Elina Hirvonen: Kauimpana kuolemasta [Furthest from death]

30 September 2010 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kauimpana kuolemasta
[Furthest from death]
Helsinki: Avain, 2010. 240 p.
ISBN 978-952-5524-81-9
€ 30, hardback

Elina Hirvonen (born 1975) came to international attention with her first novel, Että hän muistaisi saman (English translation: When I forgot). With Kauimpana kuolemasta she shows that her success was well deserved: she has both talent and originality, and also courage linked with a sense of form. This book belongs to the genre of Finnish novels set at the interface between two countries, a device that in some hands can become a facile dramaturgical trick for the creation of contrasts. The interweaving of human stories from Finland with stories from Zambia sets all the alarm bells ringing, but the encounter between Paul and Esther, two sad people who lack a  secure homeland, vibrates with emotion-charged scenes. Paul is the son of Finnish overseas aid workers, Esther is an outcast from her Zambian village, in flight from one hell to the next. Slowly Paul and Esther are brought together and the reader hovers in uncertainty as to whether their paths will ever cross. The two characters see and experience violence as they journey towards pain, but Elina Hirvonen’s sensual and life-affirming language conveys the realisation that hope  is – sometimes – stronger than death.

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