Olli Jalonen: Karatolla

14 September 2012 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Karatolla
Helsinki, Otava, 2012. 238 p.
ISBN 978-951-1-26469-9
€34.10, hardback

Karatolla is a Finnish dialect word for a bonfire that is lit at New Year or Easter. One of the main characters in Olli Jalonen’s new novel (his twenty-first publication to date) is an artist called Valo, ‘Light’. By the fires of his youth he has come to learn that the world is composed of nine basic elements: fire, smoke, light, earth, water, snow, ice, air, and time. At the beginning of the twenty-first century Valo and his colleague the architect Silla set out to construct a major European art work in which pyramids built of the above-mentioned elements are assembled in Prague, Brussels, Santiago de Compostela, Krakow, Reykjavik, Bergen, Helsinki, Avignon and Bologna respectively. In this novel Jalonen (born 1954) develops themes from his previous novel Yhdeksän pyramidia (‘Nine pyramids’), published in 2000: the events have moved forward ten years. When the project is completed, a nascent love affair between Light and Silla ends when Light falls victim to a fatal illness. Jalonen’s narrative is fascinating; the construction of pyramids, the cities in which they are constructed and the characters are portrayed with great skill, developing themes of artistry, honesty and the fragility of love. Much open space is left for the reader’s thoughts and imagination.
Translated by David McDuff

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