New from the archives

On Mirkka Rekola

Issue 2/1978 | Archives online, Authors | Added 28 March 2017

Mirkka Rekola. Photo: Elina Laukkarinen/WSOY

The very title of Mirkka Rekola‘s latest collection of poems, Kohtaamispaikka vuosi (‘Meetingplace the year’, Werner Söderström, 1977), reveals a theme central to Rekola’s poetry: that of unity. The time is the place. ‘I do not imagine I shall meet you this year. / This place will be here in summer.’ Rekola has a particular way of using language of the most intense concentration, so that it brings out unity between a wide variety of moods. ‘I shall meet you this year’ also means that you are this year. ‘This place will be here in the summer’ means that it is autumn and this place (a summer café) will remain deserted until the summer, but also that this place will remain there as the summer.

‘The world, a table already laid, there you see your hunger.’ ‘At the same time a little thirsty and a cowberry.‘ The correspondence of place, the synchrony of season and the general sense of undividedness produce countless pictorial and therefore concrete expressions throughout Rekola’s poetry. ‘I spread my hands / and someone yawned, / I held my fingertips in the breeze / and the boats slid into the water.’ ‘The child said to the old man: you are bent, while I am so little.’ ‘A shout is heard which is no other’s.’ Rekola’s concrete and graphical mode of expression is also based on the same philosophy: ‘Do not make a picture, everything is [a picture]’. ‘The sun, star of the night, introduces the day. And the world is so talkative in its dreams.’ More…

Meetingplace the year

Issue 2/1978 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry | Added 28 March 2017

Poems from Kohtaamispaikka vuosi (‘Meetingplace the year’, 1977). Introduction by Mirjam Polkunen

1.

I look in from the gateway
                         there are children, there in the yard playing.
They look small from here, remote.
                                              From the years
I have walked past this gateway,
there they are: five, six.
                                              The same number.
They have a ball in the air, they yell at it.
Silly that I still here too
                                              remember you,
I could be the same age now.

More…

On Alpo Ruuth

Issue 3/1978 | Archives online, Authors | Added 28 March 2017

Alpo Ruuth

Alpo Ruuth. Photo: Sakari Majantie / Tammi

Alpo Ruuth (born 1943) grew up in Sörnäinen, a working-class quarter of Helsinki, amid dirty grey tenements, railway goods yards, machine shops, timber yards and slaughterhouses; a district reeking of rust and dust, of gasometers, steam locomotives, pinewood, toad-in-the-hole and roasting coffee. Ruuth completed three years of secondary schooling and then decided that he had had enough. He worked as a garage hand, a shoemaker, a casual labourer, a salesman and a storekeeper. The publication of his first novel, Naimisiin (‘Getting married’, Tammi, 1967) set him free to adopt writing as a career.

Ruuth first became known to a wider public through his novel Kämppä (‘The commune’, Tammi, 1969 ). This describes the adolescent years of a group of Sörnäinen boys who live like a tribe of savages in this urban jungle. They establish a commune of their own, cut off completely from the adult world, and rely on a process of trial and error to teach them how to live. The charm of the book comes from the spontaneity and quick reactions of these teen-age youngsters: chattering, mimicking, footballing or fornicating, they are all the time as alert as puppies, while the life of the city around them goes on ‘for real’. The final section of Kämppä describes how they eventually slot themselves into the community. Most of them accept their fetters with resignation, but there is one – the chief character of the novel – who strives to maintain his critical attitude to the values which dominate his surroundings, and to live up to it in practice. Some of Ruuth’s finest writing in this novel is devoted to the harmonious family background of this young man’s early years. He seems to be saying that ethically valid solutions to life’s problems grow out of the personal relationships of early childhood. More…

The Onlookers

Issue 3/1978 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose | Added 28 March 2017

A short story from Naisten vuonna (‘In women’s year’, 1975). Introduction by Pekka Tarkka

The two elks came out on to the road through a gap between timber sheds. They began to cross the road, and the larger one was very nearly run into by a car. Cars stopped and horns tooted, till the elks turned and made off towards the harbour. Several cars swung round and drove along the cinder track in pursuit of the animals.

