The Year of the Hare – Arto Paasilinna

The Year of the Hare is the first book I’ve read by Finnish author Arto Paasilinna. The author’s most famous novel has an exciting story that will end in no time. However, something was missing from this book. While I was always hoping for more depth, I had to make do with the exciting experiences of the character. Unfortunately, it didn’t give me much to think about.


The Year of the Hare tells the story of Vatanen. Vatanen is a middle-aged journalist. However, he is not where he wants to be in life. He is not satisfied with his job or his marriage. The book begins with Vatanen and his photographer colleague bumping into a rabbit while driving down the road. This rabbit will cause Vatanen to leave his life in Helsinki, which he is not at all satisfied with, and to have a new life.

Vatanen’s life carries tiny traces of the author’s life. As Vatanen starts his new life in rural Finland with his rabbit, he sells the only thing that gives him pleasure, his boat. The author also sold his boat to finance his book and also, like Vatanen, worked as a journalist and worked in the forest.

The Year of the Hare – Arto Paasilinna

I didn’t have any expectations when I started the Year of the Hare. However, when Vatanen changed his life thanks to a hare, my expectations increased. With Vatanen, who left his life in Helsinki, I thought that I could escape from city life, social pressures, an unhappy marriage and see that another life was very possible and full of satisfaction.

However, Vatanen is a strange man and soon lost the sympathy he had gained by rescuing the rabbit in the first place. And I more or less realized that I could not find the depth I was looking for in this character. Still, I waited for something without giving up. I’ve only encountered strange characters and extraordinary events.

To be fair, I’ve seen that Finland is also full of maniacs thanks to the Year of the Hare. For some reason, when it comes to Scandinavian countries, we think as if the perfect people in the world are there. It was good to read this book as a reminder that people can be bad anywhere and in any situation. Vatanen, who left his city life behind and did every job he found in the countryside, sees that it’s not only fun and games thanks to the pathetic people he encounters. Of course, he does not neglect to enjoy the countryside abundantly.

The Year of the Hare can be a good choice for readers who want to spend a few hours in the Finnish countryside. However, if you are after an excellent book or an admirable character, I cannot recommend it. Vatanen is a man who knows what he does not want more than what he wants and runs away from them with all his presence. He gets repulsive after a while, and unfortunately, you don’t want to follow him anymore.

Although his devotion to the hare is cute, the story wouldn’t change much if there were no hares in the book, that’s for sure. Unfortunately, I’ve read another book that I will forget a few days later. I’m not sure if I will read Arto Paasilinna again, but I certainly won’t be reading his other books for a long time.

The Year of the Hare may have been a delightful book, but it’s just a forgettable, ordinary book, in my opinion. The fact that it’s one of Finland’s best-known novels also says a lot about their culture, I think. From now on, I will approach Finnish writers more carefully.

The Year of the Hare – Arto Paasilinna
The Year of the Hare – Arto Paasilinna

The Year of the Hare

Vatanen the journalist is feeling burnt out and sick of the city. One summer evening coming back from an assignment his car hits a young hare on a country road. He goes out into the wild in search of the injured creature…

This small incident precipitates Vatanen’s break from the world. Nursing the Hare back to health, he quits his job, leaves his wife, sells his possessions and sets out for the Finnish wilds with his new-found friend. Their adventures take in forest fires, pagan sacrifices, military war games, killer bears and much more.

A long-time best-seller in Finland and in France, The Year of the Hare is Arto Paasilinna’s masterpiece and best-loved of his works. It has also been translated into Italian, German, Dutch, Greek, Hungarian, Japanese, Swedish and many other languages. It is frequently dramatized for the stage and has twice been made into a movie.

Arto Paasilinna

Arto Tapio Paasilinna (20 April 1942 – 15 October 2018) was a Finnish writer, being a former journalist turned comic novelist. One of Finland’s most successful novelists, he won a broad readership outside of Finland in a way few other Finnish authors have before. Translated into 27 languages, over seven million copies of his books have been sold worldwide, and he has been claimed as “instrumental in generating the current level of interest in books from Finland”.

Paasilinna is mostly known for his 1975 novel The Year of the Hare (Jäniksen vuosi), a bestseller in France and Finland translated into 18 languages, awarded three international prizes, and adapted twice into feature films: a 1977 Finnish film directed by Risto Jarva called The Year of the Hare, and a 2006 French film directed by Marc Rivière called Le Lièvre de Vatanen.

Arto Paasilinna’s brothers are the writers Erno Paasilinna, Reino Paasilinna and Mauri Paasilinna.

Paasilinna initially worked as a journalist at Nuoren Voiman Liitto, Nuori Voima-lehti and various newspapers as writer and editor. At the weekly magazine Apu, he was an editor (1968–1970) and later a columnist (1975–1988).

In 1975, at the age of 33, Paasilinna found journalism growing “more superficial and meaningless” and desired a change; that summer, he sold his boat to fund the writing of The Year of the Hare. The book was an immediate success and from 1975 on Paasilinna became an independent writer able to support himself with his novels, signed to Finnish publisher WSOY since 1977. He still wrote journalism articles and was a columnist on Finnish radio.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Reading Challenge 2021

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