So, like most people, my introduction to Scandinavian literature (apart from a vague interest in Norse myths as a child and a bit of Ibsen in 6th form) was via Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. I followed Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with a bit of Jo Nesbo – so far so blood-soaked and gritty – so finding the more whimsical side of Nordic fiction was bound to happen at some point*
I started off a year or so ago with Erlend Loe’s Doppler – the story of a man who runs off to live in the woods and his relationship with a baby moose – and followed that, again like a lot of people, with The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared – the tale of an old man who, after a life full of incident, runs away for adventures with various criminals, a stolen bag of cash and an elephant. In both cases the word ‘quirky’ was one that sprang to mind.
All Scandinavian so far. With the Rabbit Back Literature Society I have now strayed beyond Norway and Sweden into the Nordic realm of Finnish literature. Prior to reading this the only thing I really knew about Finland was how hard the language is to learn (16 cases…..) and how it seems to result in a lot of extra vowels**. Anyway, enough preamble – to the book review!
The Rabbit Back Literature Society seems to contain elements of many of the books previously described. The heroine, Ella, spends most of the novel investigating the mysterious literary group which she is invited to join – a little bit of the crime genre there – but there is also a strong thread of the mythological running through it. It is darkly funny rather than quirky and it actually has, for me, quite a bleak ending. I think I liked it all the more for that. The book has been compared to magical realism and Jasper Fforde – quite accurately in my opinion, so I am hoping for many more books from Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen. (So long as I don’t have to learn Finnish to read them, here’s hoping Lola Rogers is available to do another great job on the translation……)
*For the record, when it comes to film, I went straight for the funnies. I’ve never seen any Ingmar Bergman but I loved Trollhunter.
**It has come to my attention that, despite writing in Swedish, Tove Jansson was Finnish. I am a big fan of the Moomins…..