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Monday, November 14, 2011

"My Grandfather Came Skiing", fun and surreal take on Finnish history

My Grandfather Came Skiing 
(Kun Isoisä Suomeen Hiihti, Finnish original title)- Daniel Katz

Let me introduce you to Benno, the narrator's grandfather of this novel, and a fantastic creation that makes the first work ever translated to Spanish from Finnish (thanks to Libros del Asteroide) writer Daniel Katz, a discovering to celebrate.

Katz, who debuted in 1969 with this work that goes beyond the concept of a novel, having more in common with the storytelling oral tradition of Finland, achieves something pretty remarkable. He explains a lot from his country's history and Europe in a few pages. He goes through many wars, the Russo-Japanese in 1905, the First World War, against the Soviet Union and then the Second World War, but without any drama. On the contrary, Katz will provoke us many laughs and smiles. And he tells us the story of his family, without making it a realistic personal biography, but a very entertaining collection of adventures.

But in my modest opinion, all the achievements of the novel are mainly thanks to Benno's powerful character. His attitudes, brutal sarcasm, the hilarious dialectical fights with his wife Wera, his constant flirtation with absurd obviously brings to memory the memorable "The Good Soldier Svejk and His Adventures During the World War" by Jaroslav Hasek, converting the book into a refreshing take of how ridicule, and therefore parodic, is the patriotic compromise. Of course, while you are reading, and frankly being amused by it, you are also being introduced into a compelling familiar story. But thanks to the particular humour, the characters are not dramatic, sappy figures, but remarkably active actors of the World History of the twentieth century.

My complaint with "My Grandfather Came Skiing" is its last part. The Arje and finally Andrei chapters have a completely different tone, more somber and depressing, the opposite from the lightweight, surreal and sarcastic we were having until then. I can understand the reason, but nevertheless, it makes you end the book with a very strange, unsatisfying feeling. Sad, because Katz's novel is highly recommendable.

SCORE: 6,25/10

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