New from the archives

A portrait of Elmer Diktonius

Issue 2/1982 | Archives online, Authors | Added 19 January 2017

Elmer Diktonius

Elmer Diktonius at his home in Kauniainen (Grankulla). Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

Elmer Diktonius, one of the leading Finland-Swedish modernists of the 1920s, was a revolutionary poet, prose-writer and critic who also tried his hand at composing. Professor George Schoolfield, whose article on Diktonius appears below, appends his own translations of several of the lyrics: a filler selection is going to be published in the United States, Recently Professor Schoolfield has been working on a biography of Diktonius which he hopes to publish soon.

The literary fate of the Finland-Swedish modernist Elmer Diktonius (1896-1961) has not been an altogether happy one. Saluted early and late in his career as Finland’s Strindberg and as a possible rival to Mayakovsky in the contest for the greatest lyricist of the revolution, Diktonius would seem, surely, to deserve a place on the world’s literary stage. Yet the attention he has received outside the north has been mostly unwitting: the writers of program notes quote his description of the Silbelius Fourth, ‘the bark-bread symphony’ without knowing its source, the collected concert-reviews of Opus 12: Musik (1933). Surveys that might have introduced him to a larger public are silent. The chubby Pelican Guide to the European Literature of Modernism ignores him; the Penguin Book of Socialist Verse omits him from its 134 specimens of the lyric left; and Ulrich Weisstein’s volume of Expressionism as an International Literary Phenomenon does not have him in its chapter on ‘Expressionism in Scandinavia’, although he would qualify – as the Swedish scholar Bill Romefors has proved – as the major northern heir of German expressionism. More…

Poems

Issue 2/1982 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry | Added 19 January 2017

Introduction by George C. Schoolfield

The Cranes

Today the springtime shot its arrow point
into the winter’s heart:
the cranes’ crooked plow.
Today on the ice
the water splashed
half-a-yard high beneath the horse’s hooves –
may the magpie laugh cunningly
beside the ice-hole’s edge  –
beneath the snow the earth growls
the hidden bodies of the trees cry:
the cranes the cranes!

From Taggiga lågor (‘Barbed flames’, 1924)

More…

They believe in Father Christmas

Issue 4/1982 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews | Added 19 January 2017

Mauri Kunnas

Mauri Kunnas. Photo: Otava / Katja Lösönen

Mauri Kunnas, 32, says he believes in Father Christmas more than ever before. His wife Tarja agrees; she and her husband work together in their studio in Turku on the illustrated children’s books that have won them fame in Finland and abroad. It is easy to believe the truth of the young artists’ protestations: the success of their book Joulupukki, or Santa Claus, must have seemed like a gift from Father Christmas. It appeared in the early autumn of 1981 and was taken to the Frankfurt Book Fair by its publishers, Otava, where it attracted more attention than any Finnish book had done previously. Rights immediately went to ten countries, from Japan to Canada, and four more contracts have since been concluded. Arto Seppälä intervews Mauri and Tarja Kunnas

Mauri Kunnas says he has drawn all his life. He intended to study law, but his sister persuaded him to go to art school instead. Towards the end of his course, short of money, Kunnas began to draw a strip cartoon for a Helsinki evening paper. He progressed to cartoons – but at present his plans for new books keep him too busy to contemplate anything else.

Mauri Kunnas’s first book was Suomalainen tonttukirja (‘The book of Finnish fairies’, 1979). ‘I never thought I would write children’s books until the fairy idea came into my head,’ he says. ‘At that time I was unhappily employed in an advertising agency, and life wasn’t living up to my expectations. I wanted to splash out, try something new. The fairy idea came to me as the result of a chance conversation about the Finnish world of faerie – elves, gnomes, guardian spirits and so on. More…

A personal appreciation

Issue 4/1982 | Archives online, Authors | Added 17 January 2017

Christer Kihlman

Christer Kihlman. Photo: Magnus Weckström

Almost twenty years ago, a book arrived on my table from a London publisher, a large book called Den blå modern, by someone called Christer Kihlman, of whom I had never heard. Although the book came from Stockholm, in fact it turned out to be the work of a Finland-Swedish writer, perhaps the second or third I had ever read.

