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The Beggar and the Hare is out today!

Beggar and the Hare (3D)

If ‘The 100yrs old man etc..’ became such bestseller, it’s all reason for ‘The Beggar & the Hare’ @shortbooksUK to be one too! Way better! 

@JosephyneT

Reader, rarely has literary fiction been as easy to read as Tuomas Kyro’s compulsive ‘The Beggar and the Hare.’ From its opening paragraph to its closing song lyrics, the story pulls you through a multitude of asides, insights, and astounding events, so that the end feels like a sad return to the real world and not like escaping from a swamp. (For examples of the latter, see the average university reading list.)  Story, of course, is the key word here. All of Kyro’s artistry and social commentary is firmly tethered to the events that befall Vatanescu, an impoverished Romanian smuggled into Finland by a Russian gangster to work as a beggar, all so he can save enough money to buy his young son a pair of football boots.

Vatanescu sat down on the edge of the bed where Miklos was sleeping in his grandmother’s folded arms. Vatanescu removed the sock from his son’s right foot and with a crayon traced the outline of the sole on a piece of paper.

You’ll get your football boots.

Dad is going to fix you up with football boots.

Here we have not only the source of a plot but a moment of great tenderness, and it is Kyro’s ability to render such tenderness into prose that perhaps more than anything gives the novel its ballast.

But in between these moments are also dashes of humour. Indeed, the novel’s tone could be best characterised by its comedy, which often comes in the form of leftfield observations. The opening chapter involves a scene on a ship that Vatanescu takes to Finland, his fellow passengers being described thus:

Two sorts of people shuffled or pranced across the wall-to-wall carpeting: there was the solemn group with short legs and flat noses, where the children looked like their parents. They were called Finns. Then there was the cheerful group with long legs and pointed noses, where the parents looked like their children. They were called Swedes.

When not like the above, the comedy takes form in an incongruous progression of events. Just take the beginning of the novel’s tenth chapter:

Chapter Ten

In which Vatanescu grills ready-made honey-marinated chicken and forms a government

Such a summary opens all of the chapters. (Yes, more could be quoted, but enough of the novel’s events have already been given away.)

            Instead, we turn to another aspect of Kyro’s writing: his ability for social commentary, that aspect which can all too often make a novel feel like the aforementioned swamp. It’s not that explicit social commentary has no rightful place in a novel, it’s that when it rears its head it commonly reveals itself to be better suited to being a footnote in a philosophy book or a slogan shouted by an irate student. Kyro avoids these pitfalls, his prose flowing seamlessly from the main narrative to commentary. Take this from the second chapter: the camp in which Vatanescu stays with his fellow beggars has just been cleared by the Finnish authorities.

The police gave the residents five minutes to gather their belongings and then return to the land of their fathers. The women and children would be guaranteed a place in the warmth of a shelter for the night, and would be taken there locked up in a Black Maria.

           As usual, the adult male simply had to manage. The adult male only has what he takes, and he invariably takes it from others. This produces accusations, demands for compensation and world wars. Because adult males are the cause of everything, they are sent off to the worst places, to hunt, to fight wars, to build playhouses for children, to take part in the Finlandia Ski Marathon – though they’d willingly rush to put on skis themselves.

Then it’s back to the story, something Kyro never forgets.

And herein lies the joy of The Beggar and the Hare: you can pull it apart – scanning through and taking from it the best moments of comedy, poetry, and insight – but it always feels like a cohesive whole and never like an assortment of Kyro’s musings on society, a collection of his better jokes. It is what sets it above so much fiction of its ilk, and what will stop you, the reader, from ever having to wade through the (by now infamous) swamp. This strange, compelling fable about Europe, capitalism and the human heart will be unlike anything else you’ve ever read before.

Animals