The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios
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The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios

3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  2,143 ratings  ·  241 reviews
The appearance of a young storyteller with a unique fictional voice is cause for celebration. Yann Martel's title story (described as "unforgettable...a truly stunning piece of fiction"*), won the 1991 Journey Prize to universal acclaim. The intensely human tragedy that lies at its heart is told with a spare, careful elegance that resonates long after it has ended--and is...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published 1993 by Hancourt, Inc.
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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
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
Sam
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
Cruella Collett
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Matt
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
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
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
Greg
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
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
Abby
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
Angela
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
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
Anna
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
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
Sydney
As a huge fan of Yann Martel, I was inclined to like these stories. However, when I first read them, I felt nothing more of a response than "huh." Of course the writing was pristine, but the stories? Huh. That's all. But, I am pleased to say, this is another book that has grown on me very much.

"The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios"

"Facts" is about a young straight man with AIDS and his friend, and the ways in which the two attempt to occupy themselves during the extended hospital stay at t...more
Emma
This book is comprised of four short stories, each one amazingly different. After reading the introduction and learning that these stories are from the days when Yann Martel first fell in love with (and started) writing, immediately all expectations flew out the window. I noticed that the writing wasn't perfectly 'neat', as maybe something of a seasoned writer would be, but the stories were all excellent. In every story I found myself thinking 'What??' But everything came together quickly and ne...more
Sonatajessica
Since I was among those who enjoyed both, "Life of Pi" and "Beatrice and Virgil", I was eager to read more of Martel and picked up this collection, the title sounded good, I have seen Helsinki myself in the beauty of winter and was hoping for an interesting December read.
Well, there is not any of Helsinki in these pages but that was still the best story. TFBTHR is the only one where the format worked in favor of the plot and the conveyed emotions; see three of the stories use a certain structure...more
Roger DeBlanck
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
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
Erin
I read this in a day, and I adored it. The 1st story, The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, broke my heart. I really didn't enjoy it at first, then all of a sudden I was in love with it. So much more than just a short story about AIDS, it was tragic in the writing itself.

My least favorite was the 2nd story, ...The Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto...., and I'm not sure why I didn't enjoy it as much. Too much crammed into the little story? I think I just didn't like the composer and h...more
Amy
“Music is a bird's answer to the noise and heaviness of words. It puts the mind in a state of exhilarated speechlessness.”

Well, I must say this was quite an odd read. The first half was really good, the story about his AIDS sick friend and the musician. And then the second half: letters about an execution and then the last story telling about something which I hardly understood.

Like I said the first two stories are highly enjoyable and emotional. It’s about how people cope with the terrible dise...more
Anne
I read this short collection for the first time several years ago, having just read Life of Pi, and while I vaguely remembered three of the stories, only the third, "Manners of Dying," stuck in my memory with any clarity. Nonetheless, I am glad to have revisited it; it is clearly flawed but portents a lot of the theme and style evident in Life of Pi, one of my favorite books.

The title story, "The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios," is actually my least favorite. While the premise is fascina...more
Ollie
This is a collection of four short stories (in large font, double-spaced, to make the book appear longer than it is) written by Martel before he became famous for his Booker-prize winning novel The Life of Pi. Four short stories that he got published and praised for when he was just starting out as a fiction writer - the kind of collection that fans of the writer might want to check out, but which isn't really an essential read for anyone else.

The first story, which takes the name of the collec...more
Daniel
I wasn't particularly crazy about Life of Pi, but I really enjoyed the works in this book. Each was very different from any of the others, and very different from the novel I'd read.

"...Helsinki..." might be my least favorite of these four offerings, though I enjoyed the writing "game" that the main characters were engaged in.

"...String Concerto..." was the most "typical" piece of fiction, but it struck me as the sort of work that I might write myself. I really liked everything about it.

"Manners...more
Michelle
I listened to the audiobook version of Yann Martel's novel "Life of Pi" last summer on a 5-hour road trip to one of my favorite places to golf and swim in PA, Treasure Lake.

The story started off slow but picked up momentum as the story focused on a boy who is trapped on a small boat adrift at sea with a big tiger for many months. (Tough for that scenario not to be interesting.) Both survive, and without a doubt Martel's power of imagination is revealed through twists and unexpected turns of the...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
Nesa Sivagnanam
Long before the Life of Pi there was this collection of 4 rather odd and long short stories.

"Manners of Dying" consists of variations on a single motif, the description of a convicted criminal's last hours before his execution. Each one is written in the form of a letter to the prisoner's mother from the warden of a correctional institution.

The details that are catalogued include the man's last meal, whether he ate it, how much time he spent with the chaplain, what attitude he displayed in expec...more
LaToya Hankins
Of the four short stories, only one in my opinion fell flat. The title story to mean really hit home for me as it describes the toll HIV/AIDS takes on those who are challenged with the diagnosis and their family friends. Part history lesson, part study in friendship, it changed the way I viewed the process of dying. The second short story, "The Time I heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin by the American Composer John Morton, operates on so many levels, it...more
Ape
2007 bookcrossing review:

Absolutely fantastic. This is the second of Martel's books I've read and I now want to read everything he's written - although I don't think there's a lot more published at the moment.

This is a collection of short stories that kicked off his writing career and as far as I can tell, very autobiographical. Really great. The first one, about a friend dying of AIDS is absolutely heart-breaking. It's such an awful disease - both for the guy dying but also for his friends and...more
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Yann Martel is a Canadian author best known for the Man Booker Prize-winning novel Life of Pi.

Yann Martel was born in Spain in 1963 of peripatetic Canadian parents. He grew up in Alaska, British Columbia, Costa Rica, France, Ontario and Mexico, and has continued travelling as an adult, spending time in Iran, Turkey and India. Martel refers to his travels as, “seeing the same play on a whole lot of

...more
More about Yann Martel...
Life of Pi Beatrice and Virgil Self What is Stephen Harper Reading?: Yann Martel's Recommended Reading for a Prime Minister and Book Lovers of All Stripes 101 Letters to a Prime Minister: The Complete Letters to Stephen Harper

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“Music is a bird's answer to the noise and heaviness of words. It puts the mind in a state of exhilerated speechlessness.” 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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