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• Saturday, June 14th, 2014

Arto Paasilinna, one of seven children – five sons and two daughters – was born in 1942 in Kittilä, Lapland in Finland to a civil servant father and a housewife mother. He studied at the General and Elementary School Line at the Lapland Folk Academy.

As a young teenager, Paasilinna worked in various jobs. One of them was as a farm labourer and a wood cutter. He says: “I was a boy of forests, working the land, timber, fishing, hunting, the whole culture that is found in my books”. Later he worked as a journalist, writer and editor for various newspapers and literary magazines.

In 1975, finding journalism “more superficial and meaningless”, he decided to dedicate his time to writing his novel, The Year Of The Hare. He sells his boat to finance the novel which becomes an instant success. From now on Paasilinna is able to live off his writing. He becomes the most acclaimed writer in Finland and in other Scandinavian countries. He is a prolific writer and millions of his books have been sold worldwide.

The Year Of The Hare, Arto Paasilinna’s favourite and most famous novel, has been translated into several languages. It was first published in Finnish in 1975 and in English in 1995. The Year Of The Hare was selected by the Unesco Collection of Representative Works which funded the English translation by Herbert Lomas. It has won three major international awards and was twice adapted for feature films: a Finnish film in 1977 named “Jäniksen vuosi” and a French version in 2006 called: “Le lièvre de Vatanen”.

The middle-aged Finnish journalist, Kaarlo Vatanen, and his middle-aged colleague photographer,“two dissatisfied, cynical men” are driving back to Helsinki from Heinola, after an assignment for their weekly magazine, when their car hits a leaping leveret. The photographer stops the car and Vatanen goes looking for the wounded animal in the nearby forest. He finds it with a broken left hind leg and holds him in his arms for comfort before nursing him.

In the Chinese zodiac, the rabbit – cousin of the hare – has represented Hope for Chinese people for a long time and in the Chinese legend, the moon goddess, Chang’e, had a rabbit as a pet.

Vatanen, who is going through a middle-age crisis, instantly senses a bond between him and the leveret, who will become his inseparable companion. From this moment on, Vatanen finds himself magically connected with nature away from the strain, turbulence and rampant consumerism of urban life which he can no longer endure.

Vatanen feels free from all constraints for the first time in his life. He decides to sell his possessions, abandon his wife and his job after realizing that he neither cares for his unloving wife nor for his empty, boring job and travels across Finland’s wild nature away from civilization. Vatanen chooses the path of no return with no regrets, seeking an adventurous new life. A fascinating exchange occurs: the conventional Vatanen becomes an untamed man while the wild hare turns into a domesticated animal. In each others company, man and animal will help one another to heal their afflictions: psychological for one and physical for the other.

During this one year several surreal events happen, Vatanen lives doing odd jobs, repairing a hut or cutting logs in the forest as well as fighting a ferocious forest fire. He even gets engaged to Leila, an attractive young lawyer, while being drunk but once sober he surprisingly has no recollection of taking such an important decision. While living and working in the forest, Vatanen has to fight a ravenous, cheeky raven and a dangerous, vicious bear and follow it across the border to the Soviet Union which leads to his arrest by Russian soldiers accusing him of spying.

The satirical and cynical Year Of The Hare is a story of a dissatisfied, embittered man who takes his courage in hand by giving up everything to fulfill his dreams in the hope of attaining a serene life. It’s a quest for freedom and a journey of exciting adventures. Consequently, this tale unleashes the dream that lies deep inside each one of us: the search for the meaning of life and the yearning to lead a simple harmonious existence in peace with nature beyond the bounds.

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Author:
• Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Peter Mayle was born in Brighton, England in 1939, the youngest of three children. He was educated at Brighton College, England, then at Harrison College Barbados, to where his father had been transferred as a Foreign Office employee.

Mayle left school at the age of sixteen and returned to England. In 1957 he was a trainee at Shell Oil in London before working as a creative director for BBDO, the world-wide advertising agency network based in New York City. In 1975 Mayle left his job to dedicate his time to writing books and in 1986 decided to move to the south of France.

A Year In Provence received the Best Travel Book Of The Year award in 1989 and Author Of The Year prize in 1992. Mayle was made a “chevalier de la légion d’honneur” by the French government in 2002 for his cultural contribution. He lives with his third wife and their two dogs in Lourmarin (Luberon) in France.

Peter Mayle has written several books that have been translated into a number of languages as well as articles for periodicals. A Year In Provence became a BBC TV mini-series in 1993 and A Good Year was made into a film directed by Ridley Scott and released in 2006.

The Marseille Caper is the second novel of a trilogy: The Vintage Caper in 2009, The Marseille Caper in 2012 and The Corsican Caper in 2014.

A tender for building on the last remaining seafront plot in sunny Marseille called “Anse Des Pêcheurs”, is the subject of a three-way dispute between Francis Reboul, the shady French billionaire who is hiding behind his American front-man, Sam Levitt, the sleuth in the Caper trilogy, William Wapping, a corrupt and bankrupt English Lord and former bookmaker cum thug, and Eiffel, a Paris based company represented by madame Caroline Dumas.

Elena Morales, the alluring, insurance agent from Los Angeles and Sam Levitt’s companion, is also invited by Francis Reboul to join Levitt as his guest in Marseille.

Sam Levitt presents himself to the members of the committee as an architect from an American company interested in the building project. William Wapping, who has been bribing his way through everything he wanted, will try bribery to win the “Anse Des Pêcheurs” project but to no avail. That is when he decides to play dirty in order to reach his target. When he discovers that intimidation brings no result he goes further by having his thugs knock Philippe, the journalist friend of Sam Levitt, off his scooter and as a last resort they kidnap Elena Morales.

Apart from the confrontation between the contenders and all the thrills involving the two finalists, the author takes the reader through the charming old narrow streets of old town Marseille and its old port, not forgetting the history of the whole of the south of France, recounted by Levitt which made Elena call him “a walking guide book”.

The author also describes good and unpretentious bistros serving delectable food as well as gastronomic restaurants with sophisticated delightful dishes and good wine, not to mention the constant flowing champagne and various pastries and bakery items.

The author describes French epicurism in detail, the slow pace of life in the idyllic sunny Mediterranean south of France and the “joie de vivre” encountered in this part of the world where food is taken very seriously.

An easy, enjoyable and entertaining, light-hearted read with a simple plot and a happy ending, written with a great deal of fondness by a south of France lover and a “bon vivant”. The book portrays the indulgence in a good life used to its fullest, a sort of an escapism from the everyday hectic routine elsewhere in the world.

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