Archive for September, 2005

The colour of sadness

30 September 2005 | Authors, Reviews

Kreetta Onkeli

Photo: Pertti Nisonen

In her first novel in 1996, Kreetta Onkeli (born 1970) brought the municipality of Luhanka in central Finland – which had not hitherto attracted much attention – to readers’ awareness and the Finnish literary tradition. When Ilonen talo (‘The cheerful house’, WSOY) appeared, it became a prize-winning success and a bestseller.

The book will probably remain a minor classic among narratives of Finnish childhood. The ironic title is indicative of Onkeli’s naïvistic style and her multi-layered play with language. The house where the book’s pair of siblings grow up is anything but happy: the mother’s alcoholism and bad living habits make it more like a house of ill repute. (The title also contains a note of sarcasm: in Finnish, ilotalo is a euphemism for a brothel.) More…

Big-city blues

30 September 2005 | Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Beige. Eroottinen kesä Helsingissä (‘Beige. An erotic summer in Helsinki’, Sammakko, 2005). Introduction by Tuva Korsström

Helsinki starts – where? Where a country girl will wear white corduroy pants if she’s eight and her pen pal tells her to. Where you’re allowed to jump in at the public swimming pool, and water splashes in your face no matter what you do, and it’s a long way to the bottom, you can’t touch. Unreal. That’s what Helsinki was like. Buildings that you recognized from pictures. A city where pictures were the starting point of your life, not experience. You step into the picture and begin your life. The step takes a long time. An entire youth. The first few days go well. You’re a tourist. The crowd of anonymous, noisy people is relaxed, you feel uninhibited. Nobody pays any attention to you. Then you start to want to feel. To talk. To say hi to somebody. The waiting begins, and there’s nothing you can do to speed it up. You have to live in the city. Ten years and you’re in, maybe, a little. Be there. Stay. You’ll circulate around the triangle formed by Sokos, Stockmann, and Forum department stores. They’re familiar from pictures, you’re wary of the others. The streetcar home. Home and downtown. The city. The lanes. Conduits. Lights. Trams. Taxis. Buses. The first negro. The first stop at a traffic light. The yellow stone building. The colorful cottages at the foot of the bridge. More…

Travelling light

30 September 2005 | Fiction, poetry

Where roads reach through nights
into a fresh infant nightfall
with forest growing rooted to roots and stars,
and darkness canters along
on her black mare,
      canters along at a silent pace,
she combs her hair
on the starry comb
and then slips into eyes to sleep.

But here nights are nights
of rooms, mere darkness:
light a light, it’s no night,
put out the light, it’s night,
that’s all,
and not here alone but everywhere
that rooms are ranged in rows
in piles.
Houses sleep, breathe earth’s vastness
so that each of you, alone,
but neighbouring together,
will fill with stars.

From Vaeltanut (‘Travelled’), 1956 More…

Earth, tree, wind

30 September 2005 | Authors, Reviews

Kirsi KunnasLeena Kirstinä on the iconoclastic and pioneering poet – for children and adults – Kirsi Kunnas

Fifty years ago the poet Kirsi Kunnas liberated Finnish children’s poetry from its boring didacticism: she revived ancient nursery rhymes, fables and epigrams that can parody human frailties and fabricate fairy-tale social criticism. Her hilarity, brilliance and linguistic virtuosity have charmed readers of all ages.

A post-war Finnish modernist, Kunnas (born 1924) published her début volume, Villiomenapuu (‘Crabapple tree’, WSOY), in 1947. In the 1950s her children’s volume, Tiitiäisen satupuu (‘The Tumpkin’s wonder tree’, 1956), rejuvenated children’s poetry. Her translations of the classical English nursery-rhymes in Old Mother Goose helped her to enhance the ways of writing fantasy, humour and nonsense. More…

What the snail thought

30 September 2005 | Fiction, Prose

Poems from Tapahtui Tiitiäisen maassa
(‘It happened in Tumpkin land’, WSOY, 2004)
Illustrations by Christel Rönns


Eli merenpohjassa Meritähti
tuhat tonnia vettä yllä.
      - Minä jaksan kyllä,
      sanoi Meritähti.
      - On terävät sakarat,
      ja litteät pakarat
ja paineenkestävät kakarat!


Walking on ice

Issue 3/2005 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Valon reunalla (‘At the edge of light’, Teos 2005), the second novel by Maria Peura (born 1970), is an evocation of a small village in Lapland in the mid-1970s. The novel tells the story of the young Ristiina; it is divided into chapters each with its own title, thus underscoring the non-linearity of the narration and giving space to different people, events and environments.

The villagers, the highly respected and the strange, and the borders of the village, concrete and imaginary, surround Ristiina completely; eventually she manages to wriggle free of their grip. The novel begins with the words: ‘Don’t walk on the ice, they used to say, always. Ice can give way, crack open, you’ll fall in and drown. So they always said, that’s why we had to go. There was nowhere else to go.’ More…

Northern exposure

Issue 3/2005 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Valon reunalla (‘At the edge of light’, Teos, 2005). Introduction by Kristina Carlson


The village despised all those who left. They hated us too, though we were still only planning our final escape.

We used to escape the village. We would hide from its gaze in the forest or the cemetery where the gravestones were so close together that there was no room for the trees to grow. We knew why the freight train brought the village so many dead and so few living. It was the village’s fault. It had a wicked soul. The grown-ups didn’t know it. We knew it, but no one asked us. Death was within us; it was alive. Asking would have been too dangerous….

On the backs of the headstones we carved our own marks with the end of a knife. We blew out the candles laid at the graves of suicide victims. We worshipped them in the dark and no new candles were ever brought to their graves. The parents of those who died so young drove south. They were looking for stations with real waiting rooms and staff that made announcements. They sat on the hard benches waiting, waiting for the trains to come, at the right time; hoping the years wouldn’t wreak havoc after all, hoping they’d roll slowly back along the tracks, to brighten as they approached the village, giving life once again to their children. And everything could start over. More…