8 January 2008

Arto Paasilinna - The Howling Miller

I don't have that much Finnish literature - the nearest I have, apart from this, is Mikael Niemi's Popular Music, written originally in Swedish, a funny tale of growing up on the Swedish/Finnish border. Paasilinna is apparently one of Finland's most popular authors, and his books have sold in many languages, although it appears that there aren't enough translators from Finnish, as this book was translated from French.

Gunnar Huttunen moves into a mill in a Finnish village in the 1950s. A veteran of the Winter War, he's a huge man of strange habits - he has a talent for imitating people and animals, and likes to howl when excited or depressed. These habits, while initially amusing, irritate the locals, especially the howling which tends to arouse the dogs and wolves of the neighbourhood.

Huttunen is soon unpopular with many in the village, and his responses, often impulsive, lead him into trouble with the law, arrest and committal in a mental hospital, and escape to live off the land.

This is a very funny novel about the intolerance of society for noncomformity, and is an enjoyable romp with a sensitive touch. I look forward to reading his few other works available in English, out of the twenty he's written.


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