The elks headed across the rubble towards the power station; after circling some stacks of railway sleepers, they ended up on the flank of a coal­heap sixty feet high. The cars pulled up and their occupants poured out, shouting that the elks wouldn’t go that way, it was a dead end. The elder of the two elks had indeed sensed this, and they moved off to the right, skirting the coal-heap and emerging among the timber-stacks. By this time the first cyclists and pedestrians had arrived on the scene.

“They’ll break their legs,” said a pedestrian to a motorist. “There’s all kinds of junk lying about.” More…

On Matti Rossi

Issue 1/1978 | Archives online, Authors | Added 9 March 2017

Matti Rossi

Matti Rossi. Photo: SKS archives

The appearance in 1965 of Matti Rossi’s (born 1934) first work in Finnish, Näytelmän henkilöt (‘Dramatis personae’, Tammi), brought him immediate recognition as an important writer. It confirmed him as a skillful translator – he had already ten important translations to his name – and revealed a new but already mature poet. Näytelmän henkilöt contains biting political parody, highly original myth verse and the Finnish version of a series of poems on Vietnamese themes, which he had first published in English.

Rossi has always worked in many styles and genres. Leikkeja kahdelle (‘Games for two’, Tammi, 1966) is a magnificent collection of sensual love poems; his fantasy poem for the stage, Tilaisuus (‘The occasion’, Tammi, 1967), examines the nature and causes of violence; the events in Czechoslovakia are the subject of his analytical political satire Käännekohta (‘Turning-point’), written as a play for television in 1969. These were followed by a long period in which Rossi’s poetry reflects his political commitment to the far left. He brought out a book about his experiences during a visit of more than a year to South America, and his scathing poetry has always played its part in political controversy. He has composed songs for the stage, and an outstanding ballad narrative, Puulintujen vuolija (The carver of wooden birds’, 1975). More…

Poems

Issue 1/1978 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry | Added 9 March 2017

Poems from Laulu tummana tulevi (‘The song comes darkly’, 1976). Introduction by Pentti Saaritsa

1

                      I have longed for you
as the burning heath for rain,
                      I have asked for you
as fingers of moss for shade,
                      I have yearned for you
as the dusty mind for tears,
                      and I have loved you
as distant lightning the dark,
                      I have been in you
as flowering pine in the wind.

The blue will-o’-the-wisps dance,
strangers stitching happiness.
Silvery the spring mornings,
the trumpets bright in summer,
the autumns cranberry-red,
the white legend of winter. More…

On Lassi Nummi

Issue 1/1979 | Archives online, Authors | Added 2 March 2017

Lassi Nummi

Lassi Nummi, 1957. Photo: Kuvasiskot / CC-BY-4.0

Lassi Nummi has never been afraid to say that a poem has a right to be poetry. Throughout his thirty-year career in letters he has consistently backed the special task of poetry, its right to independent life. And the other side of this is the unconstrained poem’s tutelage of whatever it is in man that is striving upwards out of the half-light into consciousness.

Nummi lets his poems ring. He is not afraid even of the pastoral, and he risks the ancient methods of the lyric. He thinks a flower garden is acceptable as a garden of flowers, and it is not proper to disparage it as a failed cornfield. With equal consistency Nummi has promoted literature as a social institution – as one of its most prominent representatives himself: a critic and chronicler with a compound eye on events in the visual arts, literature and music. Music is a special component of his own poetry, of course. More…

Poems

Issue 1/1979 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry | Added 2 March 2017

Poems from Lähdössä tänään (‘Leaving today’, 1977) Introduction by Jouko Tyyri

1

‘The wind’s speaking.’ If the wind were really speaking
could we endure its words
so void, flinty, so groping?
Inside them
they have
salt, horror,
mania: a long-drawn black speechless
roller that wipes the coast clean
of houses, woods, junk. It swashes
your eyes. If I’d had some
feeling. Or thought. If
I was something. If I was I.
It’s gone.
There’s nothing here. Only a draught.
The air moving back and forth, soon to drop.

