The Howling Miller, by Arto Paasilinna

A deceptively simple fable concerning exploitation, corruption and narrow-mindedness

Book Review by Lauren O'Rourke | 09 Aug 2007
Book title: The Howling Miller,
Author: Arto Paasilinna
Despite Arto Paasilinna's prolificacy and glowing reputation on the continent, this is the first British publication of The Howling Miller, over twenty years after its initial appearance in Finland. The wait is somewhat mysterious given the novel's obvious charm: a deceptively simple fable concerning exploitation, corruption and narrow-mindedness in a small Finnish community. Paasilinna casts a disapproving eye on the flaws of industrialisation and capitalism, as symbolised by the literal struggle between Gunnar Huttenen – the eponymous hero – and the millwheel that threatens to crush him. Paasilinna does not hesitate in showing the mundane cruelties perpetrated by those in power against the less fortunate, whether it be the pointless death of a squirrel to amuse the police chief or the exploitation of the tenants of the fraudster Happola, who declares 'the rent has to be paid on time whether the landlord is mad or not'. While the novel is rather slow to begin, the second half picks up the pace with deadpan humour creating a counterpoint to the disturbing persecution of the protagonist. The Howling Miller is a novel in praise of outsiders and victims, composed in a disarmingly child-like style that makes its very adult message difficult to forget. [Lauren O'Rourke]
Out now. Published by Canongate. Cover price £7.99 paperback.