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The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios

3.47  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,595 Ratings  ·  279 Reviews
Dealing with such themes as storytelling and illness, war and music, death and bureaucracy, science and sex, these tales are moving and thought-provoking.
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published March 1st 2005 by Canongate Books (first published 1993)
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Jacob
"The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios"
The narrator and his friend, Paul, an AIDS patient, spend Paul's last few months constructing an elaborate story about an Italian family in Helsinki and their lives throughout the Twentieth Century--elaborate, but ultimately unfinished.

"The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American Composer John Morton"
The narrator, visiting a friend in D.C., attends a concert of Vietnam War veterans in a ruine
...more
Trish
After Life of Pi was published, I sought a remainder copy of this title from somewhere in Canada. It was perplexing in the way that I now know all Martel books are. I didn't like it. After Beatrice and Virgil was published, I bought an audio version of this so that I could have another crack at it. I find reading Martel's works and listening to them are two distinct pleasures. Indeed, this was something new, to hear it spoken, and I see many of the themes Martel has touched on in his other work. ...more
Kathy
Oct 10, 2007 Kathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From a blog post I wrote in 2005:
I was browsing the new fiction section at the library and saw a book of short fiction by Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi. I was a little leary when I found they were stories he had written before Pi. The thought crossed my mind that maybe he was just cashing in on his popularity by putting out some old stuff that wasn't that good. I was wrong, though. The stories were very well written and I'm glad I took the chance and checked the book out.

The title story was
...more
Michelle Teoh
Jan 02, 2015 Michelle Teoh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book is only about 200 pages long but it took me sooooo long to finish it. not because it was bad. it was the complete opposite of bad. it was brilliant. but it was scarily so, and very, very realistic and terrifyingly devastating that i had to take multiple breaks in between pages to calm myself down.

these breaks apply to both helsinki and manners of dying, obviously because of the morbidity, but don't get me wrong, they were both so amazing. manners of dying was only about 20 pages long i
...more
Nathan
Jul 05, 2015 Nathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
It's only four stories and in the introduction Martel makes it clear these are the best of his earlier works. They're all good picks. The characters are interesting and the writing is beautiful. For me, the best feature of these stories was their structure - how the author chose to put them together; there's a great variety here. Each one has its own fun and creative quirks. The stand out for me was the title story which is endearingly self-aware of the cumbersomeness of its own title.
Abby
Jun 12, 2012 Abby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: made-me-cry
This is a collection of 4 works of short fiction, what Martel considers (according to the Introduction) to be the best of his early work, and I'm sure I'd agree; these stories are great. I like the each of the varying styles and formats of the stories, and the different voices he gives to the narrator. Each story was driven by emotional truth, and each made me think.
The best of the bunch was the title story: "The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios" which is a brilliant tale of suffering and
...more
Sam
May 22, 2010 Sam rated it liked it
This is in an interesting collection of four short stories written by Yann during his earlier attempts at penmanship. The initial story that give the collection its name is moving, humorous, sad and brings home the reality of AIDS, not just on the sufferer and their family but also on their friends. The second story tells of a man who goes through the back streets of Washington and chances upon hearing a piece of music that stays with him but one that he can't portray or explain to his friends a ...more
Matt
Mar 08, 2011 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book consists of four pieces of short fiction. Basically, it is a 50/50 deal: two of the stories are okay and two are extraordinary. The title story and the third one, called "Manners of Dying" are the ones that are just okay. The title story is unique in concept but not terribly so in execution. "Manners of Dying" is something almost experimental and, while interesting, did not move me in any particular way.
The other two stories, "The Time I Heard The Private Donald J. Rankin String Conce
...more
Seth
May 22, 2010 Seth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I enjoyed Life of Pi much more than these short stories, this is a gem of a book. There are four short stories. The title (The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios)is one of them. I will only discuss this story. The story is about two friends Paul and the narrator. Paul is infected with AIDS from a blood transfusion arising from a car accident. The narrator (Paul's friend) tells the story of their friendship as Paul dies. The news of his death leads to a meaningless spout of depression. I ...more
Jenny
Jan 30, 2016 Jenny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
I agree with Katelyn - this book is a bit difficult to rate because I really liked the second story, thought the first was good but tried too hard, was okay with the fourth and really wanted to vomit while reading the third (I'm against corporal punishment). I hadn't read anything by Martel before (never did get around to reading Life of Pi, though I didn't have any desire to) and these were interesting. I also have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of short stories, but these were easy reads.

The
...more
Martin Boyle
Nov 26, 2015 Martin Boyle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
Four short stories, each with a good idea ready to come out. But having an idea isn't enough to make a book.

