One Thousand and One
“All thought is driven out of sight, and before long unpleasant things start to happen right in front of us…”
Kari Hukkila’s One Thousand & One is a philosophical, essayistic novel about catastrophes, both natural and man-made, about humans’ ability to respond to catastrophes by thinking or, at the very least, simply managing to survive.
Hukkila’s novel is a cornucopia of micro-histories, digressions, and a broad gallery of characters ranging from the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein to an Ethiopian refugee in Rome.
One Thousand & One begins when a large birch tree falls on a cabin near the Russian border in eastern Finland, leaving the narrator unable to concentrate on a writing project he has been at work on. He decides then to take up an invitation to Rome, where his lifelong friend has lived since abandoning a life in philosophy. In Hukkila’s novel, Scheherazade’s survival by continuing to tell stories is reimagined as survival by continuing to think, a continued thought activity, often taken to extremes, the preservation of humanity in an inhumane world. In David Hackston’s eloquent translation, Hukkila’s musical, meandering, thought-provoking prose is full of savage, ironic, and luminous humor, remaining uncompromisingly alive until the final sentence.
One Thousand & One is the first in a projected series of five novels. Upon its release in Finland in 2016 it was said to bear “all the hallmarks of a classic.”
“Thought no longer had a place in the world, and of course if you’re an illegal it’s all but impossible.”