New from the archives
An extract from Täällä Pohjantähden alla (‘Here beneath the North Star’), chapter 3, volume II. Introduction by Juhani Niemi
With banners held aloft, the procession of strikers moved towards the Manor. It was known that the strikebreakers had arrived early and that the district constable was with them. Just before reaching the field the marchers struck up a song, and they went on singing after they had halted at the edge of the field. The men at work in the field went on with their tasks, casting occasional furtive glances at the strikers. Nearest to the road stood the Baron and the constable. Uolevi Yllö’s head was bandaged: someone had attacked him with a bicycle chain as he left the field at dusk the evening before. Arvo Töyry was in the field too, the landowners having agreed that those who had got their own harrowing and sowing done should lend the others a hand. Not all the men in the field were known to the strikers. The son of the district doctor was there they noticed, and the sons of several of the village gentry, as well as the men from the smallholdings. More…
An excerpt from Rakas rouva K (‘Dear Mrs K.’, 1979). Introduction and interview by Auli Viikari
Lahtinen read through what he had written so far, and it pleased him, especially the quotation from Clausewitz. “It could be said,” he went on, “that the victories of the French Revolution during those two decades were due in most cases to the mistaken policies of its opponents, even though the actual coup that shook the world took place within the framework of war.” His article was about the British attitude to Germany’s expansionist policies. There would not be another Munich, he felt sure: the House of Commons had cheered Chamberlain for the last time. Where, he asked himself, would England eventually abandon the role of passive onlooker? At Danzig, surely. It would not be like Poland to give something for nothing. She would set a world war in motion, of that he had no doubt. And he could see Poland dissolving into ruin before his very eyes. More…
An excerpt from Laturi (‘The explosives expert’, 1979). Introduction by Pekka Tarkka
“It only took one good bash!” With tears in his eyes, chuckling and spluttering, Korppi, the sentimentalist, told the story of Linda’s love affair. Korppi hadn’t been an old codger then; like Chekov’s Versinin, he could have been dubbed the love-lorn major, although he was only a lieutenant for he had loved little Linda when he had been an officer guarding the refugees interned on Suursaari: interned not for their safety but for the protection of his country. “She loved getting parcels, oh yes, but she didn’t give a damn for me! And did I take what belonged to me?
Yes! No! I nibbled here and there but I never swallowed a whole bite … On the other hand, there were some who took a bite and swallowed it, one of them was called …”
“Selim!” shouted Enver.
Selim, that jelly. He was Korppi’s subordinate on guard duty, and had he known the other fellow had been flirting with Linda he would have killed her! But how could he have known? What took place under a clump of hills along a wooded lake shore… More…
An extract from 30-åriga kriget (‘The Thirty Years’ War’). Introduction by Markku Envall
First he heard the noise.
It was an unfamiliar noise and therefore doubly dangerous. Viktor grabbed his machine-pistol. It was a sputtering noise, like that of a cracked machine-gun. But it came from above. And what came from above could be dangerous, Viktor knew.
Then he saw the helicopter, flying just above the tree-tops. He had never seen a helicopter before. Nor had he ever seen the circular markings carried by the aircraft as a sign of the nationality. More and more nations were getting involved, he had had a visit from an American, for all he knew this might be a plane from Australia. The Russians must be in a tight corner if they had to keep sending their allies into the firing line.
He bitterly regretted having let the American sergeant get away.
Now they were after him in real earnest. It must have been the Yankee who had sent them.
Viktor directed a long burst of fire at the plane, which was now hovering almost motionless in the air, like a bee over a flower. The bullets shattered the roboter blades, splinters flew in all directions, and the helicopter dived at a steep angle and plunged into the lake. Viktor leapt to his feet and shouted “Hurrah!” and proceeded to execute a gleeful victory dance. He had shot down an enemy aircraft. More…
A short story from Dockskåpet (‘The doll’s house’). Introduction and translation by W. Glyn Jones
The newspaper came at five o’clock, as it did every morning. He lit the bedside lamp and put on his slippers. Very slowly he shuffled across the smooth concrete floor, threading his way as usual between the modeling stands; the shadows they cast were black and cave-like. He had polished the floor since last making some plaster casts. There was a wind blowing, and in the light from the street lamp outside the studio the shadows were swaying to and fro, forced away from each other and then brought together again: it was like walking through a moonlit forest in a gale. He liked it. The monkey had wakened up in its cage and was hanging on to the bars, squealing plaintively. “Monk-monk,” said the sculptor as he went out into the hall to fetch his newspaper. On his way back he opened the door of the cage, and the monkey scrambled on to his shoulder and held on tight. She was cold. He put her collar on and fastened the lead to his wrist. She was a quite ordinary guenon from Tangier that someone had bought cheap and sold at a large profit: she got pneumonia now and then and had to be given penicillin. The local children made jerseys for her. He went back to bed and opened his newspaper. The monkey lay still, warming herself with her arms around his neck. Before long she sat down in front of him with her beautiful hands clasped across her stomach; she fixed her eyes on his. Her narrow, grey face betrayed a patience that was sad and unchanging. “Go on – stare, you confouded orangoutang,” the sculptor said and went on reading. When he reached the second or third page the monkey would suddenly and with lightning precision jump through the newspaper, but always through the pages he was finished with. It was a ritual act. The newspaper is torn apart, the monkey shrieks in a triumph and lies down to sleep. It can give you some relief to read about all the worthless nonsense that goes on in the world every morning at five o’clock and then to have it confirmed that it is worthless nonsense when the whole lot is made unreadable by a great hole being made through it. She helped him to get rid of it. More…
A short story from Dockskåpet (‘The doll’s house’). Introduction and translation by W. Glyn Jones
What I am about to write might perhaps seem exaggerated, but the most important element in what I have to tell is really my overriding desire for accuracy and attention to detail. In actual fact, I am not telling a story, I am writing an account. I am known for my accuracy and precision. And what I am trying to say is intended for myself: I want to get certain things into perspective.
