“The asphalt seems to puff and shimmer. The wind has forgotten its only function: to create a breeze.”
(The Man Who Died, A Tuomainen)
This book is earthy. It is funny. It features mushrooms, swords and nudity.
The thrilling tale is set in small town Finland. The opening of the book describes Jakko’s experience of being told he doesn’t have long left in life and what an opening chapter it is. As the book progresses we are introduced the small range of quirky characters in Jakko’s life as he goes into hyper vigilant mode. Jakko starts to see the world around himself with different eyes.
Deception, threats and a need to problem solve keep Jakko busy as he fuels his slowly dying body with highly calorific sustenance. A few situations arise in which the author expects us to slightly suspend our disbelief and although these situations are odd they are not fantastical. They may even make readers giggle nervously. The Man Who Died has been compared to the Fargo series on TV and I think that is a fair comparison. It exists somewhere in that space where comedy, tragedy and everyday life meet. Many of the scenes take place in locations we may associate with Finland; saunas, forests, the town square and by the water. The scene is set beautifully and the reader can almost feel the trees and smell the earth as they read. The book even has little cute mushrooms printed throughout as section breaks.
One of my favourite authors is Tom Robbins. The Man Who Died has a very similar feeling to some of Robbins work. He embraces the slightly bizarre, allows the reader to feel empathy towards characters which other writers may present in a different way. I felt Antti also did that in The Man Who Died. There is a slight philosophical undercurrent to the tale which occasionally makes you stop and think. Tom Robbins is fond of a strong opening statement and this tale also starts particularly powerfully. The man Who Died is a departure from Antti’s previous dark, dystopian books. I loved it.