Kari Hotakainen: The Disciple

“Give me a crowbar when I can’t find the keys. Don’t use the soft words if the hard ones are at hand.”

Author: Kari Hotakainen
Finnish original: Opetuslapsi
Publisher: Siltala, 2022

Genre: literary fiction
Number of pages: 271 pp.
Reading material: Finnish original, English sample
, English synopsis

Over the course of three days, the life Maria has lived snowballs into a chain of events—an unraveling and a settling of scores that drive her to the abandoned service station where she used to work. As a SWAT team surrounds the station, she demands her three abductees confess their sins.

That evening, I open the bag in the gloom of my container and pull out the gun. It feels heavy, permanent. I specifically wanted a Colt because my biological father used to smoke Colts. The association is silly and romantic, but that’s not the point. The important thing is now I can be sure that if my words lose their effectiveness, I have other means of continuing the conversation.
(Translated by Kristian London)

The Disciple is a ferocious novel about social exclusion, revenge, and the search for connection. It runs on a thriller’s revs, the pulse of Maria’s heart. Over the course of the three days, Maria settles accounts in a way that forces the reader to think about the meaning of life, the problems inherent in a middle-class lifestyle, and the part we play as individuals on the final precipice of an era.

The rhetorical blades of Disciple strike with precision, and a dark, laconic humor sustains the work.
– Helsingin Sanomat newspaper

Hotakainen understands the most interesting thing about revenge is not the reason someone seeks it, its justification. What’s essential is that the revenge-seeker at least momentarily take control of the situation, act on her own terms. Communication is a major value in contemporary society, but those seeking vengeance have lost faith in its redemptive power. Disciple is a statement that has no interest in turning into a conversation – this is one of the remarkable things about it. Although the book is primarily constructed of Maria’s monologues, the text never feels heavy. The end is solid. This may be the best Hotakainen I’ve ever read, or at least the most pugnacious.”
– Suomen Kuvalehti magazine

Also available:
Story (2020)
Lifeline (2015)
The Word of God (2011)
The Human Part (2009)
Trench Road (2002)

About the author:
Kari Hotakainen