The Beggar and the Hare

Tuomas Kyrö, trans. from the Finnish by David McDuff. Atria/Marble Arch, $16 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-4767-7536-4
Modern Finland, from the streets of Helsinki to Lapland’s berry bogs, comes alive in this satiric retelling of the 1975 Finnish picaresque fable The Year of the Hare. Vatanescu, the update’s antihero, is a down-on-his-luck Romanian transported to the Finnish capital by an organized crime/begging syndicate. He hopes to earn money to buy his son football boots, but instead finds it a struggle simply to survive. What seems like a stroke of luck (a free barbecue at the beggars’ camp, courtesy of a trash can) ignites the wrath of the syndicate’s man-on-the-scene, the Russian thug Yegor Kugar, who sends Vatanescu on the run, where he eventually finds a companion: an injured rabbit. His seeming misfortune results in sympathetic support from such unlikely sources as a Vietnamese restaurant owner, a retired Finnish couple in their country retreat, and, most surprising and helpful of all, a politician. At length, the erstwhile beggar and the rabbit join forces with a magician (of course). Kyrö pokes fun at the powerful and powerless, freedom and oppression, charity and greed, technology and tradition, obscurity and celebrity, Finns and non-Finns, appealing to readers with irreverence throughout. By intermingling caricature (Yegor’s memoir), commentary (the politician’s strategy), and comedy (Vatanescu in the sauna with the old Finn), Kyrö concocts a cynical and hilarious world that informs one man’s journey in search of a simple life of modest comfort and decent values—for himself, for his family, and for his rabbit. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/02/2014
Release date: 08/05/2014
Genre: Fiction
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