Archive for March, 1989

If grief smoked

Issue 1/1989 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from six collections of poetry. Introduction by Herbert Lomas

The City

How the houses have ascended in this city,
the abysses deepened, the water blackened,
soon to be creeping along the streets.

The railings are rusting through,
the water table’s rising,
the cellars are slopping.

Fear is rising, or being covered up
behind strangling discretion,
outbreaks of crime.


Myth at large – an echo when life is mute

Issue 1/1989 | Archives online, Authors

At the end of Karen Blixen’s The Immortal Story certain characters have used all their contrivance to make a popular sailor’s fantasy – in which a crewman is invited to rich house, dined, wined and offered a woman – take place in reality. The crewman is found, all the events occur, but their actuality is entirely different from what was imagined and planned. The final image is a shell held to the ear – a sound that seems to have been heard long ago. The sound of the cosmos is the unpredictable voice of the Puppet Master who subtly alters the plots of the puppet masters.

Eeva-Liisa Manner writes both poetry and prose but carefully distinguishes the two:

Prose, let it be hard as you like, let it  make you restless.
But poetry's an echo heard when life is mute.


The final scene that Büchner never wrote

Issue 1/1989 | Archives online, Authors, Drama

‘Fierce, stubborn sympathy for a weak, doomed person can be seen everywhere in Georg Büchner’s writing. It was the Leitmotiv of all his literary activity, just as the defense of freedom and justice was the motive for his political action.’ So wrote the poet Eeva-Liisa Manner in her essay, ‘The dramatic and historical Woyzeck’, published in the literary periodical Parnasso in 1962. Her first translation of Büchner’s famous play was published in the same issue. Ever since then, this unfinished last play by Georg Büchner has refused to leave Manner in peace. Altogether she has published three different Finnish translations of the work, most recently in 1987. But she was not content to leave it at that, for she also wrote a conclusion to the incomplete play, providing her own interpretation of Woyzeck’s final scene.

Georg Büchner’s contemporaries felt that his life, too, had been left unfinished. He was only twenty-three years old when he died in 1837 – ‘Ein unvollendet Lied’ (‘an unfinished song’), as Georg Herwegh wrote in a memorial poem dedicated to Büchner in 1841. In the eyes of his contemporaries, Büchner was a dramatist who, with his first play, Danton’s Death, had shown great promise which his early death prevented him from fulfilling. At the time, no one could imagine that the ‘almost finished play’ found among the writer’s posthumous works would provide the stimulus for naturalistic, expressionistic, and epic theatre, or that it would serve as the basis for one of the most important operas of the following century. More…

The Othello of Sand Alley

Issue 1/1989 | Archives online, Drama, Fiction

Eeva-Liisa Manner’s Woyzeck is an independent ending to Georg Büchner’s fragmentary play. Introduction by Riitta Pohjola


(Dawn in the market square of Leipzig. A gallows looms, dimly visible in the distance. Brisk rumble of drums.)


What’s going on here?

1st MAN

They’re getting ready for an execution. Some villain’s going to be executed in public.




Franz Woyzeck. I guess you know him, the barber. More…

Far from the world

Issue 1/1989 | Archives online, Authors

The narrow, icy road winds its way up to the small village. There are just a few houses, and scarcely two dozen inhabitants, all of them Swedish-speaking. It is many hundred kilometres to Helsinki, but nearby are a few very small, Swedish-speaking towns.

This is a Finland that Finns themselves do not know. Only a few travel here – and the people who live here do not like to go anywhere.

The poet Gösta Ågren, 52, is one of the villagers. All the other inhabitants are his childhood friends. Gösta Ågren is no different from the others. Even his house is just as unassuming as the rest, for this is not prosperous country. He built his house himself, painted it yellow and red and decorated its interior timbers with inscriptions of a kind generally found in Dalecarlia in Sweden. Gösta Ågren was born in the place where he built his house. More…

Alone here

Issue 1/1989 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Gösta Ågren has published a couple of dozen volumes of poetry; Jär (the title is a dialect word meaning ‘here’) won the Finlandia Prize in 1989. Ågren’s earlier poems have been epic, tinged with Marxism, in the style of Whitman and Neruda. Gradually his has become more strongly linguistically concentrated, developed towards a more conventionally lyrical style questioning the problem of existence. He himself has expressed the matter in one of the paradoxical statements he particularly enjoys: ‘don’t worry / it will never work out.’ Introduction by Erkka Lehtola


