Archive for September, 2006

Dear God

30 September 2006 | Authors, Reviews

[Maria Antas reports to God on Erik Wahlström’s novel:]

Hello God!

I have just read Erik Wahlström’s new book with you as the central character (Gud, ‘God’, Schildts, 2006), and now I think I know you and like you better than I did before. While it is true that during my career as a literary critic I have often come across novels where you appear both as an Old Testament patriarch and as the bleeding fellow human being of the Gospels, it is not until now that I have read a novel that sheds light on your complexity, while at the same time making many demands on me as a person and as a critic. More…

Being God

30 September 2006 | Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Gud (‘God’, Schildts, 2006)

Side by side, wolves and antelopes graze on the juicy grass.

A deer playfully chases a lion through the bushes.

‘Can you do this?’

Adam crosses his arms in front of his chest and folds his hands back to front so that the right hand is on the left and the left hand is on the right. With his hands folded he twists them downwards and holds them out. Now they point to Eve, still folded, and still with the right hand on the left.

Eve tries. She succeeds, and laughs with delight.

A gentle breeze is blowing from the east, just strongly enough for the couple not to be troubled by the heat, but not so they would feel the need for clothes to keep them warm. More…

Contemplating the cosmos

30 September 2006 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Valkoiseksi maalattu musta laatikko (‘A black box painted white’, WSOY, 2006). Introduction by Pertti Lassila

Good morning, murmuring universe,
dim tortuous thingamybob
with your moving and unmoving parts,
which every day need
new instructions for use
even though the previous ones
were not all that clear, because the article itself
is perpetually modifying its rules of behaviour.
There are threats that our details are being checked,
exhortations to be good, to wait,
wait and believe,
to stay outside at night
in abstract space
till the next numerical series. More…

Grasping reality

30 September 2006 | Authors, Reviews

I suppose many readers, like myself, first encountered Pentti Saaritsa (born 1941) as a translator, and only later as a poet. He published a distinguished translation of Pablo Neruda’s poetry in 1964. Since then he has interpreted South American poetry, previously almost totally unknown in Finland but which has become, precisely through Saaritsa’s translations, important for many readers and writers.

In addition to Neruda, he has edited anthologies of Latin American poetry, and among writers he has translated are Miguel Angel Asturias, Gabriel García Marquéz, Fernando Pessoa, Federico García Lorca, Paulo de Carvalho-Neto and Jorge Luis Borges. More…

Portraits in miniature

Issue 3/2006 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Susanne Ringell is an actress who never learned to enjoy the limelight. After ten years on stage she left it in order to concentrate on writing. She made her debut in 1993 with short stories, but by then she had already aroused attention with plays for stage and radio. She has also continued to write drama. It is hard to say what role her years in the theatre have played, but it does at least look as though the profession has left its mark in two important ways.

One is a close connection with the spoken word, which expresses itself as a sure sense for dialogue, but also as a strong interest in linguistic idioms. Worn-out phrases permeate the often slightly absurd scenes that are served up, and in Ringell’s work they seem to be just as much a source of inspiration as a means of expression. More…

Adam, Eve and vegetarianism

Issue 3/2006 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Short prose from En god Havanna. Besläktad (‘A good Havana. Kith and kin’, Söderströms, 2006). Introduction by Bror Rönnholm


My alter ego has relatives who have bad teeth and the names of Greek gods. They live in ramshackle houses in suburbs which the taxi drivers can’t find, dangerous ex-no man’s lands in a rapid metastasis into concrete. They are wild and threatened with extinction, they are Finland-Swedish working class. Disorganised, of course they’re disorganised, my alter ego’s relatives never organise themselves. They don’t form part of any community other than their own. They go to sea and they breed, they buy shuteye dolls in whore ports and return home in grand style, always at night, always one surprising night when no one is expecting them. The women raise a cry of joy, the children go leaping barefoot, and the dog, which is called Zeus-Håkan, is quite beside himself. There’s a party. There’s no school that day. At twilight the women travel to their jobs in key factories and warehouses. When they come home the party continues and in the outside toilet there are new pictures of new places. My alter ego’s relatives have dyed hair and prominent busts in tight-fitting silver nylon jumpers. They pay for my alter ego’s father’s education so he can become middle class. They are proud of him. When we go to visit them they dress up. They clap their hands and the nail varnish peels as they loudly, just a shade too loudly, shout OH, oh splendid, such fine guests! My alter ego’s father is grateful and confused. He has long ago paid it back, paid the money back, and now what’s left is only what cannot be repaid.

With the passage of the years my alter ego’s working-class relatives are disappearing from my alter ego’s life. I miss them. More…