The book was to me remarkable. I had never read anything quite like it before, and I have been reading adult fiction for over fifty years. Looking back now in my ancient tatty files, I see I typed three single-spaced pages of synopsis and two and a half of comment, and even translated several extracts, not something I can normally afford to do. This was partly because I was impressed with the book, partly because it was almost impossible to explain the style, or styles, in which it was written, and also it was very difficult to say succinctly just what kind of book it was. The blurb called it a ‘family chronicle’, which in a way it was, but in all other respects it was nothing like what we normally call a family chronicle, anyhow of the kind so familiar from the United States. Two sons trying to live up to their father’s image of a third son, who is dead; but in fact it seemed to me to be the story of one man’s struggle with himself and the agony of existing in a world in which pain and hatred and suffering and despair are constantly victorious over love. In the book was almost everything any thinking person struggles with in his or her mind during a whole lifetime, a search for some kind of meaning in a life that appears meaningless. More…

Chronicles of crisis

Issue 4/1982 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose | Added 17 January 2017

Books from Finland presents here an extract from Dyre prins, a novel by the Finland-Swedish writer Christer Kihlman that is to be published in 1983 by Peter Owen of London under the title Sweet Prince, in a translation by Joan Tate.

Christer Kihlman (born 1930) first became known as a poet; but, after publishing two collections of poetry, he turned to novels. He has been branded a merciless scourge of the bourgeoisie. Equally important in his writing, however, are his masterly psychological analyses, his examination of the myriad aspects of the human personality, his sovereign disregard for taboos and his unflagging search for the truth. His books are about crises – the conflict between the generations, between the individual and society, between opposing political ideologies, between homosexual and heterosexual love. As Ingmar Svedberg remarked in an extensive appreciation of Kihlman’s work that appeared in Books from Finland 1-2/1976, ‘In his perceptive moral analyses, his exploration of the depths of human destructiveness and degradation, Kihlman is sometimes reminiscent of Faulkner.’ Since 1970, Kihlman has published three revealing autobiographical works, two of them dealing with his encounter with South America; Dyre prins, first published in 1975, represents a brief interlude of fiction.

The extract printed below is accompanied with a personal appreciation of the novel by its English translator, Joan Tate

Grandfather’s astonishing revelation gave me a new perspective on my life. I had suddenly been given a concrete, genuine foundation for both my hatred and my self-esteem. In a way I took the story of my origins as an extreme confirmation of the rightness of the Communist interpretation of reality, and at the same time it gave me a wonderful, dazzling sensation of being someone, despite everything, of having a place in a meaningful human perspective of time, despite everything, of being a link, however modest, in the historical family tradition. I did not need to found a dynasty; I already belonged to a dynasty, if only a minor branch. One was less important than the other, and even if the two experiences were irreconcilable and contradictory, they existed all the same in the same consciousness, contained within the same consciousness, my consciousness. I, Donald Blad! More…

Poems

Issue 1/1983 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry | Added 17 January 2017

Claes Andresson

Claes Andersson. Photo: Johan Bargum.

Claes Andersson (born 1937) became, during the 1960s, one of the few authors to free themselves from the modernist tradition so firmly established in Finland-Swedish writing in the 1920s to create poetry of a more distinctly personal kind. Claes Andersson’s poems are coloured by his training as a psychiatrist; he uses technical language in which scientific terms are exploited as an expressive device. His work also sometimes contains black humour and an ironical element calculated to shock the reader; they reflect the contrast between the dream of beauty and love and the grim reality of evil . To date, Andersson has published eleven collections of poems and a considerable number of plays for the stage, cabaret and radio. He has also written three novels, the latest of which – entitled En människa som börjar likna sin själ (‘The person who began to resemble his soul’) – is to appear in the autumn of 1983. For an introduction to Claes Andersson’s work, see Thomas Warburton’s article in Books from Finland 3/1979. Claes Andersson’s poems have recently appeared in translation in Poetry East, Seneca Review, Scandinavian Review and Grand Street.

Loneliness

My love, the moments I spend
in your cunt I forget my
migraine aching joints drinking problem grand mal paralysis
hallucinations pain between the shoulderblades short-
ness of breath hiccoughs dandruff dry skin vertigo bedwetting
impaired hearing chafed lips pustules liver
spots leg sores bleeding gums flatulence
sciatica crying fits thoughts of suicide swol-
len ankles pathological thirst Angst baldness double
vision facial twinges difficulty concentrating
cross eyes burning in the urethra running ears ring­
ing ears cramps throat pain itching allergies
strange subcutaneous lumps cold hands nail-
biting hoarseness obesity jealousy vomiting
constipation sleeplessness noctural crying fits
failing memory pus in each nasal sinus and gout.

