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The Howling Miller
     

The Howling Miller

by Arto Paasilinna, Will Hobson (Translator), Anna Colin du Terrail (Translator)
 

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Arriving in Northern Finland after the Second World War, Gunnar Huttunen buys a dilapidated mill on the Suukoski rapids of the Kemijoki River. An Ignatius Reilly of the Finnish 1940s, Gunnar is an eccentric outsider swimming against society’s current. Prone to rapid mood swings and a general lack of decorum, he is feared and reviled by village notables for

Overview

Arriving in Northern Finland after the Second World War, Gunnar Huttunen buys a dilapidated mill on the Suukoski rapids of the Kemijoki River. An Ignatius Reilly of the Finnish 1940s, Gunnar is an eccentric outsider swimming against society’s current. Prone to rapid mood swings and a general lack of decorum, he is feared and reviled by village notables for his wayward manner—most noticeably his indulgent nighttime howling, which he gets up to when he “feels the need to do something special,” and to which he is joined in delirious chorus by the local dogs.

The miller’s situation rapidly spirals out of control. Gunnar is cast out of society, the villagers become his jailors and the forest his prison. A miller without a mill, Gunnar is forced to assume a hermit’s lifestyle. At once a tale of conformity and the consequences of its antithesis, The Howling Miller paints a crystalline portrait of society, its norms, and what it means to function outside of them. This is a tour de force tale told with verve, humor, and a sense of the bizarre.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Gunnar Huttunen, the cranky protagonist of Paasilinna's dreary novel, never learned to use an inside voice. Ranging north from southern Finland after WWII, the widower takes over a long-abandoned mill in Suukosi, much to the amusement of the uptight townspeople. He quickly becomes the local eccentric, renowned for, among other things, his imitations of forest creatures. Despite winning the affection of respected local Sanelma Käyrämö, Gunnar gets into trouble after going on a drunken rampage. He's institutionalized and escapes, only to find himself persona non grata back in the village. Here, though, Paasilinna-whose work has been widely translated-loses steam as the narrative becomes a slow dirge of Gunnar's exiled life in the woods as he gets by on dumb luck and help from Sanelma and a few sympathetic townsfolk. While, for instance, Gunnar's daring trip to town to watch a sporting event adds excitement, the play-by-play of his life on the lam is more a whimper than a howl. (Nov.)

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Library Journal

Gunnar Huttunen buys an abandoned flour mill in a small village in northern Finland after World War II and is soon labeled eccentric when the villagers witness him imitating animals and howling at night. His behavior becomes intolerable after he goes on a rampage in the general store, and the local doctor gets Gunnar committed to a mental asylum. After a short time there, he escapes and hides in the forest, evading capture with the help of a few friends-the drunken postman, a sympathetic police constable, and Sanelma KAnyrAnmA¶, the horticulture adviser who has fallen in love with him. Finally, the police track him down and shackle him to his constable friend, Portimo. They escape into the woods, where they are supposedly transformed into a wolf and a dog. Paasilinna (The Year of the Hare ), winner of numerous Finnish and international literary prizes, illustrates the cost of nonconformity with his trademark subtle humor in this playful fable. The author was born in Lapland and has written more than 28 novels, many of which have been translated into numerous languages. This one is recommended for readers interested in folktales and/or Finland.-Lisa Rohrbaugh, New Middletown, OH

Kirkus Reviews

The second novel to be translated into English by popular Finnish novelist Paasilinna; hopefully this sly tale of madness and conformity will generate for him a deservedly wider audience.

After serving in World War II and the later Lapland wars against the Soviet Union, our picaresque hero Gunnar Huttunen purchases an old mill in northern Finland. Spectacularly skilled and industrious, Gunnar soon has the millworks up and running, serving the village. Though he acknowledges he's at times a bit odd, initially the village tolerates (even enjoys) Gunnar's eccentricities: his rowdy stories, his impersonations, his mimicry of animals. Indeed, in a manic phase he's the life of the party. He even finds love with the local 4H advisor, sexy Sanelma Käyrämö. But when depression hits, he bays at the moon, and this obvious lunacy the villagers will not tolerate. Impulsive and occasionally threatening, Gunnar is sent to an insane asylum where among the usual suspects he meets Happola, a draft-dodging businessman whose years of pretending to be crazy are almost over. He helps Gunnar escape (Happola has a set of keys to the asylum so he can conduct business in town), but the life Gunnar returns to is gone. Now an escapee, unable to live in or work his mill, Gunnar takes to the forest. He builds shelter and a comfortable enough existence—Sanelma and other friends bring him coffee and cigarettes, and thanks to the postman he even begins a business correspondence course—but he is a wanted man, rejected by society, forced to live like a hermit. As Gunnar goes to greater extremes to recapture what is rightfully his, he gradually becomes what he is accused of being—a danger to society (and Paasilinnahas much fun in defining this bourgeois society, an ill, repressed culture in opposition to Gunnar's heroic independence).

There is much to like here—wit, pathos and just enough of the extraordinary to transform the novel into a kind of modern fable.

Guardian
Profound . . . Paasilinna's singular vision of freedom and persecution proves beguiling
Los Angeles Times
Part myth, part fable and part novel - a form that has a funny way of bypassing the head and directly affecting the animal instincts
Times Literary Supplement
A literary folk tale . . . Extraordinary
New York Times
A gem of a novel
booklit.com
It's a riotous novel, full of deadpan humour told in a comic style that, as the opening paragraph suggests, comes across like a fable.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781847671813
Publisher:
Canongate Books
Publication date:
10/01/2008
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
881,465
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.80(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Arto Paasilinna was born in Lapland in 1942. By turns a woodcutter, agricultural labourer, journalist and poet, he is the author of over twenty novels, all of which have been translated into numerous languages.

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