2

Orlando di Lasso's melodies
airy, without a touch of soil
                           a little dust on
as much as might be on a butterfly's wing
                           only just so much

Orlando himself, four hundred years
remoulded into loam, coalesced with dust
just like you, you, just like you More…

On Erno Paasilinna

Issue 4/1978 | Archives online, Authors | Added 2 March 2017

Erno Paasilinna

Erno Paasilinna. Photo: Irmeli Jung

In one of his essays Erno Paasilinna speaks of a modern phenomenon, the ‘quasi-author’. A quasi-author is the kind of literary buff who writes for the papers, takes part in congresses, sits in panels and appears frequently on television. Wherever there is controversy, be it over the function of the President, the legality of strikes, the abortion laws, the evangelical movement or the present state of lyric poetry, the quasi-author is invariably to be found. Paasilinna atones for his irony by freely admitting that he is himself a typical specimen of the breed.

For the concept of the quasi-author Paasilinna refers us back to Ilya Ehrenburg, who noted in his memoirs that the profession of authorship had been undergoing a steady diminution of social and political influence ever since the early 30s. Since Ehrenburg’s day the process has accelerated: television, efficient communications, and the ceaseless output of ‘information’ by what amounts to a major modern industry, have finally toppled the novelist from the throne he successfully occupied for so long. The quasi-author has replaced him, availing himself of all the new media in the hope of achieving a more rapid and direct impact on the public – and perhaps also of preserving the traditional influence of the writing fraternity. Erno Paasilinna was born in 1935 near Petsamo (now Pechenga) on the Arctic coast: from 1922 till 1944 this region was part of Finland. Evacuated during the upheavals of the Second World War, the family was forced to lead the nomadic life of refugees, wandering across the Arctic wastes as far as Norway before they were able to find a settled home in Finland. Erno Paasilinna has not rejected the landscape or the traditions of his native area: he has edited four anthologies of extracts from early accounts of travel in Lapland. It was in Northern Finland, too, that Paasilinna completed his education (he attended the Lapland College of Further Education) and began his writing career. More…

The Conference

Issue 4/1978 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose | Added 2 March 2017

A short story from Alamaisen kyyneleet (‘Tears of an underdog’, Karisto 1970). Introduction by Pekka Tarkka

Dr Smith said that he did not believe that any immediate threat of an invasion from Space was likely to arise for some time. Observations to date had given no support to the view that any such preparations had been put in hand. Technically they were of course ahead of us, but in his opinion there was no cause for panic. Nor could he endorse the widespread but naive assumption that any confrontation with beings from Space must inevitably lead to war. If human beings had reason to feel threatened, it was from each other that the chief threat came. He urged the Conference to work for a situation in which every country would be preparing for peace rather than for war. He said he had no wish to sound sardonic, but that he had noticed that when war was prepared for, it was usually war that ensued. More…

On Caj Westerberg

Issue 1/1980 | Archives online, Authors | Added 28 February 2017

Caj Westerberg

Caj Westerberg. Photo: Pentti Sammallahti

Caj Westerberg established his reputation with the publication, in 1967, of his first volume of poems: Onnellisesti valittaen (‘Cheerful complaint’). The work was immediately praised for its descriptive power and visual imagery. The other outstanding feature – preserved in subsequent works – is the author’s capacity for emotion, for a passionate involvement in human existence, casting the sensitive individual from the crest of ecstasy to the trough of despair. In Westerberg’s next two collections, Runous (‘Poetry’, 1968) and En minä ole ainoa kerta (‘I am not the only one’, 1969), these key features are firmly sustained. At the same time, Westerberg is beginning to extend the mordancy of his themes. In his fourth book, Uponnut Venetsia (‘Sunken Venice’, 1972), the style has became move conversational and laconic, but does not deviate from his main thematic concerns. Westerberg’s work can be seen as a cool, developing continuum: all the poems, whether long or short, whether aphoristic epitomes of experience or pure ‘imagistic’ visions, convey a unified individual response to the world and existence, and a prevailing intensity. With each publication, brought out as all his earlier works by Otava, Westerberg has developed and enhanced his style. His two most recent works, Kallista on ja halvalla menee (‘It comes dear and it’s going cheap’, 1975) and Reviirilaulu ‘Territorial song’, 1978), have all the marks of works which will become classics. Westerberg’s poems are moving and full of surprising associations; he is both sensitive to the present and alive to the past. His style maintains a fine balance between the conversational and the stylized. Westerberg takes the role of the poet seriously. At a recent conference he put it thus: ‘The poet’s fundamental impulse is to reveal the hidden. That is one of his tasks. That is his folly. The poet is the seer, the prophet, the truth-teller.’