From Rumskamrater (‘Roommates’), 1974)

More…

The solitary walker

Issue 2/1983 | Archives online, Authors | Added 12 January 2017

Antti Hyry

Antti Hyry. Photo: Jouni Harala

Antti Hyry, born in 1931, is a writer from northern Finland. His work is coloured by elements characteristic of the region near the Arctic Circle: rugged nature, wintry frost, the light of long summer nights, the Laestadian fundamentalist Christian sect, and the strict rules of an agrarian community.

Hyry is an engineer by training, and although he has never worked as an engineer, his world view has been built on a physical and technological foundation. This orientation, together with a basic intuition which is close to nature, has created in his works a world of fascinating conflict in which troubled man, weighed down by responsibilities, studies his environment as if to test whether it exists, and to discover what laws govern it. More…

And he left the road

Issue 2/1983 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose | Added 12 January 2017

Three short stories from Maantieltä hän lähti (‘And he left the road’). Introduction by Eila Pennanen

And he left the road

And he left the road, walking straight ahead across fields and ditches, past barns and through bushes growing in the ditch. From the fields he went on to the forest, climbed a fence, walked past spruce and pine, juniper bushes and rocks, and came to the edge of a forest and to the swamp. He crossed the swamp, going through small groves of trees if they happened to be in his way. He went on walking rapidly across rivers, through forests, over seas and lakes, and through villages, and finally he came back to the very spot from which he had started walking straight ahead.

In the same way he walked at a right angle to the direction he had first taken and after that, a few times between those two directions. Every time he would start from the road and in the end would always come back to the road in the same direction as when he’d started off. On his rounds, after walking a bit, he would stop and look up every now and then, and each time he looked he would see the sky and sun or the moon and stars. More…

Against the grain

Issue 2/1983 | Archives online, Authors | Added 12 January 2017

Gösta Ågren

Gösta Ågren. Photo: Studio Paschinsky

Gösta Ågren (born 1936) represents at least two qualities highly characteristic of Finland-Swedish writers. He was born and grew up in a part of Swedish-speaking Ostrobothnia – in the immediate vicinity of the two small coastal towns of Uusikaupunki (Nykarleby) and Pietarsaari (Jakobstad) – which has been the home of many of the most important Finland­-Swedish authors, from Runeberg and Zacharias Topelius through Mikael Lybeck and R. R. Eklund to Evert and Lars Huldén. And like Rabbe Enckell, Oscar Parland and others, Gösta Ågren comes from a family closely associated with literature – two of his brothers, Erik and Leo, are also writers, as was his sister Inga, who died young.

Otherwise Gösta Ågren is an author who in all important respects has gone his own way, often in opposition to the establishments, literary and otherwise, in southern Finland and Helsinki. More…

The starving, too

Issue 2/1983 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose | Added 12 January 2017

Poems from Det som alltid är (‘What always is’). Introduction by Sven Willner 

The starving, too

The starving, too, can
love, but their love is
simplified to hunger, its
principle. With the help of
another’s love the sated love
themselves, which they
otherwise would hate. And
stronger is perhaps the love
that saves,
but deeper is the one that
seals. People, of
whom all that is left is
a heart and its
two arms, give one another
their hunger. More…

Journeys to friendship

Issue 4/1983 | Archives online, Authors | Added 10 January 2017

Hannu Mäkelä

Hannu Mäkelä. Photo: Hannes Heikura

Hannu Mäkelä (born 1943) is known primarily in Finland as a noteworthy prose-writer, poet and dramatist; he also works as a department head for Otava, one of the leading publising houses. When, in 1973, Hannu Mäkelä published his first children’s book, Herra Huu (‘Mr Boo’), it came as a surprise to many people.

