Archive for June, 1999

Moments and memories

Issue 2/1999 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

not of wonder but of
something closely related

It is almost as a programme declaration that these words introduce Mårten Westö’s third poetry collection Nio dagar utan namn (‘Nine days without names’, 1998).

He is palpably fascinated by what might be called poetic moments and by the cracks in reality that seem to open during them. Many of the book’s poems derive their energy from these moments of dreamy unreality and alarming clarity of vision, moments when reality acquires a quite different density and the self either experiences an intense contact with the world and itself, or a strong feeling of isolation and alienation mysterious and meaning-laden moments that live on in the memory. More…

Breathe out, breathe in

Issue 2/1999 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Nio dagar utan namn (‘Nine days without names’, Söderströms, 1998). Introduction by Bror Rönnholm

Quickly, at a zebra crossing
          not of wonder but of
 something closely related: the tree
          upturned by the gale
 with its roots to the heavens, the lit-up
          church spire against the night sky, a few
simple gravestones viewed at a
          suitable season, a quartet from the Marriage of Figaro
 or just standing at a roaring
          crossing and writing this, invisible
 to all in exhaust fumes and a faint blue
          light from a hidden sun, a few
times mistaken for a
          loved pupil  More...

Bodies and souls

Issue 2/1999 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Åtta kroppar (‘Eight bodies’) contains eight stories: Susanne Ringell would really have liked to include the reader’s body in the title, but then the figure nine in the title would have perhaps been associated with the expression ‘nine lives’ – like the cat’s – and she did not want that.

Ringell is not one to fall for a cheerful, pedagogical optimism, and her consciousness of the physical is at the same time a consciousness of each person’s exposed vulnerability. Exposed in a literal sense is the ‘central character’ in Vara sten (‘Be stone’, 1996) which is a collection of statements by a stone which has lain in a cornfield since time immemorial. The stone has a fixed position, with a point of view that is given once and for all. The stone is also infertile; it has to make do with looking at the productive cornfield or with being a place for loving couples to lie. More…

Cause of death

Issue 2/1999 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Åtta kroppar (‘Eight bodies’, Söderströms, 1998). Introduction by Ann-Christine Snickars

It was a bailer, a blue one. There they were, he, she, the bailer and a stormtossed net on the stern board of a hired boat. The boat had come with the cottage and the cottage with ‘Autumn archipelago package. Now nature is aglow.’

And it was aglow.

Masses of foliage and apples, damson and shiny russula spread out around them in all their glory. It happened everywhere, that glowing. Wherever one turned one’s gaze there was something ready to be picked or ready to fall, ready in general. Those first days they had, at least to each other, she to him, feigned enthusiasm about all this ripe richness, but that time was over.

Their time of fire and flames was over. More…

Arms and the man

Issue 2/1999 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews

The work of Veijo Meri (born 1948) has a secure place in the canon of Finnish prose of the second half of the 40th century. One could say Meri is a man’s writer – especially favoured by men who have been at war. The male characters of his short stories, novels and plays find themselves in absurd and surprising situations in a world governed by chance. They are not, however, heroes, but everyday anti-heroes who are depicted by their author with laconic humour. Since the 1980s, Meri has turned to historical essays.

Meri is an unbelievably prolific speaking machine; hardly have I set foot inside his house when he is already, in his speech, strolling along the shore of the Pacific Ocean with Matti Kurjensaari, his late writer friend. The academic and writer Veijo Meri turned 70 on New Year’s Eve in 1998. The event was celebrated in the theatre, and a book was published about the writer and his work. And, of course, his birthday itself was celebrated: he no longer wishes to escape his age. ‘Can’t feel a thing,’ Meri says on the massive leather sofa in his living-room. Mrs Eeva Meri starts making coffee. ‘I’m just trying to understand that I’ve turned 70: when was it that I got to be so old?’ On his 50th birthday, he felt something: ‘It’s a threshold.’ That had, in fact, been preceded by some improvement in life; after the age of 45, apparently, one no longer suffers from hangovers and all the most sensitive nerves have stopped working.’ The world has become extremely familiar. There’s nothing mysterious hidden behind the hedge, on the other side of the horizon. You tend to avoid thinking about death, because it begins to seem a pity that you will have to leave the world, now that you finally feel at home here.’ More…


Issue 2/1999 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Leiri (‘Camp’, Otava 1972). Interview by Maija Alftan

In the dark and wet the tram seemed like a stale-smelling and badly-lit waiting room at a country station, its Post Office Savings Bank advertisement set out of reach of vandalising underage hands. The conductress was two-thirds out of sight behind her desk: a small person. I glanced at the time stamped on my ticket. My only timepiece.

It was the time of day when you can see your own face in the window and through to the outside as well. I stood in the doorway, hanging onto the bar. As the tram turned into the narrow canyon of Aleksanterinkatu, the street seemed like some kind of cellar. Fantastic, how the world darkens at the end of the year. And then, when it’s at its darkest, everything goes totally white. The low-slung cars seemed to be slinking round the tram’s feet. More…


Issue 2/1999 | Archives online, Essays, Non-fiction

From Novellit (‘The Short stories’, Otava 1985). Interview by Maija Alftan

The short story is a matter of expectancy and reception. So it has to offer surprises. It has to reward the waiting.

The surprises are caused by the known and the familiar. Often some mis­hap is needed; the most crucial can be some social fix. The story’s limited space provides three states, brought about by a change in the environment: the past, the future and the passing moment. They create a special, unique phase of life for one of the characters. A return to the past leads to the new – not to the previous, situation – and this isn’t in anyone’s control. Short stories often contain arbitrariness. More…