The Year of the Hare


Title: The Year of the Hare
Author: Arto Paasilinna
Publish Date: 1975
Genre: Fiction
Page Length: Not mentioned


The Year of the Hare, written by Arto Paasilinna in 1975, is a fictional novel that takes readers on an extraordinary journey through the rugged landscapes of Finland. This captivating tale follows the adventures of Vatanen, a middle-aged journalist, and his newly found companion, a wild hare.

The story opens with Vatanen and his colleague, photographer Kaarlo Vehmas, on a road trip for a magazine assignment when their car collides with a young hare in the Finnish countryside. Instinctively, Vatanen rescues the injured animal and decides to embark on an unexpected adventure, leaving behind his mundane life in Helsinki.

The novel unfolds into short, episodic chapters that document Vatanen’s escapades and encounters as he traverses the forested wilderness. Accompanied by the hare, which he names Harengus, Vatanen finds liberation through nature, gradually detaching himself from societal norms and obligations. Throughout his journey, Vatanen faces numerous obstacles, including hostile encounters with locals and various adversities of the untamed environment.

As Vatanen navigates the countryside, he meets a diverse cast of characters who challenge his perspective on life. He encounters a young priest trying to establish a religious commune, a disillusioned artist, and an eccentric group of farmers involved in smuggling. These encounters illuminate the underlying themes of human disillusionment, the search for meaning, and the yearning for personal freedom.

One of the central characters is the hare, Harengus, who becomes more than just a simple companion to Vatanen. The animal symbolizes freedom and reconnecting with nature, encouraging Vatanen to discard societal constraints and embrace a simpler existence. Through his relationship with Harengus, Vatanen rediscovers his inner self, reevaluates his priorities, and finds solace in the untamed realms of the Finnish landscape.

The book is divided into three distinct parts. In the first part, Vatanen embarks on his journey and encounters various individuals while learning to overcome his dependence on modern conveniences. During this section, Paasilinna masterfully introduces the themes of self-discovery and the impact of nature on one’s identity.

In the second part, Vatanen joins a religious commune led by a charismatic priest with dreams of building a self-sustainable utopia. Through his experiences in the commune, Vatanen witnesses the struggles of those who have chosen to retreat from society, highlighting the difficulties of pursuing alternative lifestyles and the challenges of communal living. This section explores themes surrounding idealism, disillusionment, and the search for spiritual fulfillment.

The final part of the novel sees Vatanen reunited with Harengus after being separated and undertaking a daring endeavor alongside a group of independent-minded farmers involved in smuggling. Through these interactions, Paasilinna delves into themes of rebellion, unconventional lifestyles, and the consequences of defying societal norms.

Ultimately, The Year of the Hare provides readers with adissectio of the role society plays in individuals’ lives, emphasizing the importance of reconnecting with nature and embracing personal freedom. Through Vatanen’s journey, we witness the transformative power of the untamed wilderness, the resilience of the human spirit, and the complexities of human relationships.

Arto Paasilinna’s novel sparks contemplation about our own lives and encourages readers to question the societal pressures that influence our choices. The Year of the Hare serves as a reminder to seek authenticity, to embrace the wonders of nature, and to reflect on the true essence of human existence.