Stranger than fiction

Issue 1/1993 | Archives online, Authors

Matemaattisia olioita tai jaettuja unia (‘Mathematical creatures, or shared dreams’), which won the Finlandia Prize for Fiction 1993, is Leena Krohn’s seventh prose work for adults. The book is made up of 12 prose pieces that occupy the ground between the essay and the short story, thematically linked by a discussion of the relationship between self and reality.

In previous works, Krohn (born 1947) has approached the paradoxes of human existence that cannot be explained by science. ‘That which we call reality is merely a shared dream,’ says the main character of one of the stories.

Krohn is no mystic, however, but prefers to build her fictions upon fact, the many varieties of knowledge offered by modern science. Truth is stranger than fiction, particularly seen via the strange world of computers. On the one hand, Krohn sees humanity as a single biological species, whose ‘mastery’ does not seem based on quite such firm foundations as we ourselves, in our megalomania, would like to think.

Krohn has often juxtaposed the human world with that of the insects; humanity does not, after all, seem so very far from the superficially strange forms of entomological life. Matemaattisia olioita has a bright metallic dustjacket (designed by Marjaana Virta, who has been responsible for the look of many of Krohn’s books). The features of creation’s crowning glory – i.e. the reader – look a little dim and indefinite.

In her prose, Krohn mixes fact and fiction, everyday reality – or ‘reality’ – with the basic philosophical problems of human existence in a way that is unique in contemporary Finnish literature. Her prose is also completely non-national: there is nothing Finnish about it except the language.

Krohn’s prose provokes the reader to do something interesting and perhaps increasingly rare: to think.

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