New from the archives
An extract from Hotelli eläville (‘Hotel for the living’, 1983). Introduction by Markku Huotari
Raisa and Pertti are a married couple with three children, Katrielina, Aripertti and Artomikko. When she discovers she is to have another, whom she names Katjaraisa, Raisa decides to have an abortion, because another child, even if welcome, would now jeopardise her career – she has been offered a job with an international company at the very top of the advertising world. Raisa is the successful entrepreneur of the novel – on the one hand coldly calculating, without feeling, on the other superficially sentimental, perhaps the most startlingly ironic of the characters in Jalonen’s novel. His image of the brave new woman?
During her lunch hour Raisa took a walk via the laboratory, asked reception for the envelope and thrust it unregarded into her handbag. She was aware of her already knowing, but short of the envelope, there would as yet be no restrictions, nor were there any decisions that would have to be made. She had called Tom Eriksson, discussed yet again the same points and particulars, and ended tracing a finger over the two beautiful pictures on her wall. ‘The loveliest of seas has yet to be sailed’ and ‘I am life! For Life’s sake.’
She thought of Katjaraisa, her features, the palms the breadth of two fingers, just as Katrielina’s had been, and the same button-eyed gazing look as Katrielina. More…
Puhua, vastata, opettaa (‘Speak, answer, teach’, 1972) could be called a collection of aphorisms or poems; the pieces resemble prose in having a connected plot, but they certainly are not narrative prose. Ikuisen rauhan aika (‘A time of eternal peace’, 1981) continues this approach. The title alludes ironically to Kant’s Zum Ewigen Frieden, mentioned in the text; ‘eternal peace’ is funereal for Haavikko.
In his ‘aphorisms’ Haavikko is discovering new methods of discourse for his abiding preoccupation: the power game. All organizations, he thinks, observe the rules of this sport – states, armies, businesses, churches. Any powerful institution wages war in its own way, applying the ruthless military code to autonomous survival, control, aggrandizement, and still more power. No morality – the question is: who wins? ‘I often entertain myself by translating historical events into the jargon of business management, or business promotion into war.’
‘What is a goal for the organization is a crime for the individual.’ Is Haavikko an abysmal pessimist, a cynic? He would himself consider that cynicism is something else: a would-be credulous idealism, plucking out its own eyes, promoting evil through ignorance. As for reality, ‘the world – the world’s a chair that’s pulled from under you. No floor’, says Mr Östanskog in the eponymous play. Reading out the rules of a mindless and cruel sport, without frills, softening qualifications, or groundless hopes, Haavikko is in the tradition of those moralists of the Middle Ages, who wrote tracts denouncing the perversity and madness of ‘the world’ – which is ‘full of work-of-art-resembling works of art, in various colours, book-resembling texts, people-resembling people’.
Speak, answer, teach
When people begin to desire equal rights, fair shares, the right to decide for themselves, to choose
one cannot tell them: You are asking for goods that cannot be made.
One cannot say that when they are manufactured they vanish, and when they are increased they decrease all the time. More…
I hear a happy tale, it makes me sad:
no-one will remember me for long.
I will send a letter with nothing inside, the emptiness will reek
as the pines do, of fruit-peel and of smoke,
a scent only.
Here I have stayed a week, seven riverside days.
The river treads the mill, ah, treads the mill,
the river’s wide, this is a placid reach, the sky is near:
smoke, like the shadow of a birdflock passing, nothing else.
And now it is September:
there are more pine trees here, and more darkness too. More…
The poems of Aleksis Kivi were long considered no more than a peripheral aspect of his work. They were, as Kivi’s friend Kaarlo Bergbom wrote in a review, ‘gold that can’t be minted into coins’. The reason appears to have been Kivi’s poetic technique, which made a clear break with tradition. He did away almost completely with rhyme and instead emphasised the rhythm and musical sound qualities of words. He shortened words in a way that did not find favour with any subsequent Finnish poets. He avoided emotional expressions of patriotism and romantic love poetry; instead, he composed poems that were extended, narrative and fresco-like. Lauri Viljanen, whose 1953 study brought about a re-evaluation of Kivi’s poetry, has given them the apt soubriquet ‘epic idyll’.
The first of Kivi’s poems appeared in the Kirjallinen Kuukauslehti (‘Literary monthly magazine’) in 1866; a collection of his poetry entitled Kanervala was published the same year. Other poems appear in his novels and plays, and some have appeared in a collection after his death. Karhunpyynti (‘The bear hunt’) is from Kanervala. Its descriptive nature is typical of Kivi. The verse structure is tightly controlled but unrhyming. The winter landscape of the third verse, repeated at the end of the poem, is a ceremonious point of rest among the otherwise busy activity.
– Kai Laitinen
The Bear Hunt
The men on skis set out for the forest, a brave company
With guns and bright spears
And clamouring dogs on the leash,
With blazing eyes,
As the dawn chases gloomy Night
From the sky’s brow,
And the sun raises his head. More…
A short story from Kesä ja keski-ikäinen nainen (‘Summer and the middle-aged woman’) Introduction by Margareta N. Deschner
First of all, I want to thank you and your wife for the pleasant evening I and my wife had in your summer villa in August. Briitta (since we are old acquaintances: with two i’s and two t’s, remember?) especially wants me to mention that she will never forget the half moon climbing the hill behind your sauna, surprising us with its speed. The next time we looked it was half-way up the sky! Without doubt, your fine tequila had something to do with the matter, one shouldn’t forget that. Even so, it was quite a show, just like the time a bunch of us guys had gone skiing and you bragged that you had arranged for the barn to catch fire. I hope that you and your wife – I mean Alli – will be able to visit us next winter and taste a superb Mallorca red wine called Comas, which we brought home. It is by far the best red I have ever tasted and indecently cheap to boot. I hope you will come soon. The wine won’t keep indefinitely, as you well know. We’ll save it for you. So thanks again.
