Archive for June, 1982

About calendars and other documents

Issue 2/1982 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

An extract from Sudenkorento (‘The dragonfly’, 1970). Introduction by Aarne Kinnunen

I now have. Right here in front of me. To be interviewed. Insulin artist. Caleb Buttocks. I have heard. About his decision. To grasp his nearly. Nonexistent hair and. Lift. Himself and. At the same time. His horse. Out of the swamp into which. He. Claims. He has sunk so deep that. Only. His nose is showing. How is it now, toe dancer Caleb Buttocks. Are you. Perhaps. Or is It your intention. To explain. The self in the world or. The world. In the self. Or is It now that. Just when you. Finally have agreed to. Be interviewed by yourself. You have decided. To go. To the bar for a beer?

– Yes. Can you spare a ten?

– Yes.

– Thanks. See, what’s really happened is that. My hands have started shaking. But when I down two or three bottles of beer, that corpse-washing water as I’ve heard them call it, my hands stop shaking and I don’t make so many typing errors. If I put away six or seven they stop shaking even more and the typing mistakes turn really strange. They become like dreams: all of a sudden you notice you’ve struck it just right. Let’s say, ‘arty’ becomes ‘farty’. Or I mean to say, ‘it strikes me to the core’ I end up typing ‘score’. It’s like that. A friend of mine, an artist, once stuck a revolver in my hand. Imagine, a revolver! I’ve never shot anything with any kind of weapon except a puppy once with a miniature rifle. My God, how nicely it wagged its tail when I aimed at it, but what I’m talking about are handguns, those shiny black steelblue clumps people worship as heaven knows what symbols. It’s not as if I haven’t been hoping to all my life. And now, finally, after I’d waited over fifty years, it turned out that the revolver was a star Nagant, just the kind I’d always dreamed of. So if I ever got one of those, oh, then would sleep through the lulls between shots with that black steel clump ready under my pillow. Well, my friend the artist set out one vodka bottle with a white label and three brown beer bottles with gold labels on the edge of a potato pit – we had just emptied all of them together – stuck the fully loaded star Nagant into my hand, took me thirty yards away and said:

– Oh, Lord. More…

Juha Mannerkorpi (1915–1989) and the metamorphosis of the self

Issue 2/1982 | Archives online, Authors

Juha Mannerkorpi. Photo: SKS Archives

Juha Mannerkorpi. Photo: SKS Archives

The chapter, entitled ‘About calendars and other documents’, is a section of Juha Mannerkorpi’s book, Sudenkorento eli erään pakaraisen esittävät seikkailut (‘The dragonfly, or the representative adventures of a certain buttocks’, 1970). The main character is a writer, Caleb Buttocks, a long-term diabetic who can get around only on crutches and spends most of his days sitting in his room smoking and drinking beer. Pain and depression are his daily companions.

In the beginning, Caleb Buttocks attempts a real adventure: lifting himself out of the swamp like Baron von Münchhausen and going on an outing with his wife. The adventure comes to a bad end; he is not up to it. Thereafter, he has to be content with ‘representative adventures’: dreams, memories, and nightmares which are interwoven with the present time.

Sudenkorento is largely a first-person narrative which operates on many levels and the language of which is exceptionally rich. The narrator makes use of many different elements: fairy tales, poems, fantasies realistic narratives, and reminiscences. Sudekorento can be considered the most important book by Juha Mannerkorpi (1915-1980), and represents a synthesis of his earlier writing, which includes some twenty works since 1946: poems, plays, radio-plays, novels, and short stories. After the publication of Sudenkorento Mannerkorpi wrote a short diary-like work, Päivänsinet (‘Heavenly blue’, 1979), a study of the will to live in the shadow of a serious illness, diabetes, which is a subject he often dealt with in his work. Characteristic of Mannerkorpi’s writing are his analyses of the relationship of the self with the world and his explication of existential questions. In the European literary milieu, he is closest to Camus, Sartre and Beckett, all of whom he has translated into Finnish. More…

The Session

Issue 2/1982 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Pappas flicka (‘Daddy’s girl’, 1982), an extract of which appears below, is published in Finland by Söderstrom & C:o and in Sweden by Norstedt. The Finnish translation is published by Tammi. Introduction by Gustaf Widén

At first I say nothing, as usual.

Dr Berg also sits in silence. I can hear him moving in his chair and try to work out what he’s doing. Is he getting out pen and paper? Or perhaps he has a tiny soundless tape-recorder he is switching on.

