New from the archives
In his book Suomalaisia nykykirjailijoita (‘Contemporary Finnish writers’), Pekka Tarkka describes Tuomas Anhava’s development as a poet as follows: In his first work, Anhava appears as an elegist of death and loneliness; and this classical temperament remains characteristic in his later work. Anhava is a poet of the seasons and the hours of the day, of the ages of man; and his scope is widened by the influence of Japanese and Chinese poetry. As well as his miniature, crystalclear, imagist nature poems, Anhava writes, in his Runoja 1961 (‘Poems 1961’), brilliant didactic poems stressing the power of perception and rebuffing conceptual explanation. The mood in Kuudes kirja (‘The sixth book’, 1966) is of confessionary resignation and intimate subjectivity.
Anhava’s literary inclinations reflect his most important translations, which include William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1959), selections of Japanese tanka poetry (1960, 1970, 1975), Saint John Perse’s Anabasis (1960), a selection from the works of Ezra Pound, published under the title Personae, and selections from the work of the Finland-Swedish poets Gunnar Björling and Bo Carpelan.
Song of the black
My days must be black, to make what I write stand out on the bleached sheets of life, my rage must be the colour of death, to make my black love stand out, my nights must be summer white and snow white, to make my black grief burn far, since you're grieving and I love you for your undying grief. Let the sun's rolled gold gild dunghills, let the moon's blue milk leak out till it's empty, we're not short of those. The obscure black darkness of the cosmic night glitters on us enough.
From Runoja (1955)
Extract from lhmisen vapaus (‘Human Freedom’, 1950)
‘Where are we?’ Yvonne asked. ‘This isn’t the right street either. Somewhere between Alma and Georges V, they said. But there’s no sign of an aquarium.’
‘Talking of aquariums’, I suggested, ‘there’s a dog shop near here where they wash dogs in the back room. If you like, I’ll take you to see how they wash a dog. It’s a very soothing experience.’
‘You’re crazy’, said Yvonne.
My feelings were hurt. ‘I may sleep badly’, I admitted, ‘but I love you. I walk up and down the embankments all night. My heart aches, my brain is on fire. Then comes blissful intoxication, and for a little while I can be happy. And all you can do is to keep nagging, Gertrude.’
She wrinkled her brow, but I went on impatiently, ‘Look, Rose dear, just at present I have the whole world throbbing in my temples and in my finger-tips. Age-old poems are bubbling up within me. I am grieving for lost youth. I am boggling at the future. For just this one moment it is given to me to see life with the living eyes of a real human being. Why won’t you let me be happy?’
‘I have walked two hundred kilometres’, said a low, timid voice at my elbow. I stopped. Yvonne had stuck her arm through mine. She, too, stopped. We both looked down and saw a little man. He doffed a ragged cap and bowed. Flushed scars glowed through a grey stubble of beard. He was wearing a much-patched battle-dress from which the badges had long since disappeared. His face was wrinkled, but the little eyes were animated and sorrowful. More…
Extracts from Bo Carpelan‘s novel Axel, ‘a fictional memoir’ (1986). In his preface to the novel Bo explains how he ‘found’ Axel.
In the 1930s I came across the name of Axel Carpelan (1858-1919), my paternal grandfather’s brother, in Karl Ekman’s Jean Sibelius and His Work (1935). In the bibliography, the author briefly mentions quotes from letters in the book addressed to Axel Carpelan, ‘who belonged to the Master’s most intimate circle of friends, and in musical matters was his constant confidant. Sibelius commemorated their friendship by dedicating his second symphony to him’. I had never heard Axel’s name mentioned in my own family.
Many years after Karl Ekman, the original incentive for the novel about Axel arose through Erik Tawaststjerna’s biography of Sibelius, in which Axel is portrayed in the second volume (1967) of the Finnish edition, and whose life came to an end in Part IV (1978). From early 1970s onwards, I started notes for Axel’s fictional diary from to 1919. It is not known whether Axel himself ever kept a diary. I relied as muchas possible on all the available facts. These increased when I was given access to letters exchanged between Axel and Janne from the year 1900 onwards. It became the story of the hidden strength a very lonely and sick man, and of a friendship in which the give and take both sides was far greater than Axel himself could ever have imagined.
Hagalund, June 1st, 1985
1878, Axel’s diary
On my twentieth birthday, I remember the young Wolfgang; ‘Little Wolfgang has no time to write because he has nothing to do. He wanders up and down the room like a dog troubled by flies’. However, that dog achieved a paradise. I have learnt yet one more piece of wisdom: ‘It is my habit to treat people as I find them; that is the most rewarding in the long run’. More…