The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen is a Finnish novel (my copy translated by Lola Rogers). I first discovered this author in the book Life From Elsewhere – having looked up his other works, I knew that he was an author for me. Ella Amanda Milana is a young writer who has just been accepted into the prestigious (and highly secretive) Rabbit Back Literature Society when its founder, Laura White, goes missing. And a strange disease seems to be infecting the local library…
If you like the concept of Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler but find him misogynistic/pretentious/bloody annoying – this is a good book for you. Literature and secrets and truth entwine as Ella uncovers decades-old mysteries about the Society, Laura White, and herself. She does this by playing the Society’s ‘Game’ – a psychologically draining ordeal in which the players have to reveal the deepest, most intimate parts of themselves – or suffer the consequences. I loved these particular parts of the book the most, because they are portrayed as a sort of way that the authors ‘mine’ for ideas for their novels. And that just really tickles me, I’m not sure why!
The Rabbit Back Literature Society is undoubtedly magical realism. There are sudden snowstorms inside houses, dogs that gather for no particular reason, and the constant suggestion of ghosts and ghouls and all manner of supernatural creatures. It works so wonderfully with the simultaneously childlike and horrifying tone of the authors and their works. It is creepy and delightful – and I bloody love it.
Once again: translations are great. I’m making an effort to read more of them, and I’m already enjoying myself immensely. I can’t wait until more of Jääskeläinen’s works are translated into English!