Luckily for Finnish children’s literature that was only the start; the book had two sequels. In 1974 Herra Huu saa naapurin (‘Mr Boo gets a neighbour’) appeared, followed in 1975 by Herra Huu muuttaa (‘Mr Boo moves house’). After that Mr Boo left his new flat to go on a long journey with a witch called Ernestiina, and hasn’t been heard of since. Hannu Mäkelä’s next books for children were Hevonen joka hukkasi silmälasinsa (‘The horse who lost his glasses’, 1977), Kalle-Juhani ja kaverit (‘Kalle-Juhani and the gang’, 1981) and Pekka Peloton (‘Pekka the brave’, 1982). With these six books, Hannu Mäkelä has come to be regarded as a classic children’s writer.

More…

Pekka the brave

Issue 4/1983 | Archives online, Children's books, Fiction | Added 10 January 2017

An extract from Pekka Peloton (‘Pekka the brave’, 1982). Introduction by Leena Kirstinä

The other ghost was now very close to the Bear. The inhabitants of the Green Woods had pulled back out of its way in terror but the poor Bear couldn’t even get himself to budge. Miserable, he had covered his eyes and slumped down in his own fur.

‘Psst,’ the ghost whispered. ‘Hi, Bear, it’s only me.’ And the ghost poked the Bear in the ribs. ‘It’s me, Pekka. Come on, open your eyes!

But the Bear didn’t make a move to do what Pekka had asked and Pekka began to get worried. He knew the Wolf wouldn’t stay put for a very long time and little by little would start to wonder what this was all about. ‘Dear Bear,’ Pekka said in a louder voice, and punched him as hard as he could. ‘Get up! We haven’t much time … ‘ Pekka’s voice was trembling. ‘Look! I’ve got the key to your courage right here … ‘ More…

Howl came upon Mr Boo

Issue 4/1983 | Archives online, Children's books, Drama, Fiction | Added 10 January 2017

The first Mr Boo book was published in 1973. Mr Boo has also made his appearance on stage this year; his theatrical companions are the children Mike and Jenny, who are not easily frightened – Mr Boo’s courage is a different matter, as can be seen in the extract from the stage play that follows overleaf.

Hannu Mäkelä describes the birth of Mr Boo:

To be honest, Mr Boo has long been my other self. The first time I drew a character who looked like him, without naming it Boo, I was really thinking of my fifteen­ year-old self.

The years went by and the Mr Boo drawing was forgotten for a time. It hadn’t occurred to me to write for children; I seemed to have enough to do coping with myself. Then I met Mr Boo, whom I had not yet linked up with my old drawing. My son was about six years old and we had been invited out. There were several children present. As I recall it it was a wet Sunday afternoon. I had entrenched myself with the other grown-ups in the kitchen to drink beer. The noise of the children grew worse and worse (in other words they were enjoying themselves). At last the women could bear it no longer and demanded that I, too, get to work. Really, what right had I always to be sprawled at a table with a beer glass in my hand? None. So I rose and went into the sitting-room. I shouted at the children to form a circle around me. At that time I had a motto: ‘Mäkelä – friend to children and dogs’. The reverse was true of course. The name Mr Boo occurred to me, probably as a result of some obscure private (and possibly even erotic) pun and I begun to tell a story about him. In telling it I paused dramatically and accelerated just as primary school teachers are taught to do: that part of my training, after all, wasn’t wasted. I was astonished; the children listened in complete silence. And if my memory doesn’t fail me (or even if it does, this is the way I wish to remember it), at the end of the story the smallest of the children said, rolling his r’s awkwardly, ‘Hurrrrah’. I was hooked.

The children themselves asked me to tell the same stories again. They still enjoyed them. It wasn’t long before I began to think seriously of writing a whole book about Mr Boo. For the first time in my life I really wanted to write for children. Every day after work I wrote a new Mr Boo story. Then in the evening I read it to my son. That is how the stories grew into a book.

The child likes right to triumph; he likes the good and the moral. The child is the kind of person we adults try in vain to be. It was only through Mr Boo that I began to see children in a totally new way and above all to become seriously interested in them.

More…

A modern mystery play

Issue 4/1983 | Archives online, Authors | Added 10 January 2017

Jussi Kylätasku

Jussi Kylätasku. Photo: Pertti Nisonen.

