New lives

Issue 2/2001 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

‘Memory is no keepsafe! What is remembered changes and moves all the time. Only that which we wish to forget remains unchanged. It is preserved as if frozen, in a state of readiness…. And sometimes, unexpectedly, it begins to melt.’

The characters in the fourth collection of short stories by Sari Malkamäki (born 1962) und themselves in situations in which the death of a close friend or relative, the birth of a child or separation bring about change: they decide to act in an unexpected way, or differently from before, and in any case driven by their own will.

Some frozen memory may change the situation; a father, for example, may tell his grown-up daughter that she is her dead mother’s love-child. Half by accident, the past shows itself in a completely new light.

Malkamäki does not examine her characters cynically; she does not know better than them, but gives them their own voices and their own solutions. The stories arise from contemporary people’s ordinary lives, but the simultaneously spacious and taut narrative surprises. These people are completely credible, but the events the writer constructs for them are nevertheless unexpected: in Malkamäki’s case, the short story works.

Malkamäki encourages her readers to taste her choices of words and phrases. Her sentences are economical; there is nothing excessive or impressionistic about them. Under the considered surface of her language, important decisions, sorrows and human joys take shape. Her characters have the courage and the persistence to begin from the beginning, to start a ‘new life’ even if it does not mean anything grandiose or revolutionary, but just the continuing of everyday life in the light of some new realisation.

In the short story ‘Viimeinen kierros’ (‘The last lap’), a divorced couple’s little boy often wets his bed, under which there lives a bear. But the boy is tough, tougher than his hero, the formula driver Mika Häkkinen – and perhaps, even, tougher than the bear.

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