A short story from Puhalluskukkapoika ja taivaankorjaaja (‘The blow-flower boy and the heaven-fixer’, 1983). Interview by Olavi Jama
A chill west wind came over the blue ice. It went right to the skin through woollen clothes. Shivers ran up and down the spine, made shoulders shake.
In the bank of clouds close to the horizon, right where the icebreaker had crunched open a passage to the shore, hung a pale blotch, a substitute for the sun. It gave off more chill than warmth.
Lennu’s teeth were chattering.
He wore a buttoned-up windbreaker, a hand-me-down from Gunnar, over a heavy lambswool shirt. It couldn’t keep off the cold. More…
A short story from Atomintutkija ja muita juttuja (1950). Introduction by Aarne Kinnunen
Deep in the wilds, where the only sound is the sad, primeval sighing of the forest, it is easy to succumb to a mood of boredom and melancholy. It may sometimes occur to you that in such a place you are wasting your life. Real life goes on elsewhere, in places with more people, more signs of human activity, more light, more gaiety…
You fell a tree, severing a string of that mighty instrument, the forest. You saw it into logs, you strip off the bark: it all seems dull and pointless. Sometimes the rain decides to go on for days: the trees have streaming colds, droplets hang from every needle-tip. You make for the shelter of a lumber camp. But the low-roofed rest-hut, deep in the forest, looks a dreary place, the well-known faces are so dull, the talk so futile. You feel you know in advance what each man is going to say. And the food, too, is just the same as usual, the same old rubbishy mush. The sight of the pot, with its blackened sides, gives no pleasure: you know all too well what is in it. And those grubby playing-cards, how disgusting! The mere sight of them is enough to make you feel defiled… More…
Poems from Narkissos talvella (‘Narcissus in winter’, 1982). Introduction by Pertti Lassila
Risto Ahti (born 1943) published his first work in 1975. His poetic expression finds form remarkably often in prose poems, and Narkissos talvella is made up exclusively of these. His poems transmute language into a mystical, surreal world, sometimes enigmatic and subjective in the extreme, and at its best strangely suggestive. It is as if Ahti’s world were in a state of constant change, subjected to a relentless process of demolition and rebuilding. The experience of the individual, generally his encounter with truth, is central to many of Ahti’s poems; the inner reality of a person manifests itself as more essential than the outward appearance. Ahti’s poems exhibit a fruitful contradiction: on the one hand, the accuracy with which he uses words and, on the other, the continual shape-changing and lack of definite boundaries of the world they describe. More…
Poems from From Eroikka (‘Eroica’, 1982). Introduction by Pertti Lassila
Ilpo Tiihonen (born 1950) published his first collection of poetry in 1975. From the beginning, his poems have been couched in the language of the street, and he uses slang liberally. Tiihonen has always been opposed to the miniature idylls of nature that were so characteristic of the 1970s. He aims at the secularisation of poetry, and he uses humour and comedy as a counterweight to high culture. He has evidently been influenced in his technique by Mayakovsky and Yesenin, to whom he often refers in his poems. His preferences in the poetic tradition are apparent in the fresh and liberal new interpretations of poems by Gustav Fröding contained in his collection Eroikka. Unusually for a contemporary Finnish poet, Tiihonen makes extensive use of rhyme. The result is often strongly lyrical poems that could almost be called modern broadsheet ballads, and may also bring Brecht to mind. More…
Poems from Parrakas madonna (‘Bearded Madonna’, 1983). Introduction by Pertti Lassila
The first volume of poems by Eira Stenberg (born 1943) appeared in 1966; since then she has published both poems and children’s stories. In her most recent collection, she examines human relationships within the family, divorce, motherhood and childhood. Stenberg’s voice is clear and concrete. Her treatment of both mother and child is unsentimental, sometimes ironic; perceptively and farsightedly she deals with the importance of childhood in the way it predestines the fate of the individual. No love or hate burns/ like that we receive as a gift from childhood, Stenberg writes in one of her poems. The home – protective, restrictive and punishing – is often the scene of her poems. The man, the father, is the butt of considerable irony and criticism, but Stenberg also destroys the myth of the madonna-like mother and the idyll of the home. More…
Poems from Paratiisiaavistus (‘An intimation of Paradise’, 1983). Introduction by Pertti Lassila
Satu Salminiitty (born 1959) has published only one collection of poetry since her first appeared in 1981, but with these two volumes she has achieved considerable success. She writes with a fine rhetoric using language and rhythm that are far removed from those of spoken Finnish. Religious pathos has a prominent place in her work, and her poems often derive from praise, prayer or even magic incantations; Salminiitty is a creator of vision who trusts to her metaphysical intuition, a quality not generally discernible among today’s Finnish poets. Equally rare is her lively faith in the goodness and beauty of people and of the world. A conscious rejoinder to materialism, pessimism and fear of the future can be read in her poems. More…