Kari Hotakainen: Ihmisen osa [The human lot]

9 October 2009 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kari HotakainenIhmisen osa
[The human lot]
Helsinki: Siltala,  2009. 276 p.
ISBN 978-952-234-021-4
30 €, hardback

Kari Hotakainen (born 1957) is one of Finland’s most internationally successful contemporary authors, and is widely known for his children’s books, plays and television screenplays. Like many of Hotakainen’s other works, Ihmisen osa is a contemporary novel, but it is one that sees the author being angrier and more ferocious than before; this is a story that will move readers and make them laugh. Its plot gets off to a slightly ungainly start: an impatient writer wants to ‘buy someone’s life’ for the purpose of turning it into material for a novel and is prepared to pay an elderly widow €7,000 for hers. A former yarn-seller tells him all about her life as she remembers it, and the writer writes it up into his own book – the husband’s wilful silence, a serious accident suffered by one of the three children, gradually being revealed. Having got the beginning out of the way, Hotakainen then puts his foot on the gas: in his laconic style he throws light on the conditions at the edges of contemporary working life: the business of selling images, selfishness and greed, the power of words. The yarn-seller writes to one of her children: ‘Don’t rise above your station. There’s no air up there, and you’ll get dizzy.’ Hotakainen’s novel Juoksuhaudantie (‘Trench Road’) was awarded the Finlandia Prize for Fiction in 2002. It has been translated into 17 languages and was awarded the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize in 2004.

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