Jussi Kylätasku (born 1943) is a prolific writer of poetry, plays – stage and radio – film scripts and novels. Iconoclastically he casts aside the realism that is so characteristic of Finnish drama and so beloved by Finns; but at the same time Kylätasku is very Finnish: paradox is, indeed, characteristic of this infuriating writer, who has delighted critics and public alike. Perhaps the best-known of his plays is Runar ja Kyllikki (‘Runar and Kyllikki’), which was first performed in 1974; his newest work is a novel, published in November by Werner Söderström. One of his most revolutionary plays, however, is Maaria Blomma (‘Mary Bloom’), which might be called an extraordinary modern version of a mediaeval mystery play. What follows is a personal view of the director of the first performance of the play, in 1980, Väinö Vainio.

 

There are drama scripts, technically assured texts addressing themselves to the burning issues of the day, that inspire one at first reading to predict fruitful interpretations and lasting recognition. Unfortunately, in the Finnish theatre world such forecasts seldom come true. Almost without exception, even those plays whose first performances are successful fall into the jaws of Moloch and rapidly pass into obscurity on dim and dusty archive shelves. More…

Mary Bloom

Issue 4/1983 | Archives online, Drama, Fiction | Added 10 January 2017

Introduction by Väinö Vainio

‘Is Mary Bloom about a revivalist religious meeting, a party political conference at which a new leader is born, or a rock concert? These are among the things that have been suggested. I don’t know. I don’t hope for restraint in the imaginations of those who choose.to interpret my work, although I observe it myself. The work of a writer is a part of life, it is an individual and collective experience that seeks, finds, takes and uses its materials like a motor machine. For those who create it the drama is real, as in the theatre, for the duration of the performance.’ Jussi Kylätasku

Characters

Mary Bloom
Martha, a doctor
Otto, a preacher
Disabled veteran
Serenity, his wife
Alcoholic
Cold Cal, a prisoner
Blind man, Deaf Wife More…

The Writer’s dilemma

Issue 2/1984 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews | Added 12 January 2017

Marja-Liisa Vartio and Paavo Haavikko

Poets Marja-Liisa Vartio and Paavo Haavikko. Photo: SKS archives

Philip Binham interviews Paavo Haavikko

I think it’s impossible to be just a writer. That would mean isolating oneself completely from the outside world – so it’s important to have other work.

The appointment is on 5 April 1984 in Paavo Haavikko’s city office. Clearly a newly-inhabited office – he recently left his post as Literary Editor for the Otava Publishing Company to become a literary consultant under the letterhead of Arthouse Ltd. A desk jumbled high with papers and photos on which my tape recorder perches precariously; Haavikko is currently working on a history of a leading Finnish industrial enterprise, Wärtsilä. Typewriters, a phone, a few odd chairs, a secretary. Haavikko himself is business-like: well-cut grey suit, well­-trimmed greying hair and beard, neat dark-blue tie: When I play the recording over, our voices echo oddly in the bare, high-ceilinged rooms.

PB: May I start by asking you something about your reading?

PH: That’s a very difficult question for me because up to now I’ve had two jobs – as a writer and a publisher, so my own reading has been more or less non-existent. Writing has taken up all my leisure time. And I thought, now that I’m not in the publishing business any more I’d have time for such reading – but so far I haven’t had any, so that seems to be something for the future. More…

Poems

Issue 2/1984 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry | Added 7 December 2016

Interview by Philip Binham

Birdmount

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 power game

Issue 2/1984 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose | Added 7 December 2016

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’.

Kai Laitinen

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…

Chill climates

Issue 2/1984 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews | Added 12 January 2017

Olli Jalonen. Photo: Pekka Nieminen.

Olli Jalonen. Photo: Pekka Nieminen.

Olli Jalonen was born in 1954 and lives in Hämeenlinna. His first work, a collection of short stories entitled Unien tausta (‘The background of dreams’, 1978) and two later novels, Sulkaturkki (‘Feather coat’, 1979) and Ilo ja häpeä (‘Joy and shame’, 1981) were reviewed with exceptional warmth by the critics. His latest novel, Hotelli eläville (‘Hotel for the living’, 1983) brought him a State Prize for Literature in 1984. The awarding committee commented that the novel is ‘a representative of that rare genre in Finnish literature, the grotesque novel’. Jalonen also received the ‘Spurs of Criticism’, the annual prize awarded by the Finnish Critics’ Association. The hotel for the living is the book’s ironic name for a nuclear shelter that is being quarried into the living rock of Finland; Jalonen sets up a situation that allows him to examine the crevices of his characters’ personalities. He studies their attitudes to life with cool satire – they live in the bleak climate of buying and selling, the struggle for power and material goods, the domination of others, and submission to their fates. Interview by Markku Huotari

‘Poetry in a world under threat’ was the headline for a survey of Finnish poetry by poet and critic Väinö Kirstina that appeared in the Tampere daily newspaper Aamulehti in 1981.

