Archive for August, 2013

On subterranean spaces

30 August 2013 | Authors, Reviews

Zinaida Lindén. Photo: Janne Aaltonen

Zinaida Lindén. Photo: Janne Aaltonen

A melancholic diplomat’s wife in Turku recalls her childhood in 1970s Leningrad. This is how one might describe the new novel by Zinaida Lindén – then one might be surprised encountering nuance after nuance that challenge our expectations.

The melancholy in Lindén’s novel isn’t soft and misty; it is sharp and metallic. The life of the protagonist Galina, a diplomat’s wife, is far from glamorous, and consists mostly of standing over the ironing board in the family’s one-bedroom flat, ironing shirts for her conscientious and overworked husband at the consulate. The 1970s Leningrad of her memories is not an arena for ideology or culture, but serves as the backdrop for an intimate familial drama, in which the child always remained on the outside and was eventually left alone after the death of her parents. More…


30 August 2013 | Fiction, Prose

An extract from the novel För många länder sedan (‘Many lands ago’ Schildts & Söderströms, 2013; Finnish edition: Monta maata sitten; Otava, 2013). Introduction by Pia Ingström

‘I assume your father wanted you to become a doctor?’ asked Igor at the beginning of our life together. My parents did indeed want me to become a doctor. Not a pathologist, but a general practitioner. I became an art historian instead. There was a time when my area of research aroused curiosity in Igor.

‘Why Piranesi?’ he wondered.

‘As a child I devoured classic novels about pale, emaciated families living in a cellar,’ I explained jokingly. ‘I became interested in catacombs and vaults. That’s why I wanted to study the history of drawing.’

I’ve always had a fascination for underground spaces. I’m drawn to them like a homing missile. This interest of mine must have genetic roots. My mother was born in a bomb shelter during the first German air raid over Leningrad. More…

Expat, fun

30 August 2013 | In the news

Aqua jogging by Pertti Jarla

Popular Finnish aqua sports à la Pertti Jarla

Expat Finland, created by Stuart Allt – an Australian web designer living in Turku, Finland – is an information resource on the Internet. It is particularly useful for people moving to Finland, or for anyone who is interested in finding out about Finnish services and products and in living in the country in general.

If you’re looking for maps, restaurants or universities, are interested in knowing more about the language(s), culture, sports etc, take a look at the recently redesigned Expat Finland.

And what do Finns think is funny?

Among latest additions on the Expat site is a selection of comic strips by Pertti Jarla. The creator of the cartoon town Fingerpori is often impossible to translate as he constantly plays with words and their meanings (getting the joke sometimes takes a while, too).

Take also a look at the samples of Jarla’s illustrations to Zoo – eläimellinen tarina (‘Zoo – a bestial story’), a book for children by Roman Schatz and Jarla, featured in Books from Finland.

A rare bird from Fancyland

20 August 2013 | Reviews

Bead curlew, 1960. Collection Kakkonen. Photo: Niclas Warius

Bead-covered curlew, 1960. Height ca. 115 cm, Collection Kakkonen. Photo: Niclas Warius

Harri Kalha:
Birger Kaipiainen
Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura (The Finnish Literature Society), 2013. 249 p., ill.
(Summaries in Swedish and English)
ISBN 978-952-222-457-6
€46, hardback

Ceramics confectioner. Degenerate aristocrat. Ornamental criminal. These epithets can be found in Birger Kaipiainen, a new, full-length study of the ceramic artist by art historian Harri Kalha.

Throughout his artistic career Birger Kaipiainen (1915–1988) worked with forms, subjects and methods that were unfamiliar in the field of traditional ceramics, at least in mid-20th-century Finland, and made use of fantasy and ornament. As a ‘porcelain painter’ he showed little interest in the technical challenges of clay – although in his ceramic creations Kaipiainen explored three-dimensional form, montage, colour, texture and the tactile dimensions of the medium. More…

Elitist versus pop?

8 August 2013 | Letter from the Editors

An elitist of his time? A caricature of Richard Wagner by Leslie Ward, published in Vanity Fair in 1877 (caption read ‘The Music of the Future’). Picture: Wikimedia

The old phrase ‘art for art’s sake’ has begun to sound like an appeal instead of an bohemian creed, without any negative ambiguity. Please let art be created for art’s sake!

In our times of neo-liberal ideologies, the criteria for assessing art include its capacity to generate profits to creative industries, to have export value, to be of assistance to business in general. But art, in essence, serves no ideology.

Technology now allows us to be more entertained than ever before, if we so choose. Art and entertainment alike come to us by the use of various devices. What has often been called ‘elitist’ art – opera, modern music, ballet – can be enjoyed lying on the sofa in the home. Money is not an obstacle.

Art, too needs money, of course: orchestras, theatres, training of artists and artists themselves need subsidies from society. Entertainment is by nature profitable business, as it attracts and involves large paying audiences. Smaller audiences want to listen to classical music, read books and see films that are not made solely in order to bring in as much money as possible. But why should these forms of art be called ‘elitist’? More…

Aleksis Kivi: Kirjeet [Letters]

8 August 2013 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Critical edition, edited by Juhani Niemi et al.
Swedish-language letters translated into Finnish by Juhani Lindholm and Ossi Kokko
Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura (the Finnish Literature Society), 2012. 426 p, two map drawings
ISBN 978-952-222-390-6
€ 43, paperback

In his poetry, plays and masterly novel Seitsemän veljestä (Seven Brothers, 1870), Aleksis Kivi (1834–72) laid the foundations of Finnish fiction. Kivi died an early death, impoverished and mentally ill. In this critical edition seventy of his letters and three letters received by him are presented with notes and an introduction. Most of the book consists of background articles and supplementary items. Professor Jyrki Nummi provides an interesting analysis of biographies of Kivi. The other authors discuss, for example the literature Kivi drew on in his own works: he had read world classics in Swedish, but in Finnish there was not yet much to read apart from the folk poetry. Other topics of discussion are Kivi’s skill in using Swedish – the language of the educated class in Finland – and what his letters reveal about his network of acquaintances. The letters are grouped in chronological order, with introductions by Professor Emeritus Juhani Niemi. Most of the letters are comparatively short, sent to relatives and friends. They reflect Kivi’s attitude towards his own work, as well as his worries about his financial situation and declining health.
Translated by David McDuff