Translated by Mary Lomas

Poems

Issue 1/1980 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry | Added 28 February 2017

Poems from Kallista on ja halvalla menee (‘It comes dear and it’s going cheap’,1975) and Reviirilaulu (‘Territorial song’, 1978). Introduction by Pentti Saaritsa

1

A seagull shadow flitters across the gulf of the courtyard
over the gone-sour yellow wall
ogreish and swift as an execution by hanging,
that’s how I’m dangling
from this moment in this city
my ankle in the strangling noose
in the night under the jangling stars while over the roofs
a sheetmetal moon’s rising
and blurred dreams are yawning in a thousand windows,
down below me the city
and in my breast my heart, it’s socking
like a knuckleduster.

2

The simplest noise,
the noise of a glass
when you put the glass down
on a wooden table, the sound of wood
on glass
                     is like
a flash of  happiness
on a melancholy face.

More…

On Markku Lahtela

Issue 3/1979 | Archives online, Authors | Added 28 February 2017

Markku Lahtela is one of the more colourful personages on the Finnish literary scene. He studied at the universities of Moscow and Munich, served on the editorial staff of an encyclopedia, published his first book in 1964, and proclaimed that his favourite writer was Anatole France. The powerful radical currents of the 1960s took him out into the streets as a demonstrator: he wrote scripts for a theatre group that went in for staging ‘happenings’, took part in politics as the enfant terrible of the Centre Party, publicly burnt his military passbook, translated Herbert Marcuse, and became an enthusiast for the anti-authoritarian educational experiments of A. S. Neill and his followers. Out of these restless years came two long, highly personal and very uneven novels, Se (‘It’, 1966) and Yksinäinen mies (‘The solitary man’, 1976), in which Lahtela is primarily concerned with a young man’s difficult family relationships, and seeks to demonstrate his fundamental honesty by recourse to automatic writing. Early in the 1970s he published three short collections of philosophical observations and stories. These, the fruit of wide but indiscriminate reading, amounted to little more than the compilations of an amateur, the basic idea being to demonstrate, by means of biological and psycho-analytical arguments, the primacy of the mother-child relationship among the factors affecting a human being’s development. More…

How Real is a Dead Person?

Issue 3/1979 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose | Added 28 February 2017

An Extract from the Novel Sirkus (‘Circus’). Introduction by Pekka Tarkka

Once again I seem to be moving towards a deeper understanding of these people who figure in my recollections, most of whom, by now – by this particular Friday I am now experiencing – are already dead. And this, in its turn, sets me wondering about the degree of reality, if any, that they can claim to possess. How real is a dead person? Is he, perhaps, totally unreal? In memories, of course, he is real to the extent that the memories themselves are real. But objectively, independently of memory? But here a sadness comes over me, many-headed, hard to take hold of.

And in any case I think it is time I came to a clearer understanding of the economic circus founded by my grandfather Feodisius. Uncle Ribodisius has also already made the front pages of the newspapers, and the Bilbao has published an interview.

But I have left a picture unfinished. Father’s cardboard boxes! The separation from Dianita – and from the children! And I have broken off in the middle of these curious memoirs of mine. Thinking of which, I find myself grinding to a halt again, stuck with Yellow-Handed Fred and Haius and Desmer, Lesmer and Sesmer – until I realize that instead of coming to a clearer understanding of my grandfather’s economic circus, I am on Lesmer’s estate, one evening in late May – a couple of months ago – listening to the trilling of an unusually talented song-thrush. Perched on the top of a tall spruce, he goes through the repertoire of all the other birds he has ever heard, both native and foreign – creating, however, new combinations of his own; not content with mere mimicry, he rattles, croons, wails, whistles, whirrs, twitters, flutes, sighs, chirrups and shouts his way through a complete set of variations on themes provided by the rest of the bird world: like some rather advanced medieval chronicler who, no longer content to record faithfully (if perhaps chaotically, as Auerbach points out) what he saw, heard, thought and smelt, had begun to create personal shapes and entities – thus preparing the way for the greatest miracle in the history of world literature, the advent of the perceptive reader. More…

Juhani Niemi on Väinö Linna

Issue 4/1980 | Archives online, Authors | Added 23 February 2017

Väinö Linna

Väinö Linna. Photo: WSOY

Väinö Linna fits squarely into one of the dominant patterns of twentieth century literary development in Scandinavia. Like many writers of the period, Linna came from a working class background and struggled to free himself from that environment through self-education. He had no special interest in politics but his natural leanings were moderately left-wing. He isn’t a ‘political’ writer as such, and it would be simplistic to apply labels to his views. His central interests, which directly affect his style, are a concentration on firstly, acute social observation and, secondly, social analysis. Through novels in this genre – and Linna is without doubt a master – the reader finds a world and all its influences, from the personal to the historical and economic dissected, the casings laid back, the true juxtapositions revealed.

The process can be powerful and effective and Linna’s major works Tuntematon Sotilas (‘The Unknown Soldier’, 1954, English translation 1957) and the trilogy Täällä Pohjantähden alla (‘Here beneath the North Star’, 1960-62) have struck deep into the Finnish national consciousness radically influencing the way events in recent Finnish history have been viewed by a wide audience of readers. Both works have been enormously popular: the characters have so accurately caught the Finnish personality that they have become part of the nation’s mythology. More…

The strike

Issue 4/1980 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose | Added 23 February 2017

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…

Interview with Kerttu-Kaarina Suosalmi

Issue 2/1980 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews | Added 23 February 2017

In these days of seminars, conferences, discussions and panels, Kerttu­-Kaarina Suosalmi is in constant demand as a fluent and lively speaker on a variety of subjects. Whether the occasion is a gathering of young theologians, a pacifist rally on Independence Day, or a seminar for young Marxists, what she has to say is always both shrewd and stimulating. Her manner of speaking suggests not so much a radio announcer as a force of nature. Not that Kerttu-Kaarina Suosalmi is ‘a writer with a message’ in the accepted sense. She does not indulge in polemics; her novels are neither documentary nor autobiographical, but pure works of the imagination. Critics speak of her recent books as artistic triumphs. Nevertheless, the relevance of her work to present-day conditions and problems is strongly felt by the reading public. It is rare for such an abundance and variety of material to be combined with such qualities as spontaneity of form and excellence of expression. Suosalmi’s first book appeared as long ago as 1948, a collection of poems entitled Melanmitta (‘A stroke of the paddle’). Her early works in prose, Synti (‘The sin’, 1957), a collection of short stories, and the novel Neitsyt (‘The virgin’, 1964) were tightly constructed, ‘well-made’ works in the accepted Finnish tradition. A more personal style of writing made its appearance with Hyvin toimeentulevat ihmiset (‘These affluent people’, 1969). In this novel, constructionally speaking, Suosalmi breaks new ground: there is no consecutive plot, the book being built up of sections written from the points of view of the various ‘affluent people’ of the title, the thematic unity becoming evident only in the context of the entire novel. More…

The Confirmation Present

Issue 2/1980 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose | Added 23 February 2017

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…

On Daniel Katz

Issue 4/1980 | Archives online, Authors | Added 21 February 2017

Daniel Katz

Daniel Katz. Photo: Veikko Somerpuro/WSOY.

Daniel Katz (born 1938) is a member of Finland’s small Jewish community and the first Finnish writer to emerge from that background. The publication of his first book coincided roughly with the appearance in America of a wealth of Jewish literature. Katz has much in common with American Jewish writers, particularly in his parodies of conventional religious practices, but the Jewish community he writes about relates to the general social environment in a very different way. Writers like Philip Roth are concerned with a social group that is tightly hemmed in by its own claustrophobic boundaries, whereas Katz’s Jews, living alongside the reserved and at times withdrawn Finns, stand out as exceptionally extroverted and sociable beings; their Jewishness is not a fetter but their innate key to freedom. More…

Father

Issue 4/1980 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose | Added 21 February 2017

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…