Making nothing happen

30 June 2000 | Authors, Reviews

Jouko Sirola.  Photo Sakari Majantie

Jouko Sirola. Photo Sakari Majantie

For a first book, Sisustus (‘Interior decoration’) is unusually self-willed. It is Jouko Sirola’s first book, although his short stories have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. Sirola’s kindred spirits are not, after all, to be find in the art of the traditional, realist, Finnish short story; instead, for Sirola (born 1963), the surface of the story is like a calm face.

The most important thing is the story behind the uneventfulness. What is spoken by muteness? And what do we dream at the moment when we meet another person in the street, when we pick our keys up from the floor, when we open our mouths to eat? What do we get when we want to buy back the days of the life we have lived?

The characters in Sirola’s short stories (if they can be called characters, in the traditional sense) are adrift in the world: they exist, but they do not necessarily have a past. They have the desire to ponder their own being: who am I, what is identity, what is the body. And they are able to conduct this examination only within the limits dictated by their being: they are prisoners in their own form.

Sirola explores a single moment, a single thing cut loose from the world. It is as if he believes that if one looks long enough at something, its form, one can detect in it the past, the present and the future. Entities are crystallised time. For the characters in Sirola’s short stories, the world is made up of observations, and observations of the world are born of the way in which one approaches the world. The world, the here and now, lies in obsessions.

The short story ‘Destiny: path-walker’ describes both the childish joy that arises when we are totally engrossed in our own actions and the distress caused by the fact that we cannot understand the being given to us other than by constant observation. Like a child, the path-walker cannot know whether the world still exists if he does not look at it. Neither does he know where he himself has come from. He must merely realise his own being, for he does not yet exist: he is becoming what he is through his own actions. And that is the destiny of every path-walker. That is where the story begins.

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