Only a part of what we know and perceive depends on direct experiences, and we often have (or are forced) to integrate our knowledge with our deduction, imagination or hearsay, sometimes drawing inspiration from widespread prejudices. Erlend Loe’s protagonist has been commissioned a brochure on Finland for Norwegian tourists and wants to fulfil this task, even though he has never been there and he knows very little about the country. By collecting all the features he has heard of or read about (we could say all the mythemes) on Finland, he realizes that he already disposes of a great deal of ideas he can work on. Moreover, the accomplishment of this mission is constantly entwined with his psychological development and his facing of his inner troubles, from his fear of water – which always implies change – to his relationship with people and even natural space. In long, lively and very ironical monologues, which make up one unique discourse through the whole book, the construction of a suitable image of Finland for potential tourists develops in parallel with the protagonist’s awareness of his own situation, by passing through check points of reference, providential intuitions and unforeseen crises. Finland is built up with the help of a complex, unusual and questioned set of features, occasionally by transfiguring events which have just happened to the protagonist in such a way that offers him even temporary solutions to his troubles. Eventually, in spite of itself, this imagined country turns out to be not only a place to sell with all its attractions, but also a kind of alter-ego, a friend to rely on, a therapeutic course to escape one’s own frailties, as well as a threatening presence for this awkward, naïve and funny brochure writer. This paper aims to reconstruct the development of these different courses and highlight the multifaceted image of Finland conveyed by the novel, together with the multiplicity of purposes for which the idea of this country in the protagonist’s mind is used.
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