The Human Part
by Kari Hotakainen
translated from the Finnish by Owen F. Witesman
Published by MacLehose Press
An elderly woman agrees to sell her life to a blocked writer she meets at a book fair. She needs to talk – her husband has not spoken since a family tragedy some months ago.
She claims that her grown-up children are doing well, but the writer imagines less salubrious lives for them, as the downturn of Finland’s economic boom begins to bite. Perhaps he’s on to something.
The Human Part is pure laugh-out-loud satire, laying bare the absurdities of modern society in the most vicious and precise manner imaginable.
Now available for purchase in the UK!
Hear the BCC review.
From the WSOY foreign rights guide:
A fearlessly tragic and deeply humorous novel about how, now more than ever, we buy and sell things with rhetoric. This is Kari Hotakainen at the top of his craft.
A writer buys a life from Salme Malmikunnas, an 80-year-old former yarn seller. You can get a lot for 7000 euros. Salme opens up and tells him everything the way she wants to remember it – the silence of her husband, Paavo, the accident that befell her daughter Helena, Maija’s marriage, and Pekka’s success in business. But will the author tell the story like they’d agreed? Can he resist the urge to write about subjects that are off limits? And is Salme telling the truth?
True to its title, the novel asks what the human part of life is. Its rich cast of characters answers this question in many voices. The novel takes the pulse of the present and builds on the past to portray a world where buying and selling are the order of the day. It sheds light on eternal truths about working life, both then and now. More than anything else, it’s talk that makes business run today. Instead of things like yarn, we now sell images. And when the words run out, it’s time for action.
Hotakainen is a prolific writer, but he has never produced anything quite like this. The Human Part is a rich, wide-ranging novel full of honest wisdom. It’s disarmingly moving and deeply humorous. The novel fearlessly grapples with today’s world and tries to understand it. That’s not possible without laughter. Or tears.
“Hotakainen is a skilled storyteller whose works are full of understated surprises. His humour is intelligent, transporting the reader from laughter to tears. Hotakainen’s books are not meant to be mindlessly devoured – but demand to be read in one sitting.”
Savon Sanomat, 2009
“Aesthetically, The Human Part is one of Hotakainen’s most complete works. Chapter by chapter, he builds his ideas about society like a jigsaw puzzle. Grotesque effects occasionally echo the author’s keen interpretations of the waning of hope and quality of life among modern Finns.”
Satakunnan Kansa, 2009
“Hotakainen delights in language and makes your shoulders shake with laughter.”
“Definitely one of the author’s best books.”
Helsingin Sanomat, 2009