Here she came, through the motion­
less Sunday of old age.
In headscarf and long skirt
she came, a tall bird
of clothes. She wondered in
the sunlight on the shed-hill
what she should do
so she could die. I must
write about this. For it happens
everywhere, and there are no
questions to answer. But questioning
is already insight. Only
those questions that are never asked
need answers. I remember
that her hands were no longer
part of her. Idle
they lay in her lap. She saw
with her eyes only darkness
and light. It was silent. I
thought: the silence is creeping
through her body. Soon
it will reach her heart. Soon
I will be alone
here. More…

Kullervo’s story

Issue 1/1989 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Paavo Haavikko wrote this manuscript for the television series Rauta-aika (‘Age of iron’), broadcast in 1982. lt also appeared as a book in 1982, complemented by Kullervon tarina (‘Kullervo’s story’ ) which had been omitted from the original. The text follows the stories of the Kalevala, but they are given a new interpretation: the characters are demythologised, they resign themselves to their fates – they are like ourselves. These extracts are the final scenes in which incest, revenge and death appear in a slightly different guise from Kalevala, or Kivi’s Kullervo.

– Mother, on the road I met your daughter, who is my sister, and took her into my sleigh. She had broken one of her skis. Spring came in one day, the clouds in front of the moon tore themselves to shreds so that two moons passed in one night. Winter went, Spring came, I brought the sleigh back, and I slept on top of the sacks so that not a single grain or seed would be lost. It’s all in the sacks now, saved. The clouds tore off their clothes and washed them in the rivers of rain, and naked, in the dark, they waited for their clothes to dry, those clouds. They even darkened the moon, they would have killed it if they could have reached that far, as it spied on the cloud women who were washing the clothes they had taken off in the waters of heaven, and two moons passed in one night, Kullervo says to his mother, piling up lies like a little boy. Many words. More…

On not translating a tragedy

Issue 1/1989 | Archives online, Authors

In February 1860, the Finnish Literature Society, under the chairmanship of Elias Lönnrot, met to hear the judges’ reports on the entries for a drama competition: the Society was offering a substantial prize for a dramatic work written in the Finnish language. The announcement had been made two years earlier, but since no entries were received before the closing elate, the offer had been extended for a further year. This time three plays had been submitted: First Love, an adaptation from the French; The Glib Talker, another adaptation; and Kullervo, an original tragedy in five acts.

August Ahlqvist, the chairman of the judging committee, was only 34 years old but already a formidable scholar and much respected in the literary and academic world: he was soon to succeed Lönnrot as Professor of Finnish in the University of Helsinki (or Helsingfors, as most people still called it). The report on Kullervo, as read out to the Society, begins with starchy criticism, continues with enthusiastic praise, and ends with grudging approval – a typical committee production, revealing between the lines sharp differences of opinion. More…


Issue 1/1989 | Archives online, Drama, Fiction

An extract from the tragedy Kullervo (1864). Introduction by David Barrett
The plot of the Kullervo story as told in the Kalevala: Untamo defeats his brother Kalervo’s army, and Kalervo’s son Kullervo is born a slave. Untamo sells him as a young child to llmarinen whose wife, the Daughter of Pohjola, makes the boy a shepherd and bakes him a loaf with a stone inside it. Kullervo takes his revenge by sending home a flock of wild animals, instead of cattle, who tear her to pieces. He flees, and discovers that his parents and two sisters are alive on the borders of Lapland. He finds them, but one of his sisters is lost. Life in the family home is unhappy: Kullervo fails in all the tasks his father sets him. On his way home one day he finds a girl in the forest whom he abducts in his sledge and seduces. It turns out the girl is his lost sister, who drowns herself when she learns that Kullervo is her brother. Kullervo sets out to revenge himself on Untamo; he kills and destroys. When he returns home, he finds the house empty and deserted, goes into the forest and falls on his sword.

ACT II, Scene 3

Kalervo’s cottage by Kalalampi Lake. It is night-time. Kimmo, seated by a fire of woodchips, is mending nets. More…