Genuine beauty

14 February 2013 | Fiction, Prose

Erään ihailijan päiväkirjasta (‘From the diary of an admirer’), a story published in the collection of short prose Taskunovellit (‘Pocket stories’, edited by Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen; Karisto, 2013)

10.6.
Dear Diary, I have met a wonderful man. He is tender, handsome and clever. It is a real piece of luck that fate didn’t throw us together until now: I’m embarrassed at the very thought that he might have seen me a couple of years ago, as an immature and childish sixth-former. His name is Petri Tamminen and he’s a writer. Writers are gorgeous. Not all of them, of course, some of them think too much of themselves and appear e.g. on television, but Petri is gorgeous.

15.6.
Dear Diary, he has shown me the road to a new world: we went to the Åland islands. Petri doesn’t like Helsinki, he wants to get away from the beaten track of everyday life. The sun sank into the horizon at Eckerö, and my soul floated up into the summer night. This is love. In the morning, in the hotel bed, he recited a poem for me. I have read all his novels and I know that one day they will receive the recognition they deserve, but in his deepest self he is a poet.

16.6.
Dear Diary, we went fishing. Petri caught a sea-trout. It was enormous. He gathered herbs from a shoreline meadow, seasoned the fish and baked it over the embers. We ate with our fingers, fed each other. Delicious. Certain much weaker chefs try to make their names by preparing food e.g. on television. Losers.

17.6.
Dear Diary, now I understand what martial arts are all about. A bunch of oiks attacked us in Maarianhamina harbour. Petri turned round, kicked back, hit out to both sides at the same time and did a somersault in the air. What a combination of speed and strength! I shiver to think of everything that slumbers within him.

23.6.
Oh my dear Diary, this is the loneliest midsummer of my life. I press my face into the pillow and inhale the smell of him, but he is gone. To France, England, Italy. I know that cultural export needs its heroes, but Finland’s victories cannot comfort me now. Why can’t the publisher do publicity appearances? Writers should stay at home with the people they love.

24.6.
Dear Diary, in my sadness I read everything that has been written about Petri. He is a brilliant interviewee. That combination of intelligence and humility will never go out of fashion. But why does he talk about his shyness so often? He’s not shy, after all; he’s a charming companion. I feel that no one has understood his true nature, not even he himself. I alone can see what’s inside, past the conspiring journalists, past his own confusion. Of course he is confused, publicity forces a person into a mould. What a horrifying waste of resources. The whole nation could benefit from Petri, but now he is shackled, condemned to wear the eternal mask of shyness. Without this violent compartmentalisation he would be invited to appear much more often on e.g. television.

26.6.
Dear Diary, Petri has returned. It has been very hard for him. His entire life is hard. Writers sacrifice themselves on behalf of ordinary people like us, dive deep into suffering and see things that we do not see. When, afterwards, he was lying on the sofa, watching the general athletics diamond league and eating pizza, tears of emotion welled up in my eyes: with me, he can relax.

1.7.
Dear Diary, I have decided to forgive him: he has a family! An awkward meeting at the doors of the Stockmann department store – he and his family happy and lovely, three children, the youngest still in a pram, and me, stupefied, before them. But I have to admit that he managed the situation brilliantly. Like a man of the world. Introduced me as a colleague of his, saying I was a gifted young poet. I got the gist quickly; we talked for a moment about grants. They should be increased. Dear Diary, I probably respect him even more than before. He bears the responsibility for a family but also has the energy to love me, maybe the whole world too. A writer’s soul cannot be constrained by the narrow-minded rules that apply to the general public. What would they write about then? Petri lives, and how he lives, on behalf of us all.

3.7.
Dear Diary, I have had a cameo made, with his portrait. I know that Petri would not approve of my action; he thinks it is tactless to be proud of one’s appearance. It’s undeniably true that even in cultural circles there are a lot of people who are successful simply because of their looks and e.g. appear on television. This trend should be resisted. But there is nothing wrong if a woman adores the genuine and authentic beauty of a man.

15.7.
Dear Diary, I have been able to read his new manuscript. The novel will appear next September and its price is only 25.50. The book is a phenomenon! It feels as if I have been raised above the level of ordinary people.

16.7.
Dear Diary, people walk the streets blissfully unaware of the brilliance that will soon be unleashed on the world. The secret tingles inside me, as if I, too, had written something great. I am certain that in the autumn Petri will receive many invitations to e.g. appear on television.

17.7.
Dear Diary, this has been an amazing summer. I suppose destiny willed it to happen; it brought us together. My happiness is really shocking to me. I feel as if I am now responsible for my happiness: I wish happiness to everyone, I intend to fight for things that concern us all, to increase sports coverage on television, to increase writers’ grants – to mention just a few of my initiatives – and I will persuade others to join me in the struggle. The drifting phase of my life is over, my youth has finally found its direction. Petri has shown me that direction. He could do the same for thousands more if people just realised they should buy his books – maybe as a present for people matriculating from school. It is at the head of such a band of admirers that I wish to march. I am a good example of everything people can do if they just believe in themselves. 

 Translated by Hildi Hawkins

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