Archive for December, 2006

Live fast, die young

31 December 2006 | Authors, Reviews

Henry Parland

Henry Parland

Those whom the gods love die young: during the short lifetime of Henry Parland (1908–1930), Helsinki was culturally diverse city where many languages were spoken and young writers were inspired by new European trends.

Henry Parland represents a sort of opening in Finland-Swedish literature, an incursion of modernity, a breath of fresh air. He accomplished the task which the French Cubist Blaise Cendrars set himself in his poetry: ‘Les fénêtres de ma poésie sont grand’ouvertes sur les boulevards’ (‘The windows of my poetry are wide open on the boulevards’).

Several of the Finland-Swedish modernist writers of the early 20th century – most of whom lived in Helsinki – had a diverse linguistic background. ‘German is my best language,’ the poet Edith Södergran thought in 1920. She wrote her early work not only in Swedish, but also in German, Russian and French. Elmer Diktonius was bilingual, and wrote prose and poetry both in Finnish and in Swedish. Hagar Olsson, a writer and critic, switched at will between Swedish and Finnish. More…

The devil has no clothes

31 December 2006 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Idealrealisation (‘The ideal sale’, 1929)



I thought:
it was a person,
but it was her clothes
and I didn't know
that it doesn't matter
and that clothes can be very


In a class of their own

31 December 2006 | Children's books, Fiction

Extracts from the children’s book Ella: Varokaa lapsia! (‘Ella: Look out for children!’, Tammi, 2006). Interview by Anna-Leena Nissilä

There was a large van in the schoolyard with a thick cable winding its way from the van into the school. It was from the TV station, and the surprise was that they wanted to do a programme about our teacher, believe it or not.
The classroom was filled with lights, cameras, and adults.
‘Are you the weird teacher?’ a young man asked. He had a funny, shaggy beard and a t-shirt that said ‘errand boy’.
‘Not nearly as weird as your beard,’ our teacher answered.
‘Can we do a little piece about you?’ the errand boy asked.
‘Of course. A big one even. I’ve been expecting you, actually. Is it some educational programme?’
‘Not exactly.’
‘A substantive discussion programme, though?’
‘Not exactly.’
‘A documentary about our contemporary educators?’
‘Not quite.’ More…

In the Congo

Issue 4/2006 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

During the 1930s the Finnish government planned to establish a number of work camps with the intention of turning young men into model servants of the fatherland through a regime of hard work and discipline. Jari Järvelä’s novel Kansallismaisema (‘National landscape’, Tammi, 2006) is set in the forests near the Russian border on a work camp for young offenders called the Congo. The principal aim of the camp is to socialise these boys through hard work and education, though there seems to be a somewhat military aspect to the project too; the year is 1938, and the rise of fascism and the threat of war are not far from anyone’s mind.

The central character Yrjö Pihlava, an antihero who in the past has worked as a logger and tried his hand at numerous other professions, is hired at the camp as a guard. He doesn’t appear to understand quite what is going on, and in this respect the reader is much wiser than he is. More…

Man and boy

Issue 4/2006 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Kansallismaisema (‘National landscape’ Tammi, 2006). Introduction by Tuomas Juntunen

Plans were afoot to establish boys’ camps across the country. This was an experiment, a chance to test the water, to be a pioneer. Here was the opportunity to be the first in line to conquer the Wild West, just as many a brave cowboy had done in years gone by. The Ministry of General Affairs planned to put all 15-year-olds to work for the duration of the summer holidays. Casual labourers were often even younger. Our task was to ascertain a suitable minimum age. In addition, special camps were planned for those not suited to normal work camps. In the summers to come the youth of Finland would be fully employed. Weren’t we in fact driven by the same desire, Tikka had wondered. We both cared about the next generation. We wanted to root out their deficiencies so that they would be able to face life’s challenges to the full. More…

Classroom capers

30 December 2006 | Authors, Interviews

Timo Parvela

Timo Parvela

According to a celebrated 2003 report, Finnish schoolchildren emerged as world leaders in mathematics, science, literacy and problem-solving. In his books for children, the writer Timo Parvela, himself a former teacher, reveals a keen understanding of the mayhem that must lie behind such assessments. Interview by Anna-Leena Ekroos

Timo Parvela (born 1964) has received a particularly enthusiastic response to his Ella series for primary school-aged readers. Parvela has written picture books, CD-Rom scripts, books for young people and scripts for television and radio. His popular Ella series records the adventures of second-grader Ella and companions, including Pate, the headteacher’s son who’s fond of disguises, Tuukka, the young genius, Samppa, the copious weeper, and the pugnacious Buster. The gang of kids means well, but somehow, through misunderstandings, things always end in chaos. More…