Jouni K. Kemppainen: Onnellinen mies. Arto Paasilinnan elämä [A happy man. The life of Arto Paasilinna]

21 June 2012 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Onnellinen mies. Arto Paasilinnan elämä
[A happy man. The life of Arto Paasilinna]
Espoo: Paasilinna, 2012. 307 p.
ISBN 978-952-5856-37-8
€ 28, hardback

Arto Paasilinna (born 1942) is an uncanny phenomenon. For Finns he is a popular, prolific author of picaresque novels – which in the 1970s, 80s and 90s were praised by the critics, while the books he produced later received less acclaim, though most of them have sold tens of thousands of copies. Paasilinna’s best-known novel is Jäniksen vuosi (The Year of the Hare, 1975). In Europe – particularly in France and Italy – he is considered to be a major natural philosopher. However, the charming social man of the world was capable of turning into a violent ruffian; journalist Jouni K. Kemppainen’s fluent biography highlights every aspect of the author’s character. The book describes the development of a boy from a poor northern Finnish family to an international best-selling author (his works have been translated into more than 40 languages) and introduces interesting correspondence between the author and his publisher. Kemppainen emphasises some recurring themes in Paasilinna’s work: relations between humans and animals, travelling. In 2009 the author suffered a head injury while drinking, and lost his memory almost completely. The title of his latest, thirty-fifth novel is  Elävänä omissa hautajaisissa (‘Alive at his own funeral’, 2009). The impression that this biography leaves on the reader’s mind is a picture of a now gentle man who delights in the fact that he has accomplished all that he is reported to have accomplished – and in that he managed to survive.
Translated by David McDuff

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