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.

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