Archive for December, 1997
Extracts from the novel Klassikko (‘The classic’, WSOY, 1997). Pete drives an old Toyota Corolla without a thought for the small animals that meet their death under its wheels – or anything else, for that matter. Hotakainen describes the inner life of this environmental hazard with accuracy and precision
Pete sat in his Toyota Corolla destroying the environment. He was not aware of this, but the lifestyle he represented endangered all living things. The car’s exhaust fumes spread into the surroundings, its aged engine sweated oil onto the pavement, and malodorous opinions withered the willowherbs by the roadside. Granted that Pete was an environmental hazard, one must nevertheless ask oneself: how many people does one like him provide with employment? He leaves behind him a trail of despondent girlfriends who require the services of human relations workers, popular songwriters, and social service officials; during his lifetime, he spends tens of thousands of marks in automotive shops and service stations, on spare parts and small cups of coffee; he benefits the food industry by being a carefree purchaser of TV dinners and soft drinks. Pete is the perfect consumer, an apolitical idiot who votes with his wallet, the favorite of every government, even though no one seems interested in putting him to work, least of all himself. Every government, regardless of political power struggles, encourages its people to consume. Pete needs no encouragement, he consumes unconsciously, and one might ask: is there anything that he does consciously, the Greens and left-wingers would like him to? Does Pete make smart long-range decisions? Hardly.
Extracts from Lanthandlerskans son (‘Country shopkeeper’s son’, Söderströms, 1997). Brooklyn Bridge, Christmas Eve: Otto, a Finland-Swede, attempts to start a new life in 1930s America, where swindlers and even gangsters can, he finds, be duped – even Al Capone. Otto’s grandson listens to his story on tape
I have always loved that sight. A city that you see from the air at night, all lit up. It’s’ beautiful – and at the same time so frightening. I don’t really know how to describe it.
Well, it was Christmas Eve. I was wandering around New York. I had eaten at an automat. Do you know what that is? They don’t exist any more, but in the Twenties and Thirties they were common in America. It’s a cafe, but they didn’t have any staff or waiters, instead the walls were full of little glass boxes where the food was on display. You could select what you wanted – sandwiches and pies and salads, anything. Then you put your nickels and dimes in a slot beside the box and the glass opened and’all you had to do was take out the plate. I was fond of the automats. I liked just sitting there and watching other people eat, no one bothered about you, you were left alone and that suited me. When I’d finished eating I went outside again and somehow or other I wandered upon to Brooklyn Bridge. There was a lot of traffic, people were on their way home. Well, just as I was walking there alone in the company of my thoughts I heard someone shouting ‘Help! Help me!’ More…