Pushkin Press, £12.99
The Rabbit Back (Literature society), By Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen, Translated by Lola Rogers - Paperback review
Sunday 01 December 2013
Rabbit Back is a small town in Finland; and a very strange one. Everyone’s garden is full of mythological statuary: elves, forest nymphs, gnomes, goblins. The town’s most famous resident is the reclusive children’s writer, Laura White, who runs a literature society and trains a limited number of gifted locals to become writers – there are nine, and she is still looking for the tenth and final member.
Teacher Ella Milana (who has beautifully curved lips and defective ovaries) gets a surprise one day – she discovers that a bizarre book infection is affecting the novels in the town’s library: in Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov gets shot by Sonya instead of being sent to prison, while in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Aslan saves everyone a lot of trouble by biting off the White Witch’s head.
While investigating, she happens to write a story with the beautiful title of “The Skeleton Sat in the Cave, Silently Smoking Cigarettes”, which is published and, as a result, Laura White invites her to join the Rabbit Back Literature Society.
She soon learns the Society has some peculiar practices: members play a game in which they ambush each other and use physical violence – as well as a disinhibiting chemical drug called “yellow” – to force each other to answer personal questions. Then, Laura White disappears and it transpires that there was a tenth member before Ella – but what became of him?
It’s hard to convey the peculiar atmosphere of this novel – absurd but believable, sinister but enjoyable, beautiful but disquieting. This is Jaaskerlainen’s first novel to be published in English (and hats off to Lola Rogers for an elegant, literary and readable translation). Let’s hope there are more to come.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Amber Peat: Body found in search for missing 13-year-old who ran away after argument with her parents
- 2 California man brutally beat 82-year-old Sikh grandfather he mistook for 'one of those people'
- 3 Gay teenager 'forced to have sex with his own mother' to 'cure' his homosexuality, campaigners in India say
- 4 Charles Kennedy 'had better judgement drunk than many sober politicians' says Ian Hislop
- 5 Fifa corruption: Qatar says investigations are racist, anti-Arab and show 'ugly face' of countries who lost 2022 World Cup bid
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 9, The Dance of Dragons: Jon Snow returns to The Wall after epic Battle of Hardhome
Touch-screen Teletubbies say hello: Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po are back, now with smart technology
Black Angel: Long lost Star Wars precursor to be made into crowdfunded feature film
Game of Thrones, season 5: heavy metal rockers Mastodon cameo as Wildlings in Hardhome
Environmental Photographer of the Year 2015 award: Shortlisted images go on show
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Church of England 'one generation away from extinction' after dramatic loss of followers