Archive for March, 1987
A short story from Husdjur (‘Pets’, 1986)
Lena called again Sunday morning. I had just gotten up and was annoyed that as usual Hannele hadn’t gone home but was still lying in my bed snoring like a pig. The connection was good, but there was a curious little echo, as if I could hear not only Lena’s voice but also my own in the receiver.
The first thing she said was, ‘How is Hamlet doing?’
She’d started speaking in that affected way even before they’d moved, as if to show us that she’d seen completely through us.
‘Fine,’ I said. ‘How are you?’
‘What is he doing?’
Then she was quiet. She didn’t say anything for a long while.
‘Lena? Hello? Are you there?’
No answer. Suddenly I couldn’t stand it any longer. More…
Contemporary Finnish poetry, translated and introduced by Anselm Hollo
The last couple of months, it has been my pleasure to browse around in a tightly packed shelf of books of poetry published in Finland in the last five years. On the showing of these, and of the excellent anthology Modern finlandssvensk lyrik (‘Modern Finland-Swedish poetry’, 1980), edited by Claes Andersson and Bo Carpelan, poetry certainly seems to be alive and well in the old homeland. In a way, the sheaf translated here is just first travel notes, individual works that struck my fancy seemed translatable: thus, by no means a ‘representative selection’.
Claes Andersson’s poem ‘When I was born, Helsinki was…’ was quite simply a direct hit (perhaps an unfortunate metaphor in that it deals, in part, with the WW2 air raids on Helsinki) – it brought back personal memories from my early childhood. But beyond those immediate circumstances, it is also a very moving evocation of the magnificent and terrifying world of magic children inhabit. Helena Anhava’s ‘These years…’, with its marvelous image of the great hinge turning in the human psyche at certain points familiar to anyone who has lived into middle age, seemed a fine example of her impressive body of meditative lyric poems, sharing a tenor of wistfulness not uncommon in Finland’s poetry with Bo Carpelan’s ‘You drive up…’, which is also a poem of the pangs of change. In Carpelan’s text, the clash between ‘wonderful clear Vivaldi’ on the protagonist’s car radio and the perceived tawdriness of the environment is beautifully balanced between genuine revulsion for the latter and a self-irony directed against the self-declared ‘finer sensibilities’ of the class that can afford them. Tua Forsström‘s ‘Do you want to hear something’ moves in a lovely dance figure from myth to everyday present: we see the interior world that is Nausicaa’s island shimmering through the exterior in which ‘someone’s/ balcony door whines all night like a cat’. More…
An extract from the novel Jottei varjos haalistu (‘Lest your shadow fade’, 1987). Interview by Erkka Lehtola
‘… learn, then, to like yourself.
Dancing beside your shadow, laugh and play.
Dance always in the sunlight, lest your shadow fade.’
J. Fr. Erlander, 1876 (Erika Kuovinoja’s grandfather)
‘Tis in life’s hardness that its splendour lies.’
J. Fr. E., 1890
Three days before the date fixed for the funeral, the minister directed his steps towards the home of the deceased, trying, as he walked, to compose his thoughts, which were full of righteous Lutheran anger. There were many good reasons for this. On the other hand, nothing that had happened in the past ought to make any difference, now that he was on his way to visit a house of mourning. A visit that called for the exercise of understanding, and even, if possible, kindness. It was a lot for anyone to expect, even of a clergyman. It was not by his own desire that he was paying this call: it was a matter of duty. And this time he was the protagonist. Petulantly, his shoes crunched the gravel. More…
Stories from Yhden yön pysäkki (‘One night stand’, 1985) and Unohdettu vartti (‘The forgotten quarter’, 1986). Introduction by Pekka Tarkka
At the beginning of November it really started to freeze. A month earlier than usual. There was little snow to speak of, but the ground froze hard as bone.
Tamed by hunger, reindeer clustered along the roadsides and on the village outskirts. Many of them ended their misery by flinging themselves under the timber-lorries in the evening dark. Bony and bloody carcasses littered the ditches and field-edges.
Then the snowstorms came. It snowed without stop for nearly two weeks. At times the whole landscape was reduced to a white line. Snowdrifts mounted round the houses and up the snow fences. The reindeer carcasses lay about under the snowbanks, waiting for spring. More…
This, the very first Finnish science fiction story, is an extract from Viktor Pettersson’s (1849-1919) Efter trettio år (‘After thirty years’), published in 1886. Introduction by Matti Apunen
On 31 August 1916 father and daughter went up on the ‘deck’ of the air balloon Atlantic. Atlantic was just one of the comfortably furnished air vehicles that plied the regular route between the New and Old Worlds. Pleasure trips between these continents were now made, preferably, by air balloon rather than by ship, because the journey took half the time – a mere three days; and this despite the fact that the standards of comfort in ships were now excellent, since they were made of cardboard and furnished with electric motors. In addition, air balloon travellers avoided sea-sickness and the associated unpleasantnesses. Of course, they did suffer from ‘airsickness’, but the symptoms of this disease made themselves felt in a much more bearable form. For they actually made the sufferer happy, enthusiastic and friendly, so that he wanted to embrace the Lord and the whole world. Dried-up and creaky old bachelors became as lovable and sympathetic as confessors who have made their vow of celibacy; spiteful and pompous wives and spice-selling madames smelling of wormwood became in a second as devoted and sweet-natured as a mademoiselle in a shop selling drinking water. It was like being under the influence of some wonderful aphrodisiac. More…
An extract from Tähtien tarhoissa (‘In the starry heavens’, 1912). Introduction by Matti Apunen
The sun sank and the evening began to draw in. It was a Wednesday towards the end of October, 2140. At Teuvo’s house the electric lights were being switched on.
Teuvo lived in Helsinki on what had once been Korkeavuori Street. Now it had no particular name. It was just Street No 311, for during the course of time there had been so many new streets that it had become impossible to name them all and numbering became necessary.
Teuvo’s home was on the thirtieth storey. But of course it was not important how high up you lived, because no one used stairs. Lifts had replaced the old flights of stairs, and even they were only seldom necessary.
Every storey had an airship stop, and since everyone, even the smallest children, had a pair of wings made of fine aluminium, it was very easy to go from one floor to another without using stairs.
Teuvo looked out of the window. There was a wide space between houses. On the right hand side of the road traffic was flying towards the centre of town, on the left in the opposite direction. What a lot of people there were! He could hear the even whisper of their wings. All kinds of people, old and young, were flying along. More…