A fable

The Howling Miller by the Finnish writer, Arto Paasilinna, is a strange little fable. It reminded me very much of Paul Gallico's The Man Who Was Magic. A stranger arrives in a close knit community, he is of benefit to the community, but fails to fit in with the community and is rejected brutally by them. Finally the stranger leaves, leaving behind him sadness for those who loved him, and a sense of loss even by those who were responsible for his rejection.

The miller of the title has an unfortunate habit of howling very loudly, he also does animal impersonations, which are initially tolerated but gradually come to annoy most of the small Lapp community. Sent to a mental hospital, Gunnar escapes and lives wild in the countryside while he is pursued by his former friends, soon he is only supported by the love of his life, the local drunk, and a policeman, who follows his orders to pursue the fugitive, but also likes him, and does all that he can to thwart the pursuit.

It's sometimes a little hard in this story to fully sympathise with the hero, as he sometimes does appear to be completely mad, but it's a well told and strangely compelling story with an other-worldliness about it. Occasionally the language was slightly strange - this may be because unusually it wasn't translated from the Finnish, but from French - which was a translation from the Finnish, I suspect that some of the beauty of Paasilinna's language may have been lost through this double translation. Nevertheless it was enthralling, I haven't read a modern day fable of quite such power since Paul Gallico. Well worth reading - and I'm now looking out for more by Arto Paasilinna.


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