Archive for December, 1993

Presence and absence

Issue 4/1993 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Urwind (Schildts, 1993). Introduction by David McDuff

Snow letter

I have written you a snow letter. The day was clear, with clouds like drifting mist, woolly and small. In January the wind’s paintbrush is allusive and creates distance. But the darkness rises from the forests around the city; a pregnant bank of cloud, blue­ violet, is suddenly there, and it gets dark in the middle of the day. Then it reaches my room, too, and the silence thickens. The first snow falls, gleams like dust and down in the light from the setting sun. Then the snowstorm is there, whirls through gateways and along streets, stops, rises, turns, rushes onwards again under the courtyard’s swaying lamps. How long did I sit there, on the staircase, after Mrs Rosendal slammed her door shut, watching the darkness rising, stair by stair? Each year is a snowflake that blows around between now and the past. A door crashes shut, a door crashes open, out flies a grey soldier’s uniform and is followed, mumbling and swaying, by a man in long johns while a woman screams: ‘Swine!’ And again the staircase booms with the sound of a door being slammed shut. People stride through one another and leave traces of blood. More…

The world bright and lucid

Issue 4/1993 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Parkerna (‘The parks’, Söderströms 1992)

The snow whirls over
Tenala churchyard

We light candle-lanterns so that
the dead shall be less

lonely, we think that they are
subject to the same laws

as we. The lights twinkle restlessly:
perhaps the dead yearn for

company, we know nothing of
their activity, the snow whirls More…

The enchanted garden

Issue 4/1993 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

An extract from Säädyllinen murhenäytelmä (‘A respectable tragedy’, 1941). Introduction by Soila Lehtonen

Artur sat on the balcony and contemplated the windowpanes, hot and bright as dragonfly’s wings. He reached into his pocket and produced an ivory cigarette-holder, inserted a fresh salt-capsule and a cigarette, and began smoking, but the cigarette was not to his taste. His mouth felt hot and dry; he probed the roof of his mouth with his tongue.

An ant was making its way across the floor; Artur’s gaze rested on the garden’s universe of flowerbeds, swarming with insects and blooms; the atmosphere in the garden had the tint of hot dust, apart from the lawn, with its limeblossom-tinged half­ light. He started to make for the garden: the flowers would all be needing water, and he could go for a swim in the pond. But first he wanted to take a look at his mother: she might manage an hour’s sleep in this heat. He tapped a drift of blue-grey cigarette­ash onto the floor. He tiptoed heavily to the old lady’s door, making the floorboards creak, and opened it a fraction. In the green aqueous light thrown by the blind he could make out the reposing outlines of a weak, almost immaterial body; her throat and chest moved gently under her star-crocheted lace, but otherwise the old lady was sleeping lightly as a bird. More…

The situation in Narva

Issue 4/1993 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Pakosarja (‘Exhaust manifold’, WSOY, 1993)

We went into the building where Voroshilov said the waitress had disappeared. Inside was a big room lined with wooden benches. A tin-clad stove radiated heat. Someone had shut the dampers too early, probably out of meanness; it had that kind of smoky smell.

A corridor led from the room, with a few doors off it. We peered inside, but there was no one to be seen. There was nobody in the entire building. We left.

We walked across the railway yard in what I thought was the direction of the train. We heard the sound of the engine long before we could see anything through the snowstorm. At regular intervals the engine’s pressure valve let off steam. Voroshilov went for a leak. He leaned against the engine’s big back wheel and watered the lever, which had been left in the down position. The liquid ran down the engine’s rounded flank. The snowflakes melted as they fell on to the black casing of the water-tank. More…

Love and war

Issue 4/1993 | Archives online, Authors

Helvi Hämäläinen’s memoirs reveal the true extent to which her classic novel Säädyllinen murhenäytelmä (‘A respectable tragedy’), which shocked polite Helsinki society when it appeared in 1941, is a roman à clef.

Perhaps the deepest love flows from the spring of forgiveness that is hidden within us, which does not open unless we are wounded; if a person who loves another is too noble to inflict that wound, he will never receive the deepest love. For it is the imperfection of the loved one that makes it possible to fix on him the best powers of the soul. Naimi’s love was noble because she had chosen as imperfect a beloved as Artur; Artur had no love because he had never been wounded in love in order that it might flow.

(Säädyllinen murhenäytelmä)


Eye of the storm

Issue 4/1993 | Archives online, Authors

In Urwind (Schildts; Finnish translation Otava, 1993), Bo Carpelan has written a poetic novel of strange depth and self-revelatory intensity. In this – on the surface – extremely simple story of a Helsinki secondhand bookseller whose wife leaves him for a year in order to do research at Harvard, there is a complex layering and criss-crossing of experience, past and present, that makes the narrative a matter more of inner than of outer experience: the fabric of the narrators life, his childhood, youth and earlier years is the subject of most of the 240 pages.

In his name, Daniel Urwind, a host of associations is contained, and this is also the generating point for a great deal of the novel’s thematic material. In the ‘ur-vind’, or ‘primordial attic’, are stored not only inanimate relics of the narrator’s past, but also memories of the people, the neighbours, friends and relatives who inhabited the apartment house in which he was brought up. Some of this material is already familiar from Carpelan’s Gården (‘The courtyard’) and his collection of prose poems Jag minns att jag drömde (‘I remember I dreamt’), but here it is linked to an intense and at times Ingmar Bergman-like meditation on the entire span of a man’s life, brought on by a crisis of loneliness and ultimate desertion. More…