Canal Grande. Hannu Raittila.Translated by Andrew Chesterman
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A team of Finnish experts is sent on a UNESCO mission to save Venice from sinking. A rich social comedy unfolds as northern cool meets Mediterranean carnival: two very different manifestations of modern European culture. But beneath the satire, a more serious moral critique develops, as darker sides of human behaviour are gradually revealed...The final pages are an emotional shock, as we realize how much the Finnish experts have not realized.
The novel switches between the viewpoints of several contrasting voices, from different members of the team of experts. The main voice is that of Marrasjärvi, the team's resouceful and ever-rational hydro-engineer, a specialist in freezing, who will solve any technical problem and even save a donkey from drowning. Other team members are Saraspää, an ageing cultural hedonist who keeps a very personal diary, and Heikkilä, an academic historian who is fluent in Latin and ready to lecture on anything at any time.The last voice is that of Tuuli, the team's bilingual secretary, who lives in a different world and saves more than a donkey.
Underpinning the often farcical culture clash there run deeper themes exploring the gap between rhetoric and reality, the limits of rationality, what might make a good life, and human tragedy.
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