Archive for June, 1991

Speaking about the heart

Issue 2/1991 | Archives online, Articles

New Finnish poetry, translated and introduced by Herbert Lomas

The ‘modernist’ revolution in Finnish poetry is now 40 years old, and the art must be ripe for changes.

Of course, the modernism of post-war Finnish poetry was not – except in Haavikko and to some extent in Saarikoski – extremely modernist. The poets were more interested in their content than their experiments. They were perhaps closer to ancient Chinese poets and early Pound than to Eliot in their elided brief juxtapositions and meditations on nature, society and moment-to-moment transience. The poets picked up a few liberties that unshackled them from metrical and rhyming formalities uncongenial to Finnish stress, syntax and phonemics; and they took off to speak about the heart. That is the strength of this poetry, and its originality, since all originality consists in being oneself – which includes one’s national self, and ultimately other people’s selves. And every generation still has to make a new start, admittedly in new circumstances, with the experience of its forefathers from birth to death. More…

How to survive in the fast lane

Issue 2/1991 | Archives online, Authors

Kjell Westö is very young, but he has enough historical sensibility to be able to understand small details and how they vary as epochs change. Reading him, I was reminded of one of the dustiest practitioners of the philosophy of art, the 19th-century Hippolyte Taine.

Taine was a dyed-in-the-wool positivist who sought connections between art and geology: just as the earth is overlaid with a layer of ‘soft mulch’ – last year’s decomposing leaves – so ‘the individual is overlaid with customs, ideals, spiritual or intellectual characteristics which last for three or four years; they are the creations of fashion and the moment’; among them are details of speech and clothing. Taine’s description, written around 1830, of the young literary hero, is unforgettable: the upstart ‘who has great passions and deep dreams, who is inspiring and lyrical, political and rebellious, humanitarian and reformist and enthusiastically consumptive, fateful looking with his tragic waistcoats and his arresting hair style’. More…

He came in through the bathroom window

Issue 2/1991 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Utslag och andra noveller (‘Rash and other stories’, Alba, 1989). Introduction by Pekka Tarkka

He heard a voice behind him:

‘Hey, Aspelin, what are you doing here?’

Awakening from a half-sleep, he looked around as Ilpo approached his seat.

‘I work near here. I’m teaching math to the visually impaired.’

Ilpo sat down next to him. For several seconds they sat without speaking. Then Aspelin collected himself.

‘And you?’

‘Visiting a friend. He lives in Mäkkylä.’ More…