Finnish cult author Arto Paasilinna dies at 76

Finnish cult author Arto Paasilinna, best known for his 1975 whimsical novel “The Year of the Hare”, has died age 76, his publisher said on Tuesday. One of Finland’s most read authors, Paasilinna penned more than 35 books which were translated into dozens of languages. He died Monday in a nursing home in Espoo, near Helsinki, his Finnish publisher WSOY said in a statement. The former lumberjack turned journalist and novelist, originally from Finland’s northern Lapland region, sold more than eight million books over a career spanning 50 years. His stories describe the unbelievable adventures of such characters as a senile engineer and his travel companion, an old woman constantly being harassed by her rascal of a nephew, and a world-weary journalist who has adopted a hare with a broken foot. His tragi-comical stories about life in the Great North, along with his keen take on Finnish society, at once bitter and humorous, seduced millions of readers around the world. Seen through Paasilinna’s gleeful eyes, aspects of life like suicide, ageing, desperation and everyday dreariness paradoxically help paint joyful portraits of the human race. “As a writer I want to exaggerate things and it is easier to whip one’s own people than to go and whip others,” Paasilinna said in a 2005 interview with AFP. “Humans in general are a bit crazy, in a touching way, and Finns are even more so perhaps than others.”