Or is he just settling down, deep down into his armchair, one leg crossed over the other, like Dad used to sit? I used to climb up on to his foot. The he would hold my hands and bounce his foot up and down, and you had to say “whoopsie” and finally with a powerful kick, he would fling me in the air so that I landed in his arms.

I have worked it out that the little cushion under my head is to stop us lunatics from turning our heads round to look at Herr Doktor.

It would certainly be nice to sit bouncing up and down on Dr Berg’s foot. His ankle would rub me between my legs …

I soon start feeling ashamed and blush.

“Mm,” says Dr Berg, as if reading my thoughts. Or can he see my face from where he is sitting? I try rolling my eyes up to catch a glimpse of him, but all I can see is the ceiling with all its thick beams.

“I seem to have been here before,” I say. More…


Issue 2/1982 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

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)


Johan Bargum’s analyses

Issue 2/1982 | Archives online, Authors

Johan Bargum. Photo: Irmeli Jung

Johan Bargum. Photo: Irmeli Jung

Few Finland-Swedish authors can make a living by their writing. A readership of little more than 300,000 cannot support a large number of writers, and only the most successful books sell more than a thousand copies. Writers have thus no choice but to seek other markets, notably in Sweden or among the Finnish-speaking population.

Both alternatives present problems, but popular writers like Henrik Tikkanen and Christer Kihlman are tending more and more to publish simultaneously in all three markets. Since the publication of his novel Den privata detektiven (‘The private detective’) in 1980, which even became the Book of the Month in Sweden, Johan Bargum has joined this group. Enthusiastic reviewers have since speculated on the possibility of translations into other European languages.

Born in 1943, Bargum grew up in Helsinki and, like so many other writers with their roots in the Finnish capital, he comes from an upper-class family. Politically he belongs to the left, while artistically he has benefited from family tradition: both his grandmother, Margit von Willebrand-Hollmerus, and his mother, Viveca Hollmerus, are well-known authors. Writing as a family tradition is actually quite a common phenomenon in Finland-Swedish literature.

A social conscience

Thanks to his skill as a dramatist as well as a prose-writer, Johan Bargum has been able to live by his pen for the past ten years. Early in the 1970s he had a success with Som snort (‘A cinch’), Bygga bastu (‘Building a sauna’) and Virke och verkan (‘Material and the making’), all specially written for Lilla Teatern, the Swedish-language theatre in Helsinki. In this trilogy he was concerned with the difficulties encountered by small businessman in their struggle against large monopolies. His text is characterized by a strong ironic humour. More…

A portrait of Elmer Diktonius

Issue 2/1982 | Archives online, Authors

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…


Issue 2/1982 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Sirkka Turkka is among the most important poets who started their work in the 1970s. So far she has published five collections of poetry and one work in prose. ‘I speak of death when I mean to speak of life,’ writes Sirkka Turkka in one of the poems in her collection Mies joka rakasti vaimoaan liikaa (‘The man who loved his wife too much’, 1979). The theme of death is close at hand, too, in the previously unpublished poems printed below. Introduction by Arto Kytöhonka

Before death itself comes
it paints the pine boles red
around this house
It erects a moon in the sky, a luminous moon,
set on edge like an old dish
with the light enamel peeling off.
Onto this house, over which
night is now pleating.
And the house, in the veering waters, in the clinging waters,
is slowly preparing itself, quite by itself, for death. More…

On Sirkka Turkka

Issue 2/1982 | Archives online, Authors

Sirkka Turkka

Sirkka Turkka. Photo: Pertti Nisonen


I met Sirkka Turkka towards the end of the sixties; she was a friend of a girl-friend of mine.

We called her Hemuli. Not that she bore any resemblance to the Hemulen of the Moomin books, but she did view the world with the same charitable curiosity as some of Tove Jansson’s immortal characters.

In the evenings Hemuli would speak with wit and wisdom, as the sky darkened, then paled towards dawn. Her words were spontaneous: she talked of nature, of the city, always with a gentle understanding, a compelling magic which dissolved ideas into music, full of a sad beauty, echoes of loneliness, painful and happy memories. She looked life straight in the eye, without illusions.

What I’m saying, Sirkka Turkka was a master of the spoken word. She was a story-teller, a ballad-singer, a reciter of epic tales, creating literature of a kind no longer recognized as literature. More…