Monday, January 6, 2020

Mielensäpahoittaja - Tuomas Kyrö / Ari Sainio

Mielensäpahoittaja - Tuomas Kyrö / Ari Sainio

Hilarious. Anecdotal. Popular fiction.

STORY: "The Grump" begins his first story complaining about the snow, the treats banks offer during their opening events and useless advice from his son. In the following 40 stories, he goes off on a wide variety of topics from queuing, getting older, music, Christmas with the family and much more. 

Mielensäpahoittaja (the original book) came out in 2010 and has since become a nationwide phenomenon, resulting in at least 5 fiction titles and 3 non-fiction titles featuring the same character. In addition, there have been 2 movies and a television series based on the character.

LANGUAGE: Don't be intimidated by the 132 pages in this book, because it contains 41 chapters, all of which are around 2-3 pages each. They are all packed with hilarity that will leave the reader laughing out loud and looking for the closest person to share quotes from the book. There is no dialogue in the book, as everything is explained from the Grump's memories. The grammar and vocabulary are not too complex, and it's not even necessary to look up every single word, because context explains many more difficult words clearly. The grammar is sometimes a bit on the advanced side. Although readers can tell that the Grump likely speaks in a dialect and in a manner that's probably a bit old-fashioned, this is demonstrated well through the timing and pacing and stories themselves, along with the tradition opening to every chapter, "kyllä, minä niin mieleni pahoitin." (According to the English translation of the book is something along the lines of I certainly got myself upset and all worked up...) There are a lot of cultural references in the book, from newscasters of days gone by and hockey players and so forth. This is a great way to learn about famous Finns, but it's not necessary to be knowledgeable of who they are while reading the book - the humor is valid, regardless. 

Because of the grammar and humor level of the book, I rate this as a B1+. The higher one's language level (B2, C), the more humor they will get out of the book, but this is certainly accessible to many selkokirja readers. Even an A level reader could select a story or two and with a bit of vocabulary look-up and a grammar question or two, and could get enjoyment out of this book.

CHARACTERS: "The Grump" is the narrator of the book, told in first person. We never learn his name or precisely where he lives though it is clearly not in "the big city." He is around 80 years old and experiencing more signs of getting older, though that doesn't stop him from driving his beloved Escort or going cross-country skiing. He lives alone, his wife and best friend have passed on, and his son lives with his wife and children some distance away (in Helsinki, presumably). The Grump experiences his world through the people he interacts with every day, from his doctor, his neighbors, shop salesmen, taxi drivers, and also through his own opinion of his neighbors and people around him. 

The humor itself is very blunt and direct and raw. The Grump says anything that's on his mind, whether it's true or not, and typically is unfavorable. It is the privilege of people when they reach this age that they can do so, and secretly many other people around them agree with the things they say, even if they don't dare to say them out loud! 

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: This is a hilarious book that almost everyone will enjoy. It's a modern classic in Finnish literature and culture and it's fantastic that it has been selko-translated so that selkoreaders can enjoy the stories along with the rest of the nation. It's been translated into many languages including Swedish, Danish, Estonian and English, but it's worth reading the Finnish (selko-) version first, because the Finnish humor and vocabulary will come through best that way. 

Hilarious book that had me laughing out loud and was a big page-turner. I sped through the book to find out what The Grump would be up to next and was sad when the book ended and there were no more stories. Highly recommended, 5/5 and thanks to Ari Sainio for making this book possible.

Juha - Juhani Aho #sponsored

Juha / Juhani Aho / Tiina Saarelainen

Classic. Love Triangle. Plot twist.

STORY: Juha is an older man, living in a small village with his wife, Marja. Marja is much younger than Juha and beautiful. Lately they have not been getting along. Marja has been calling Juha names and she has been living for awhile in a small house that Juha built for her. When a young, strong, foreign man passes through the village on business and stays the night with Juha and Marja, a love triangle forms that threatens to tear their marriage apart. 

Juhani Aho is famous for writing the story Rautatie (Railroad), also available in selkokirja format from Opike press, in 1905. Juha was published years later in 1911 and still remains a classic today. The tale is particularly apt, as it is set it what was then Finland under Swedish rule, and also set partly in Russian Karelia. 

LANGUAGE: The story itself is 83 pages long with additional pages of grammar exercises at the end. A great reason to read books from Artemira press is that on the bottom of every page are difficult words with definitions in selkokieli, so there's no need to even have a dictionary while reading. This makes reading their books a more relaxing and smooth experience as opposed to feeling like one is studying while reading. Even though this is a classic, it reads like a modern selkokirja - there is lots of dialogue, but no puhekieli or dialect (unless explained in the vocabulary section). At the end of each chapter are 2 - 3 reading comprehension questions. These are a good way to make sure that the reader understood what happened during the chapter before moving onto the next. The beginning chapters are long at around 5 - 10 pages in length, but the later chapters are shorter at 3 - 5 pages in length. The answers to all of the reading comprehension questions and grammar exercises can be found on the publisher's website.

This book is rated a B keskitaso (around 1200 words) by the publisher and this reader agrees. Based on the page length and reading comprehension this book is ideally suited to a B2.1+ level. While a B1 level could certainly read this, they may find themselves looking up words not covered in the definitions at the bottom of the page, or looking up those same definitions for extra help.

CHARACTERS: This book is told in third person from the perspective of three characters. Juha begins the book, an old man who loves his wife and live in a small village in the forest with a cow and trees and river nearby. Marja is his young wife, who has never known any other life than with Juha and finds herself young and beautiful while living out her days with an old man who has lost his looks and walks with a limp and bow-legs. When travelers pass by she dreams of the lives and stories of places she has never seen. The third character is a businessman named Shemeikka, passing by Juha and Marja's home. Young and strong, the couple is charmed by his stories and words.

While this is a classic book, the love triangle that exists between the three can be seen in contemporary books and movies and even in real life today. 

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: Juhani Aho is a classic and very well known author in Finnish literature. This is a good story and contains a plot twist that alone makes the story worth reading. More than this book itself, I recommend checking out any books from this publisher, Artemira. They have Finnish selkokirja in three difficulty levels from a variety of authors, so finding the perfect combination of plot, author and reading level is easy. They can be purchased as print books or PDF versions at two different price levels. For a review of one of their difficult level books, check out my review of Laulu tulipunaisesta kukasta by Johannes Linnankoski. 

Thanks to Artemira for generously providing this book for review. 
You can buy a copy of Juha from their website here.
Check out other books from Artemira press from their website here.