The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna

the year of hareSo, you’re a journalist who lives in a world that’s slowly dissolving into black and white. You barely love you wife anymore, and you’re starting to hate the job that you had used to love so much. You’re being pestered to sell your boat that you have worked so long to buy, and you hate it. And now here you are, driving along with a fellow college who happens to be a photographer and referred to nothing else in the novel, arguing about your destination on whether you should go spend the night in Heinola or Helsinki and then suddenly you hear a thump on the car that the photographer was driving. When you finally stumble out of the car, you see it. The hare who was lying huddled towards the sidewalk, it’s leg clearly broken.

When Vatanen found the hare, his whole life changed in a instant. The hare itself could be said to be a catalyst. With the hare, he dropped everything from his old life. He literally walked away from his old life. Like, when the photographer friend of his wanted him to hurry up and get in the car, he just walked away with the hare into the forest to help setting its leg up. So since the photographer is naturally a bad tempered kind of guy, he drove away. (Only to slightly regret it later.) However, Vatanen didn’t exactly just drop off from the face of the Earth. He did everything cleanly a little bit later, like get his money, sell that boat that he has been trying to keep for ages, and end things with his wife and job, but that was later.

But right at that exact moment, Vatanen was in the start of a new beginning. The beginning of a new life. People rarely achieve this moment in reality. Most of them are just too afraid to start a new beginning. I believe that Vatanen too, was afraid. There are many people who are afraid of change. They need something to push them and to speed things up. People change because of many different factors, or after a huge turning point in their lives. The hare itself was a turning point in Vatanen’s life. From that moment on, he was no longer the husband of a woman who was having an affair and he was no longer someone who worked at a depressing job. He was free.

The next part of this story describes Vatanen’s life after that. How he found himself in new and thrilling situations with his hare. And before I’d go any further, I’ll confirm that it’s a hare, not a rabbit. Hares are larger then rabbits, so they are more commonly found in the wild. Being in the wild, they are more equipped with survival skills than rabbits.  They have longer hind legs that enables them to run faster and fur that changes in the season for camouflage. But although a hare is the more lanky version of a rabbit, Vatanen’s hare was described to be very charming, and understandable in certain situations, and also described to be very close with his owner. He has no name.

The hare itself symbolizes many things in Vatanen’s life. The hare can be symbolized as innocence. The hare itself had a very humble beginning, and spent the rest of his life following on Vatanen’s adventure. I can see that he’s pretty much like the child that Vatanen never had. All the characters in the novel would mention that the hare is a very adorable creature, and Vatanen cares for the hare as how a father would care for his son. Although the hare is present in every single one of Vatanen’s misadventures, the hare itself doesn’t really do anything much but provide comic relieve and cheer up everyone else.

So together with the hare, being able to be both emotionally and legally together, Vatanen begun to travel across the countryside. Since Vatanen generally still needs money and since he isn’t having a stable job anymore, Vatanen begins to take really random jobs both here and there.

Aside from both Vatanen and his hare doing his odd jobs in the story, there were also a number of animal characters that were introduced into this story. There was the raven, who had harassed Vatanen continuously during his journey which eventually led to his demise, and the bear. Who had dragged Vatanen (and his hare) across the border towards the Soviet Union where poor Vatanen (this time without his hare) had to go to jail.

Although Vatanen and his hare met many people and had gained many friends along the way, they’re still inseparable in the end. They have a level of understanding that’s very unique, and their bond runs really deep.

Arto Paasilinna is a Finnish writer, which explains the reason on the Finnish scenery which both Vatanen and his hare was placed in. He is one of the most successful novelist in Finland, and has sold his novels to at least seven million copies. His novels has also been translated into more than 27 languages. ‘The Year of the Hare’ is his most famous novel, and rightly so.


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