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Translated by Herbert Lomas
The international bestseller. A novel of one man’s existential journey away from his life and in to the wild. With a hare.
Vatanen is a journalist in Finland. The car he is riding in accidentally hits a young wild hare. The injured animal scampers off and the car moves on—without Vatanen. He has disembarked to find the hare and nurse it back to health. With the hare in his arms, Vatanen starts walking. Travelling through forests and seasons, he finds himself on a journey of comic adventures and near misses.
Embracing this life, Vatanen decides to quit his job, leave his wife, sell his possessions and spend a year in the wild. As the hare slowly heals, so too does Vatanen. This is a picaresque tale of finding happiness where there was anger, simplicity where there was complexity, and meaning where there was none.
It is a book in the wonderful tradition of Watership Down and Life of Pi. It is a story you will return to again and again. It is a story of a man and a wild hare.
‘The world is full of books about midlife crises but few of them are as good as this and I think we have the hare to thank for it. A midlife crisis is better with a hare, because animals teach us how to live.’
‘Rarely do reviewers come upon a novel they believe to be a masterpiece. This is such a work.’
‘A moral compass that points firmly north and out of doors, away from cities.’
‘A fable of the joys of freedom.’
‘An enjoyably quirky fable and a warm vindication of eccentricity. Paasilinna writes with effortless simplicity and rude insight and it’s impossible to keep a straight face at some Scandinavian misery-mongering. The novel, which was first published in 1975, stands the test of time rather well.’
‘This picaresque tale is really a hymn to freedom…it is also a hymn to nature, which is the only ‘character’ to emerge from the saga with its integrity intact…In this year of sporting extravaganzas, environmental disasters, political grandstanding and economic meltdown, Paasilinna’s gem comes as a welcome antidote to all of the above. It firmly points the way back to a rediscovery of sylvian simplicity and away from the complexity and constraints of urban life, resetting our moral compass.’
‘A man’s search for a more meaningful life but without pomposity and with much self-mockery towards our many foibles…Perfect for the bus trip to work.’
‘If only midlife crises were this interesting in real life, though perhaps in Finland they are….[Journalist Vatanen] embarks on a series of picaresque adventures with an escapist fantasy ending that reminded me of a classic Australian short story, The Jumping Jeweller of Lavender Bay. Combined with the simple, solemn Scandinavian style, the snowy landscape and the charismatic hare, this magical ending gives this story the aura of a timeless fairytale.’