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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:
• Thursday, June 17th, 2010

John Banville was born in 1945 in Wexford, Ireland, from a father who worked in a garage and a housewife mother. He is the youngest of three siblings, his older brother and sister are also novelists.

He started his education in a Christian Brothers primary School followed by St Peter’s College secondary school in Wexford.

After leaving school John Banville worked for Aer Lingus in Dublin as a clerk, which gave him the opportunity to travel extensively. He moved on and has worked in journalism since 1969. He was a member of the Irish Arts Council from 1984 to 1988 and literary editor for The Irish Times from 1988 to 1999.

He lives today in Dublin with his American wife whom he married in 1969 and their two adult sons.

John Banville wrote several novels, short stories and plays. His best-known novel The Sea, which is his fourteenth, was published in 2005 and won the Man Booker Prize the same year.

List of John Banville’s novels:
Nightspawn, 1971
Birchwood, 1973
Dr Copernicus, 1976
Kepler, 1981
The Newton Letter: An Interlude, 1982
Mefisto,1986
The Book of Evidence,1989
Ghosts, 1993
Athena,1995
The Ark, 1996
The Untouchable, 1997
Eclipse, 2000
Shroud, 2002
Prague Pictures: Portrait of a city, 2003
The Sea, 2005
The Infinities, 2009

The Sea is about Max Morden, a retired Irish art historian and a newly bereaved husband in his sixties. Arriving at a crossroads in his existence, he sought some comfort and escapism by returning to live in the same summer house on the Irish coast, where the Grace family once lived many years ago with their twin-children, Chloe and Myles. They became his friends in that memorable summer of his childhood, when they were all in their early teens.

Max Morden, aware of his old age, his mortal vulnerability and obsessed by death, reminisces about the past and lives in a state of constant reverie tinted with melancholic black humour. He is constantly reviewing his previous life and the time he had spent with his late wife Anna who died of cancer. He also dwells on the unforgettable summer spent with the wealthy and attractive Grace family that changed his life.

As if his recent bereavement rekindled the loss of Chloe and Myles, buried in the sea by drowning a long time ago, their deaths made him aware early in his life about the meaning of love and death, an experience which was thrust upon him as a young boy and continued to haunt him as an old man.

After his wife’s death, Max Morden decides to go back to the same Irish seaside resort of his childhood, but this time at the end of his journey, as an old man, in order to seek some solace for his meaningless existence.

The main themes of this short, subtle, remarkable, deep and powerful novel are love, loss and sad memories. Max Morden’s nostalgic thoughts of the past drift swiftly from one period to another, like the high and low tides of the sea or the waxing and waning of the moon.

The Sea has hardly a plot and no suspense, save the twist at the end, when the reader discovers that Miss Vavasour, the Cedars’ tenant, is the one and same Rose, who was Chloe’s and Myles’ governess some fifty years earlier.

The strength and beauty of the novel lies in its eloquence, intense emotions, elegant, lyrical and poetic prose, which makes it a refined work of art, that compels readers to commence their own meditation.