Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
Sielut kulkevat sateessa
Atena 2013, 550 pages
Overworked and underpaid Judit leaves her uneventful life and husband for a nursing job with an international organization in Helsinki. Her boss and best friend Martta, mother of her beloved eight year old godson Mauri, has been with the company for many years and explains that the pay and perks are so good because employees are expected to go the extra mile. Nurses are expected to not only take care of the patients’ physical needs, but also that of their souls, something that agnostic Judit has trouble with. She used to believe wholeheartedly as a small child, but hasn’t for years, for reasons which slowly come to light.
Mysterious warnings are sent to her phone in this summer of never-ending rain (the rain never stops in this book, it is even more overwhelming than the snow in The Rabbit Back Literature Society) and for some odd reason she is called upon to treat the so-called ‘king of atheists’, internationally known and controversial, but oh-so-charming Leo Moreau.
Now it would be easy to write more about the plot, but that would not even begin to explain this novel. Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen skillfully melts reality and fantasy (reality being, of course, the fiction we are reading) and the story flows between dream and wakefulness, and asks us at some point whether facts and truths really exist or are there only convincing illusions and theories. Distance and time lose their meaning as we know them and the author manages to both entertain and horrify in a philosophical manner. Religious fundamentalism, atheism, life, death, memory and literature are all running themes and I often had the feeling I should put the book down for awhile to think about some idea more deeply, but I was unable to do so, having to keep on reading yet not wanting it to end.
In the end there is much left to chew on. Personally, I am not wondering whether there might be some higher being after all, but rather “how did the author just pull all of that off?” But of course the author is the omnipotent one here, wielding his power not only over his characters but also over his readers.
I hope this novel gets translated soon!