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5.0 out of 5 stars Some of the most darkly funny writing on EU cooperation, 24 July 2010
AK (London) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Canal Grande: Roman (Paperback)
Hannu Raittila's 'Canal Grande' comes across as a mix of Good Omens (Prachett / Gaiman) and Paasilinna's The Year of the Hare - very darkly funny and possessed of an excellent insight into the human character but without the need to introduce fantastic elements to achieve the effect. No wonder it got the 'Finlandia Prize' for best fiction in its native country.

The book focuses on a Finnish team, sent to Venice to help in the restoration of the Canal Grande. There is conflict aplenty programmed in from the start - the lack of proper Italian speakers on the team, the slightly different points of view both within the team and between the team and the people they were supposed to help. As a satyrical description of a development aid project it scores highly; it is equally adept at mocking EU co-operation (or lack there-off) and power hungry EU technocrats, too.

From the Finnish university professor being used as a translator (he spoke only latin), the engineer at the edge of dispair, an EU cooperation matron, a donkey in need of saving, this really is a laugh out loud page turner. As the various chapters are written from the perspective of different protagonists, it has a pretty good authenticity, too. Not sure whether it is the long dark winters or an aspect of the cuisine that makes Finnish writers such wry observers of human nature.

The only thing that still surprises me is how a book of this class can remain untranslated into English - especially with all the Eurosceptics present on the island. Not that it is less enjoyable for an EU advocate, either.
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Canal Grande: Roman
Canal Grande: Roman by Hannu Raittila (Paperback - 6 April 2009)
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