And certainly not short stories that are padded out so much that they become tedious to read. Youthful efforts, I wonder whether anyone would have published them if it hadn't been for the superb Life of Pi. Certainly the stories could have done with a lot more reflection, a little work on honing the execution of the ideas so that they actually felt like short stories, so that they encourag
...more
Ria
Jul 30, 2015 Ria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Four great stories / novellas by Yann Martel the first The facts behind the Helsinki Roccamtios tells the story of Paul who is slowly dying of AIDS.
The second The time I heard the private Donald J. Rankin string concerto with one discorant violin, by the American composer John Morton tells of a 25 year old attending a concert at a partially knocked down theatre and the emotions he feels listening to the music and a chance meeting with one of the performers afterwards.
The third Manners of dying t
...more
Mallory
Jul 15, 2014 Mallory rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved "The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios" as I think almost everyone would.

Then I was blown away by the writing in "The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American Composer John Morton." Jaw dropping description of a musical experience, really, just incredible imagery as always. I love the way Martel writes - I can't think of any other writers who can capture a moment/experience/person/thing as vividly as he can. The actual stor
...more
Angela
Mar 09, 2011 Angela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Life of Pi is one of my all-time favorite books; however, Martel's most recent novel, Beatrice and Virgil, was incredibly disappointing. So I was a little reluctant to pick up this earlier effort, and didn't have high expectations for it.

That said, I really enjoyed this compilation.

There are four short stories in this volume. I found three of the four to be very worthwhile. I struggled through the fourth one - titled "Manners of Dying" - which is simply many versions of a letter written by a p
...more
Brida
Jan 07, 2011 Brida rated it really liked it
This is a book of four short stories, told in the first person. That makes them very intimate, and drags you into the story. They're all simple, but very beautiful in my opinion. There's one thing I noticed while reading Life of Pi, and I've noticed it here as well. The love. I know it sounds cheesy, but yes - love. I'll concentrate on the first story ''The Facts Behind...''. The narrator's love for Paul (the AIDS patient, but more importantly his best friend) is incredible. I don't quite know h ...more
Roger DeBlanck
Aug 10, 2015 Roger DeBlanck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Canadian writer Yann Martel became a literary sensation when his novel Life of Pi went on achieve worldwide bestseller status while also winning the distinguished Booker Prize in 2002. Many readers were elated to learn that Martel, although virtually unknown before Pi’s success, had actually published his first book way back in 1993, an unceremoniously-received collection of short fiction entitled The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios. With his newfound stardom, his publisher re-released his ...more
Betsy
Aug 05, 2010 Betsy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A stunning group of stories that continue to haunt me to this day. The first, The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios was so incredibly poignant and moving, that I, usually not an emotional reader, cried while reading it, on an airplane no less. I will not tell you what the story was about, because the emotion was not about the result, but the process. Read it. In fact all the stories were very moving and definitely struck an emotional cord. The second story was about a concert performed by wa ...more
Eric
A collection of short fiction by Yann Martel.

In “The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios”, a novella of about 85 pages, the main character describes how he touches the life of his friend (Paul) dying of AIDS. Together they write stories based on historical facts from each year of the 20th century. I wanted to know more about the story within the story, the story that they wrote together, but that wasn’t what it was about. It was about the tragedy of the young man’s early death. It is fitting
...more
Melinda
Concise, exact, strange and engaging. It’s hard to describe Yann Martel’s writing, but it leaves the reader with a feeling, a deeper sort of understanding of the world, or perhaps a recognition of the confusion by it. In this collection of four totally different novellas, Martel turns bits and pieces here and there into four, complete-yet-not-complete, first-person accounts. The plots are vague, the emotions are present but not overdone: they are what create the stories in the end. Readers expec ...more
Greg
Feb 07, 2011 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this at a Big Lots marked for $3 but it rung up 54 cents. A neat find and worth much more! I really enjoyed the whimsical experimental quality of these stories. The first wasn't my favorite but the rest were spectacular. The descriptions of the music in the second one really spoke to me and made me feel as if I could hear the music being performed, including the mistakes! Manners of Dying is hypnotic in its repetition. Really makes me wonder how this was made into a feature film! Finally ...more
Ashlea Ramey
Jan 25, 2016 Ashlea Ramey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I went into this with a fair amount of trepidation - Life of Pi is one of the most overrated books I've ever read, and my last foray into short fiction was a John Updike collection I started a year ago and have yet to finish.

So Yann Martel + short stories seemed pretty inauspicious. But then I read all four stories in one sitting, and the first three left me with the satisfying emotional gut punch Life of Pi so conspicuously lacked.

