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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Hurmaava joukkoitsemurha

Arto Paasilinna

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Title: Hurmaava joukkoitsemurha
Author: Arto Paasilinna
Genre: Novel
Written: 1990
Length: 283 pages
Original in: Finnish
Availability: Petits suicides entre amis - France
Der wunderbare Massenselbstmord - Deutschland
  • Hurmaava joukkoitsemurha has not yet been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B+ : amusing suicidal romp

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       The Finns are apparently melancholy folk, and suicide hangs in the air. One character in Hurmaava joukkoitsemurha observes that there are 1500 suicides annually in Finnland (with considerably more seriously considering it) -- compared to a mere hundred cases of murder and manslaughter.
       Hurmaava joukkoitsemurha begins at the height of summer, with two more Finns ready to end it all. Multiple-bankrupt Onni Rellonen is set to shoot himself, and Colonel Hermanni Kemppainen wants to hang himself -- but they've both chosen the same hut to do the deed, and wind up saving each other, more or less, neither quite up to the solitary act in company. The fact that they were able to save each other, at least for the time being, leads them to wonder whether there might not be others in a similar situation, who could use someone to talk to (or a helping hand, one way or the other). They put a small notice in the newspaper (among the obituaries), suggesting potential suicides could contact them -- and are, of course, overwhelmed by the response.
       Within a week they have 612 responses, but dutifully they set out to contact everyone (picking out a suicidal secretary from among the submissions to help with the paperwork). A get-together is organised, and the turnout there is impressive too, but it's the core group of .... die-hards around whom the novel centres.
       Eventually, this suicide-club travels by bus first to the North Cape and then through much of Europe, looking for an appropriate place to plunge all together to their deaths (and never quite managing). There are some success stories -- of sorts -- along the way: an attempt after the big get-together in the garage of what turned out to be the residence of the South Yemeni ambassador claimed at least one life, but for the most part the depressed group finds life isn't half so bad.
       Paasilinna balances the realistically depressing life-stories with the comic happenings well, not trying too hard to make it a redemptive tale, and not preaching. Along the way there are all sorts of misadventures, with only a few (notably the confrontations with German hooligans in a motel, and then with the territorial junkies in Zurich (who have a far higher mortality rate than the suicide-gang)) really too simplistic. The humour is very broad throughout, but it's good fun. The characterization could be deeper -- and there are an awful lot of characters -- and the ending is a bit too happily and easily tied up (though it could, of course, not happen any other way), but otherwise this is a very enjoyable light piece of fiction, good pass-time fluff that's nowhere near as macabre or ponderous as one might imagine, given the material.

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Hurmaava joukkoitsemurha: Reviews: Arto Paasilinna: Other books by Arto Paasilinna under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Prolific author Arto Paasilinna lived 1942 to 2018. One of the most popular authors in Finland, his work has been widely translated.

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