Archive for March, 2001

Trans-Siberia express

Issue 1/2001 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Kari Sallamaa on new poems by Olli Heikkonen

Although Russia is Finland’s eastern neighbour, it is not a favoured subject in literature. Negative stereotypes recur, but Olli Heikkonen sketches an alternative Russia.

It is black as coal and iridescent as oil, an extraordinarily wide-open country. His image of Russia is not Russophobic or ethnocentric. When he published Jakutian aurinko (‘Sun of Yakutia’, 2000), the poet had visited Russia only once — and St Petersburg at that. The neo-classical megalopolis built on Ingrian land is, of course, not the whole of Russia; not even typical Russia. More…

From A to Z

31 March 2001 | Authors, Reviews

Susanne RingellSusanne Ringell’s new work is the shortest of the books published in 2000. It easily disappears on the bookshelf if one doesn’t carefully remember where one put it. Only 62 pages. Yet it constructs a whole civilisation and a humanity.

Av blygsel blev Adele fet (‘It was embarrasment that made Adele fat’) is an ABC for grown-ups. At each letter we meet a person. At ‘A’ we encounter Adele, who grows as fat as she is shy. She carries 78 kilos of shyness inside her, and she eats until her body is the same weight. At ‘W’ we meet Walter, who runs away from the zone therapist’s clinic to the restaurant. He is in no doubt as to what does body and soul good: a rare beef steak, in spite of his wife’s pleas in favour of the beneficial therapy. And at ‘E’ and ‘F’ we meet Egil and Folke: two shy men waiting for a train – and for a long period of waiting to end.

Susanne Ringell gives her readers an entire alphabet; she restores to us the foundation for our structuring of language and the world around us. But a language without people would be dead. So each letter is a person; each letter is coloured by a human fate that seldom figures largely in the history books, but on which Susanne Ringell confers dignity. The people we encounter in the book are lonely. That is certainly nothing new in literature – but Ringell has an unusual gift of being able to create dignity around the most bizarre creatures. More…

A dictionary of human destinies

31 March 2001 | Fiction, Prose

Short stories from Av blygsel blev Adele fet (‘It was embarrasment that made Adele fat’, Söderström & Co., 2000)


It was embarrassment that made Adele fat. It wasn’t from hunger that her fridge-fumbling fingers began to grow nimble, but from confusion. And it was never knowing what her tongue ought to say that led her to the concrete business of the fridge. Her tongue certainly knew all about tasting. It could feel her teeth chewing even if it didn’t know how to speak. It became a better and better judge of brussels sprouts and speckled sausage. The rest was just good morning and thanks, thanks and goodbye and nice day. More…

Landscapes of the minds

31 March 2001 | Authors, Interviews

Kristina Carlson

Kristina Carlson’s novel Maan ääreen (‘To the end of the earth’, 1999) tells the story of a young man who seeks to escape himself by travelling to the most distant corner of 19th-century Russia. Interview by Hildi Hawkins and Soila Lehtonen

BfF We’d like to begin by asking you about the setting of your novel. Most people think of 19th-century Siberia as the place to which the undesirables of the Russian empire were deported – one imagines it full of petty criminals, violent brigands and political dissidents. It comes as quite a surprise to find your Nahodka peopled by civilised Europeans busily engaged in building their futures, with impressive houses, women in pretty lace dresses, social occasions with champagne, orchestras and whist drives. Could you say something about what led you to choose this setting for your novel, and the real historical circumstances on which it’s based?

KC From my own point of view, Maan ääreen is not so much a historical novel as a novel set in a historical context. The difference, I believe, lies in the fact that the latter attempts – in a sense like scholarship – to cast light on the past from a new perspective. In my book, Siberia is above all the mental landscape of the main character, although it is also of course a real and existing place. More…

Tiger in the grass

31 March 2001 | Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Maan ääreen (‘To the end of the earth’, Otava, 1999)

I left Kronstadt at the end of October in the year 1868, when I was 22 years old.

The Mozart was a three-hundred-ton barque. Even on the journey to Tvedestrand in Norway I vomited yellow bile and my toes and fingers froze. We lingered in Tvedestrand for three months while the vessel was repaired in dock. To amuse myself, I drew and wrote an accurate description of the ship. That work ended up in the sea. From the harbour captain’s library I borrowed German books which dealt with geology and topology. Their reality was different from that of the law and the interpretation of its letter and spirit. When a topologist draws a map, it has to be true. Otherwise travellers will get lost, I thought childishly, as if it were possible to draw a line between true and true. More…

Green gold, black gold

Issue 1/2001 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Jakutian aurinko (‘The Yakutian sun’; Tammi, 2000). Introduction by Kari Sallamaa

So this, then, is Tomsk,
a town, tumbling into snow.
Even its lanes rise up into the sky.
No longer fragrant the pine,
the juniper, not even the gardens.
Can’t trust the skirts,
above the rooftops,
stripes are beaten out of the carpet,
yellow and turquoise for the horizon,
under the rooftops, fingernails
rip the wallpaper,
those white frost fingernails.

So, this is Tomsk,
in its streets the Volgas zip by.
And when I get a ride, the back seat fills up in no time.
Breath steams, nylon rips. The ladies
apply lipstick, unconcerned. More…