They're not perfect. Martel is a little obsessed with his own
...more
Kathrine Holyoak
I don't give stars lightly, so these 5 shine brightly (my last five spot was 7 months ago). Went to a second hand store for a used book that wouldn't matter if "summer" happened on it, recognized the author, hated the title, took a chance & won the jackpot. A short story is successful when the reader wishes it were longer. Martel batted 4 for 4 in this compilation. My favorite was the "Discordant Violin", but each had lines that made me dig deeper into myself to expand my depth and breadth.
Luis
Jun 26, 2015 Luis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
This book is made up of 4 stories - one novella and three short stories.

In general, I was kind of sad that the title story, the novella, isn't so much a delicious treat AS THE OTHER STORIES WHICH ARE SO AMAZING OMG!!!! UGHGHGHGH!!!

Oops. Lost my cool.

(get your shit together, Luis. Gushes are for later.)

Anyway, I liked all the characters of all the stories. Also I admit that I expected that I would heave a lot of imaginary puke from too much emotion and sentimentality and all that crap from a book
...more
Tony Laplume
Sep 30, 2015 Tony Laplume rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let's get this out of the way: If there's a book published in the last twenty-five years that has a real shot at immortality, it's Life of Pi. So what will you learn from reading Martel's earliest work? Plenty, it seems.

What made Life of Pi so transcendent was Martel's astonishing ability to weave magic from deceptively extraordinary circumstances. If you haven't read it and you have no idea what the preceding means, maybe you really should start with Roccamatios, which presents Martel's formati
...more
Shannon
Nov 28, 2015 Shannon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this. It isn't easy to find good short stories and not every author can manage them, but Martel is a welcome exception. The Discordant Violin was my personal favorite. I'm so grateful my fabulous friend Katherine not only recommended it, but lovingly forced it upon me. Those are the best kind of friends.
Housewife Bubuchu
Три рассказа под одной обложкой.

Первый, пожалуй, самый для меня тяжелый. Медленное подробное повествование как девятнадцатилетний друг автора умирает от СПИДа. Если автор хотел передать мучительную медлительность болезни и ее разрушающее действие на семью и родных больного, то у него это получилось блестяще. Я страдала.

Зато остальные два коротеньких рассказика изумительно сгладили впечатление.

Второй - многократное повторение истории последней ночи и смерти одного человека, построенное в форме
...more
Teresa
Sep 26, 2009 Teresa rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed these four short stories, written by Martel before his "Life of Pi," which I loved. The stories are inventive without being gimmicky, and emotional and engaging without being sentimental.
Paul The Uncommon Reader
Funny, dead-pan, quirky yet structured

Four stories. The first emotionally driven; the second examining the relationship between making art (music) and bonding between people... followed by a discussion with the conductor about art and how it fits in with a regular working life. This was my favourite of the four.

My second favourite was the third one, which appealed to my sense of the absurd, macabre and quirkiness. How dark but how funny, how morbid and yet life affirming: the absurd idea of cata

...more
Anna
May 03, 2011 Anna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookcrossing, 2011
The title grabbed my interest. Something about a family of Italian origin living in Helsinki, by Yann Martel, who wrote the Life of Pi? (Which I found a decent holiday read)

Well, my interest wasn't satisfied. There are four short stories in this book, of which the Roccamatio one is 82 pages.
On the back cover of the book it says: "In 'The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios', two young friends discover the transformative power of the imagination as they join togeher to craft a story about a Fi
...more
Anil
Jul 24, 2010 Anil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Life of Pi has been a favorite of mine so let me see how this one goes.

This is a collection of 4 shortish stories. When you write a book like Life of Pi and then go back and publish some of your early books they just will not measure up. Having said that, I enjoyed reading this collection of stories. You can see that this is a young man writing as the author reminds in the stories. It is full of youth's earnestness and seriousness and certainty and doubt (oxymoronic as that is).

The first story (
...more
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Yann Martel is the author of Life of Pi, the #1 international bestseller and winner of the 2002 Man Booker (among many other prizes). He is also the award-winning author of The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios (winner of the Journey Prize), Self, Beatrice & Virgil, and 101 Letters to a Prime Minister. Born in Spain in 1963, Martel studied philosophy at Trent University, worked at odd jobs ...more
More about Yann Martel...

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“I am magical: I can bleed for five days and not die.” 6 likes
“The most beautiful rooms I have entered have been empty ones. Warehouses full of light and dust. Empty attics with a view. Coastlines. Prairies.” 5 likes
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