It is hard to write; I don’t know where to begin. Perhaps a few facts first. Well, I am a specialist in technical drawings and have been employed by Finnish Railways all my life. I am a meticulous and able draughtsman; in addition to that I have for many years worked as a secretary; I shall return to this later. To a very great extent my story is concerned with locomotives; I am consciously using this slightly antiquated word locomotive instead of loco, for I have a penchant for beautiful and perhaps somewhat antediluvian words. Of course, I often draw detailed sketches of this particular kind of engine as part of my everyday work, and when I am so engaged I feel no more than a quiet pride in my work, but in the evenings when I have gone home to my flat I draw engines in motion and in particular the locomotive. It is a game, a hobby, which must not be associated with ambition. During recent years I have drawn and coloured a whole series of plates, and I think that I might be able to produce a book of them some time. But I am not ready yet, not by a long way. When I retire I shall devote all my time to the locomotive, or rather to the idea of the locomotive. At the moment I am forced to write, every day; I must be explicit. The pictures are not sufficient. More…
Wind’s whistling through Europe’s windows
In the moonlight
when the mirrors are screeching
cold light, a silvery curse
the newsreel breaks loose, gallops
the window pane into blackness
Wind’s whistling through
Europe’s windows, the sky’s
full of flying Pickwick Club papers
Just a moment
switchboard diagram: the transistors
are hijacking the plane More…
Pappas flicka (‘Daddy’s girl’, 1982), an extract of which appears below, is published in Finland by Söderstrom & C:o and in Sweden by Norstedt. The Finnish translation is published by Tammi. Introduction by Gustaf Widén
At first I say nothing, as usual.
Dr Berg also sits in silence. I can hear him moving in his chair and try to work out what he’s doing. Is he getting out pen and paper? Or perhaps he has a tiny soundless tape-recorder he is switching on.
Or is he just settling down, deep down into his armchair, one leg crossed over the other, like Dad used to sit? I used to climb up on to his foot. The he would hold my hands and bounce his foot up and down, and you had to say “whoopsie” and finally with a powerful kick, he would fling me in the air so that I landed in his arms.
I have worked it out that the little cushion under my head is to stop us lunatics from turning our heads round to look at Herr Doktor.
It would certainly be nice to sit bouncing up and down on Dr Berg’s foot. His ankle would rub me between my legs …
I soon start feeling ashamed and blush.
“Mm,” says Dr Berg, as if reading my thoughts. Or can he see my face from where he is sitting? I try rolling my eyes up to catch a glimpse of him, but all I can see is the ceiling with all its thick beams.
“I seem to have been here before,” I say. More…
An extract from Det har aldrig hänt (‘It never happened’, 1977). Translated and introduced by W. Glyn Jones
There they are!
Over the ice they ride. The hoofs in rhythmical movement kick up the snow. The trail points north west. The sound of the hoofs is absorbed in the blue twilight of a March evening. The two horsemen push on, close together, passing one tiny island after another. Their eyes are fixed on a trail which has lain before them throughout the day. They are hunting like wolves. Yes, like wolves they are.
Or are they?
The twilight gives way to darkness and the black of night. The riders lean low over their horses in an attempt to follow the trail, but at last one of them raises his hand. The hunt is called off. The horses snort and toss their heads so their manes dance. Clouds of steam rise from them, enveloping the men as they dismount and lead their horses to an islet where the dark and deserted profile of a fisherman’s cabin can be glimpsed. Heaven knows who the hut belongs to, but it is a good thing that it is there with its walls and a roof, a shelter against the night. More…
Poems from Kuolleet vedet (‘Dead waters’). Introduction by Aarne Kinnunen
A faraway tucked-away room
Leathery harness odour
An obscure carriage house
A mighty delay
And out through a narrow gate slipped childhood And a pony cart was coming to get us swishing on the sand
White gloves on the coachman
and ornamented with a whip, the lash sounding
We were driving through spotted leaves
Lustre, dolour, lustre,
And suddenly the driver was gone
and nothing but hands were gripping the horse
and they were leading me I don’t know where. More…
Poems from Tiitiäisen satupuu (‘The Tittytumpkin’s fairy tree’, 1956)
The old water rat
There’s a shiver of a reed,
a rustle in the grass,
a slop-slopping through the mud:
Who’s that puffing past?
Who’s that peeping there?
A whiskery head
and a muddy tread.
It’s Old Mattie
Squeezing water from his eyes,
trickling from his sneezing nose,
freezing and sneezing.
Then: Oh dear Misery!
A-snee, a-snee, a-snizzery! More…