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Arto Paasilinna – På spanning efter farfar

Posted in Book reviews, and Fiction

Few years ago an acquaintance of mine asked me to bring her one Paasilinna’s book from Finland. By then, I haven’t heard about him before – maybe because my interest in Finnish literature has never been the greatest one. But now, after all this time, I stumbled across his books in library and thanks to its lovely cover I’ve decided to give it a try. Still, Paasilinna is one of the most successful novelists of Finland and his books were translated into 27 languages. That speaks for itself, no?

Verneri Väisänen, a well-known tanner, lives with his wife Letitia and grandson Aakusti in Helsinki. And from time to time, he decides to rediscover himself, enjoy missed freedom. So he disappears, goes on some trip, leaving his family behind and updated only by few postcards, sent carefully from slightly different destinations so he can’t be traced down. It could be almost some thriller but no. På spaning efter farfar recalls rather a collection of absurd, funny stories.

På spaning efter farfar is like an adventure fiction for adults. How many thirty-somethings do not sometimes think about leaving all responsibilities behind and go travel, moreover with all costs being covered? If you ask me, I would do it probably anytime. And so does Aakusti, Verneri’s grandson, who’s supposed find his grandfather and bring him home. He does succeed, but instead of going home, they both decide to travel further across few European countries, taking part in various adventures. I would say it has a specific kind of humour and I believe it may not appeal to everyone.

There were few things I didn’t like, though. First of all, there was this ”funny” misogynist fact about grandma Letitia, portrayed as an annoying beast preventing Verneri to have any kind of fun in the world. “These women, ugh!!” Sure, this book was published for the first time in 1970s, but anyway it was hard for me to swallow. The second issue I had with this book was how cheating on the others was something fine, okay, as long as the betrayed person won’t know. Hey, it’s okay to do whatever with whoever as long as you have each other’s consent, but not the opposite. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I couldn’t find these comments funny. Plus, honestly, the whole storyline is superficial for me, as I used to read books about close interpersonal relationships, society, and not having any deeper meaning included was little bit disappointment.

Apart from mentioned issues I still enjoyed reading På spanning efter farfar. It was hilarious and typical book for grabbing when one is feeling blue or overwhelmed. It took me a while to overcome my surprise regarding Paasilinna’s style, but it was a quick read and served its purpose.

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