When boys play wargames, everything happens here and now.
Author: Matias Riikonen
Finnish original: Matara
Publisher: Teos, 2021
Genre: literary fiction
Number of pages: 310 pp.
Reading material: Finnish original, English sample, English synopsis
Rights sold: Denmark, Jensen & Dalgaard; World French, Christian Bourgois Éditeur
With the cruel nations of yore prowling the borders of the Republic of Matara, neither birthright nor wealth excuse one from the military drills that ensure the realm’s safety.
Under the guidance of his older brother, a young boy trains to be a scout. While spying, the pair come upon an enemy camp: war is at hand.
In the evening, they return to the academy to rest.
Matara is the story of boys who spend their summers building realms of their own. Senators scheme in togas made of sheets, mannequins make for wives, and circus entertainments are devised to thrill the charcoal-whiskered rabble.
A blow from a wooden sword means a death from which there is no return. And foreign people are treated the way they generally are–pitilessly.
Matias Riikonen’s fourth novel takes children seriously in a way few other works have. In Riikonen’s hands, the birdsong-filled woods of early summer and the boys’ violence and tenderness meld into superb, startling literature. At times one forgets one is reading a portrayal of boys at play; at others, one fears one is reading a description of reality.
“Matias Riikonen writes about the boys’ wargames as if they were the most important thing in the world. The result is a magnificent work, among the best contemporary Finnish prose.”
– Suomen Kuvalehti magazine
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