

“The medieval city of Visby and its shops were preparing for the approaching Christmas season. Interest rates were down to 0.0, which encouraged people to spend money they did not have so that Christmas sales would break records once again.” (p.332)

Thanks to these forced 24 hours in Schiphol, I bought and read a third book by the Swedish author Jonas Jonasson. Which title is Hitman Anders and the meaning of it all. The themes are almost exactly the same as in the previous novels, namely an improbable bunch of losers, growing like a dustball during the story, being unexpectedly provided (like the hundred-year old man) with a huge sum of money by illegal means and managing to keep it from the reach of the State and of a whole collection of gangsters, with a bit of a road movie outside Stockholm and the same fascination for camper-vans [without an elephant this time] and some mild reflections on the role of religion in Swedish society. Plus the customary appearance of the King and Queen. Not absolutely unpleasant but not superlatively funny and somewhat repetitive. (Like the 20th novel of Paasilinna!)

The one-hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared [book review]

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2016 by xi'an

Scandinavian picaresque, in the spirit of the novels of Paasilinna, and following another book by Jonas Jonasson already commented on the ‘Og, The Girl who saved the King of Sweden, but not as funny, because of the heavy recourse to World history, the main (100 year old) character meeting a large collection of major historical figures. And crossing the Himalayas when escaping from a Russian Gulag, which reminded me of this fantastic if possibly apocryphal The Long Walk where a group of Polish prisoners was making it through the Gobi desert to reach India and freedom (or death). The story here is funny but not that funny and once it is over, there is not much to say about it, which is why I left it on a bookshare table in Monash. The current events are somewhat dull, in opposition to the 100 year life of Allan, and the police enquiry a tad too predictable. Plus the themes are somewhat comparable to The Girl who …, with atom bombs, cold war, brothers hating one another…

the girl who saved the king of Sweden [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2015 by xi'an

When visiting a bookstore in Florence last month, during our short trip to Tuscany, I came upon this book with enough of a funny cover and enough of a funny title (possibly capitalising on the similarity with “the girl who played with fire”] to make me buy it. I am glad I gave in to this impulse as the book is simply hilarious! The style and narrative relate rather strongly to the series of similarly [mostly] hilarious picaresque tales written by Paasilina and not only because both authors are from Scandinavia. There is the same absurd feeling that the book characters should not have this sort of things happening to them and still the morbid fascination to watch catastrophe after catastrophe being piled upon them. While the story is deeply embedded within the recent history of South Africa and [not so much] of Sweden for the past 30 years, including major political figures, there is no true attempt at making the story in the least realistic, which is another characteristic of the best stories of Paasilina. Here, a young girl escapes the poverty of the slums of Soweto, to eventually make her way to Sweden along with a spare nuclear bomb and a fistful of diamonds. Which alas are not eternal… Her intelligence helps her to overcome most difficulties, but even her needs from time to time to face absurd situations as another victim. All is well that ends well for most characters in the story, some of whom one would prefer to vanish in a gruesome accident. Which seemed to happen until another thread in the story saved the idiot. The satire of South Africa and of Sweden is most enjoyable if somewhat easy! Now I have to read the previous volume in the series, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared!