New from the archives

Reality versus morality

Issue 3/1982 | Archives online, Authors | Added 29 September 2016

Eila Pennanen

Eila Pennanen. Photo: Anonymous (Suomen Kuvalehti 1965) via Wikimedia Commons

Reviewing Eila Pennanen‘s second collection of essays, which appeared earlier this year under the delightfully ambiguous title of Kirjailijatar ja hänen miehensä (‘The authoress and her… man? … men? … husband?… husbands?’), a critic called attention to the heading she had chosen for her essay on Bernard Malamud: ‘Malamud’s ignoble hero’. His comment on this was that the moral judgment implicit in such a title would be both pointless and valueless if Pennanen had maintained it with logical consistency throughout the essay. If in fact she does no such thing, it is because she knows how to look at a character, however ignoble, with an eye for subtleties and a great deal of psychological insight. This is something one often notices about Eila Pennanen: she is apt to begin by labelling somebody or something ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and even to sound quite defiant about it, but she is never, in the end, content to leave it at that. I once heard her give a lecture on Joel Lehtonen. She startled her audience by the vehemence with which she avowed the feelings of loathing or sympathy aroused in her by characters or events in Lehtonen’s books. Her cheeks blazed as she talked. Then, just as unexpectedly, she chided herself for exaggerating, took back a lot of what she had said, laid bare the reasons for Lehtonen’s contradictoriness, and left her hearers in a condition of fruitful perplexity. Whatever they may have thought or felt about the ‘moral approach’ to criticism, they were left in no doubt as to the wit and intelligence of its leading Finnish exponent. More…


Issue 3/1982 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose | Added 29 September 2016

A short story from Kaksin (‘Two together’). Introduction by Pekka Tarkka

A landlady is a landlady, and cannot be expected – particularly if she is a widow and by now a rather battered one – to possess an inexhaustible supply of human kindness. Thus when Irja’s landlady went to the little room behind the kitchen at nine o’clock on a warm September morning, and found her tenant still asleep under a mound of bedclothes, she uttered a groan of exasperation.

“What you do here this hour of day?” she asked, in a despairing tone. “You don’t going to work?”

Irja heaved and clawed at the blankets until at last her head emerged from under them.

“No,” she replied, after the landlady had repeated the question.

“You gone and left your job again?”

“Yep.” More…

Writer in demand

Issue 3/1982 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry | Added 29 September 2016

Märta Tikkanen

Märta Tikkanen. Photo: Stefan Bremer

Poems from Århundradets kärlekssaga (The Love Story of the Century)

Märta Tikkanen (born 1935), a Finland-Swedish journalist, teacher and mother of four children, made her literary debut with the novel Nu imorron (‘Now tomorrow’) in 1970. It is a story of the liberation of one woman who breaks free from her traditional role. Her next novels, Ingenmansland (‘No man’s land’, 1972) and Vem bryr sej om Doris Mihailov (‘Who cares about Doris Mihailov’, 1974) brought her fame in Scandinavia, but it was not until her fourth novel, Män kan inte våldtas (Manrape, translated by Alison Weir, Virago, 1978) appeared in 1975 that she made her international breakthrough. To date the book has been translated into eight languages and a film adaptation has been made by Jörn Donner.

Her next work, a cycle of poems called Århundradets kärlekssaga (The Love Story of the Century, 1978) became very popular: it has been translated into seven languages as well as adapted for radio, television and the stage . In 1979 she was awarded the Nordic Women’s Alternative Literature Prize. Die Liebesgeschichte des Jahrhunderts, a monologue play based on Verena Reichel’s translation (Rohwolt Taschenbuch Verlag, 1981) is presently being staged in some twenty theatres in West Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Recently Der Spiegel devoted a page to her career. The American première, directed by Margaret Booker, will take place in Intiman Theatre, Seattle. More…

The Storm • September

Issue 3/1982 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose | Added 29 September 2016

Bo Carpelan. Photo: Charlotta Boucht

Bo Carpelan. Photo: Charlotta Boucht

Extracts from Jag minns att jag drömde (‘I remember dreaming’, 1979)

The Storm

I remember dreaming about the great storm which one October evening over forty years ago shook our old schoolhouse by the park. My dream is filled with racing clouds and plaintive cries, of roaring echoes and strange meetings, a witch’s brew still bubbling and hissing in the memory of those great yellow clouds.

Our maths teacher – a small sinewy woman who seemed to have swallowed a question mark and was always wondering where the dot had gone, so she directed us in a low voice and with downcast eyes as if we didn’t exist – and yet her little black eyes saw everything that happened in the class, and weasel-like, were there if anyone disobeyed her – was writing the seven times table on the blackboard, when a peculiar light filled our classroom. We looked across at the window; the whole schoolhouse seemed to have been suddenly transformed into a railway station, shaking and trembling, a whistling sound penetrating the cold thick stone walls, and at raging speed, streaky clouds of smoke were sliding past the window, hurtling our classroom forward as if we were in an aeroplane. Our teacher stopped writing and raised her narrow dark head. Without a word, she went over to the window and stood looking out at the racing clouds. More…

Contrapuntal dialogue

Issue 2/1985 | Archives online, Authors | Added 22 September 2016

Pirkko Saisio

Pirkko Saisio. Photo: Laura Malmivaara

Pirkko Saisio (born 1949) is the author of five novels and a number of plays. Her first novel, Elämänmeno (‘Way of life’), appeared in 1975, when she was a young actress just graduated from the Finnish Theatre School, appearing in rep at Rovaniemi Theatre. By the time her next novel, Sisarukset (‘Sibling’), was published in 1976, Saisio had moved back to her native Helsinki and was working as a freelance writer and actress.

In addition to three stage plays, she has also adapted three of her novels for stage or television: Elämänmeno was shown on television in 1978 and Sisarukset in 1980, and the KOM Theatre staged its own highly acclaimed interpretation of her novel Betoniyö (‘Concrete night’, 1981) in 1982. Last year Saisio published a new novel, Kainin tytär (‘Daughter of Cain’), whose absence from the Finlandia Prize shortlist astonished many critics. In March her play Hävinneiden legenda (‘Legend of the lost’) was published as a book and staged at the KOM Theatre. Saisio herself appeared in the production, playing, among others, the role of Joan of Arc. In May she was awarded a Government Literature Prize for Kainin tytär. More…

Daughter of Cain

Issue 2/1985 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose | Added 22 September 2016

An extract from the novel Kainin tytär (‘Daughter of Cain’, 1984). In the following extract Anna and Risku spend a single night recalling the early days of their relationship; Anna is in the country, Risku is in the city. Introduction by Soila Lehtonen


The moon hangs before the bosom of the sky, a slender crescent, but giving light all the same.

On the horizon a black, glimmering line emerges from the water. It is the skerry, a low, lone rock.

I shut off the motor. The sea laps minutely against the side of the boat. This far out there are no longer any birds.

The silence here is deeper than even that of an empty room.

The skerry is as black and glistening as the back of a pike.

Light is matter, it’s never steady.

Whatever is understood in life is understood in a sudden blue illumination, like lightning cleaving the night to expose the landscape – shadows, hollows and all. More…

The universal eye

Issue 2/1985 | Archives online, Authors | Added 16 September 2016

Gunnar Björling. Photo: Holger Eklund

Gunnar Björling. Photo: Holger Eklund

Gunnar Björling (1887-1960) began his poetic career at the age of 35 with the collection of verse Vilande dag (‘Resting day’, 1922), which revealed the influence of romantic idealism and clearly showed its author’s preoccupation with ethical and philosophical problems of existence. Names such as those of Pascal and Spinoza, Guyau and Tagore, Dostoyevsky and Strindberg occur throughout this collection, the basis of which was formed by Björling’s study of the work of the great Finland-Swedish moral philosopher Edvard Westermarck, from whom the poet derived his concept of relativity and his philosophy of the unbounded. The dammed-up energy that can be sensed in this first volume breaks out with full force in Krosset och löftet (‘The cross and the promise’, 1925): with this, the phase of idealistic expectation comes to an end and Björling the expressionist emerges, giving utterance to ‘unbounded life’, in all its clarity and confusion, yet still within the same framework of ‘growing boundedness’: ‘We live in the concrete, and this gives our abstractions fateful wings.’ More…


Issue 2/1985 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry | Added 16 September 2016

Introduction by Bo Carpelan

	A flower beckons there, a secent beckons there, enticing my eye. 
A hope glimmers there.
	I will climb to the rock of the sky, I will sink in the wave:
a wave-trough. I am singing tone, and the day smiles in riddles.


	Like a sluice of the hurtling rivers I race in the sun:
to capture my heart; to seize hold of that light in an inkling:
sun, iridescence.
	In day and intoxication I wander. I am in that strength:
the white, the white that smiles.


	To my air you have come: a trembling, a vision! I know neither 
you nor your name. All is what it was. But you draw near: a 
daybreak, a soaring circle, your name.