x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The Human Part is an ambitious satire from Finland. No, really

Kari Hotakainen's The Human Part is laugh-out-loud funny, despite being essentially a bleak story of human frailty.

The Human Part by Kari Hotakainen.
The Human Part by Kari Hotakainen.

An old woman chances on an author at a literary festival. He is all storied-out. Before she knows what's happening, she has agreed to sell her family's life story - yet when she does so, she starts to realise that her truth may not be everyone's truth.

Kari Hotakainen's ambitious novel is a satire of modern life in Finland, but it could be any one of dozens of western countries. His tale is woven from the points of view of different members of the old woman's family and the author. Are they really doing as well as the mother believes? Or is the author deliberately belittling her children's efforts to make a more interesting story?

The Human Part is particularly strong on families and how they work (or don't) and the incomprehension one generation feels about what their children's generation regards as valuable. It's all told in a beautiful, terse style with a few laugh-out-loud moments to alleviate what is, essentially, a bleak story of human frailty and failure. The book is also especially withering about what Hotakainen clearly sees as the absurdity of parts of modern corporate culture.