Two years later that headline is just as bitingly relevant. Only one alteration is necessary: to poetry must be added prose, for prose, too, is addressing itself to that future, difficult enough to imagine, in which the threat of nuclear war may involve Finland, living in the shadow of the super powers, in a conflict in which she wishes no part.

One of the scenes in Olli Jalonen’s novel Hotelli eläville (‘Hotel for the living’) is set in a nuclear shelter that is being built inside the living rock on which Helsinki stands. Even now the planners of that ‘shelter’ use the fear of other people to their own ends, and divide them into those who will be saved and those who will perish.

A sermon on the day of judgement? Cliche? Milking of a fashionable subject? More…

Hotel for the living

Issue 2/1984 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose | Added 7 December 2016

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…

The Sleepwalker

Issue 1/1984 | Archives online, Drama, Fiction | Added 16 December 2016

We print here an extract from the radio play Somngångerskan (‘The sleepwalker’, 1978). Walentin Chorell himself said that he felt this genre to be the closest to his heart, and his radio plays are perhaps the element of his work that has contributed most to his reputation in Finland and in the rest of Europe.

As the play begins, we sense night in the old, rambling log house, with a clock ticking in the background; the sound comes closer, intensifies, and then dies away again. The clock strikes three; its works are old and complaining. Long silence.

Then the silence is broken by the loud and happy laughter of Jerine, the sleepwalker. A flock of gulls is heard calling over the beach; there is a gentle summer breeze, and the waves are lapping against the boulders on the shore.

FIRST VOICE (=the mother, frightened)

What’s wrong? What have you wakened me up for?

SECOND VOICE (=the father)

It’s Jerine. She was laughing in her sleep. More…

Ethics and the individual

Issue 1/1984 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews | Added 16 December 2016

Walentin Chorell

Walentin Chorell. Photo: SLS

Over one hundred stage and radio plays, twenty six novels, poetry – the extent of Walentin Chorell’s work, from the early 1940s to his death last November was huge. The Finland-Swedish writer was by profession a teacher of psychology; his writing sprang from a real need to analyze the psychological drama of human life, to study other people – and at the same time himself – through the medium of literature.

His last television play, Hyena, is to be shown in Finland this summer, and his last radio play, Utopia, is to be broadcast in the spring. Many of his radio plays have been translated into the other Nordic languages, and his works have been performed and published in more than twenty countries.

The 71-year old writer was interviewed by Glyn Jones in Helsinki two months before his death.

‘I would say that writing for radio is what gives me most satisfaction, for there no limits are placed on your imagination. There are no limits in either time or space. On the radio you can have one scene portraying your main character as a child, and in the next as an adult; you can quickly follow that main character from childhood to adulthood, and your listeners will believe in it. As for space, you can set one scene in Paris – and indicate this by making a hotel porter call out the number of a room in French – and the following one can be set in Stockholm or Helsinki, and you can do it so convincingly that your listeners will believe in it.’ More…

Mirdja

Issue 1/1984 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose | Added 16 December 2016

An extract from the novel Mirdja (1908). Introduction by Marja-Liisa Nevala

Now they were in the city – their minds more alive than usual with wilfulness and daring.

For – quite unable to jettison their shared life – they had at least to get on top it… Had to … Every single person has to battle …

And Mirdja’s head was full of efficacious rules for balance, countless cool and wise thoughts – to meet all conflicts.

Lucidly and coldly she had clarified her present position for herself. She was married. Right. No particular joy in that. But no need for any particular disaster in it either. And if she had thrown herself into dependence through this banal arrangement, the sort that everyone has a little of in this life, she had only herself to blame. She had to be able to live by rising above the trivialities of existence. Besides, she had always known that in the final count it was immaterial whom one was married to. A marriage always had its own profile, its dreary distinguishing marks, but one was not compelled to absorb these dreary sides into one’s own being. How did they do it in France? Every year thousands of marriages occur, without an atom of personal liking entering into the game, and extremely seldom are the marriages unhappy. Why so? Mutual politesse: a little of the art of social intercourse, and the whole problem is solved. In the morning a tiny friendly greeting at the breakfast table: ‘Bonjour ma chère,’ –  ‘Bonjour, mon ami’; a courteous kiss on the hand, a pretty smile in response, and everything’s as it should be. Because those people know how to go about it. Marriage – one of society’s many empty regimentations! Only stupid people tried, within narrow limits like these, to find fullness of content or idealize. Stupid, Mirdja had been. Comically destructive in that heavy northern solemnity of hers – refusing to acknowledge any form without content, yet fearful of endowing content with any form except the conventional and time-tested. She had lived with a common-or-garden person’s longing for fullness, and then allowed, exactly like that sort of person, her disappointment and bitterness to flood over all her nearest and dearest. She had lived in indiscretion. She had been paltry and rotten and considered herself a slave … More…

A life of one’s own

Issue 1/1984 | Archives online, Authors | Added 16 December 2016

L. Onerva. Photo: Otava, 1907

L. Onerva. Photo: Otava, 1907

When L. Onerva (1882–1972) published her novel Mirdja in 1908 she was twenty-six years old. Two previously published collections of poetry had already established a reputation for her as a promising young writer and she was also achieving a name as a first-rate critic. Her career thus began in circumstances which augured well for distinction and fame, both of which came to her, although her fame derives not only from her literary abilities – it is due in part to the notoriety of her private life. Her works, always thought to have a biographical element, are often read for glimpses of bohemian and artistic life at the start of the century.

In the puritanical climate of the period Onerva was unquestionably unusual, although Finland was not without independent and literary women. Onerva had many talents; she was well educated, and when she met Eino Leino, the most famous poet of the day, she had published her first collection of poems. This meeting changed the nature of Onerva’s life. She left her husband. Leino’s marriage also broke down and the couple ran away to Germany and Italy for a year. They were never married and both later married other people. Nevertheless, their profound friendship lasted until Leino’s death in 1926. More…

Star-­Eye

Issue 1/1984 | Archives online, Children's books, Fiction | Added 16 December 2016

A story from Läsning för barn (‘Reading for children’,1884). Introduction by George C. Schoolfield

There was once a little child lying in a snowdrift. Why? Because it had been lost.

It was Christmas Eve. The old Lapp was driving his sledge through the desolate mountains, and the old Lapp woman was following him. The snow sparkled, the Northern Lights were dancing, and the stars were shining brightly in the sky. The old Lapp thought this was a splendid journey and turned round to look for his wife who was alone in her little Lapp sledge, for the reindeer could not pull more than one person at a time. The woman was holding her little child in her arms. It was wrapped in a thick, soft reindeer skin, but it was difficult for the woman to drive a sledge properly with a child in her arms.

When they had reached the top of the mountain and were just starting off downhill, they came across a pack of wolves. It was a big pack, about forty or fifty of them, such as you often see in winter in Lapland when they are on the look-out for a reindeer. Now these wolves had not managed to catch any reindeer; they were howling with hunger and straight away began to pursue the old Lapp and his wife. More…

Fairy tales of a journalist

Issue 1/1984 | Archives online, Authors | Added 16 December 2016

Zacharias Topelius

Zacharias Topelius. Photo: SLS

In 1918, Selma Lagerlöf, the Swedish novelist and recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature, was commissioned by the Swedish Academy to write a book on the life and works of Zacharias Topelius, in celebration of the centennial of his birth. As she says in the introduction to her Zachris Topelius of 1920 (where she uses the familiar contraction of the great man’s given name), she realized that she was up against the monster work-in-progress of Valfrid Vasenius, which had already reached three volumes and which would not be finished, with six, until 1930.

Lagerlöf jotted down her almost novelistic account of Topelius’s first thirty-eight years, from his birth in Ostrobothnia, as the son of a country doctor with strong folkloristic interests, to the appearance of his major patriotic poem of 1856, Islossningen i Uleå älv (‘The breakup of the ice in Uleå river’), filled with hopeful thoughts about an independent Finland. It can be reckoned that more people have enjoyed Lagerlöf’s chatty pages than have struggled with Vasenius’ positivistic monument, and that a common notion of Topelius, influenced either by Aunt Selma or schoolteachers who have partaken of her burbling spirit, is that of a man too good and emotionally too limited to be great. More…