Kjell Westö: Hägring 38 [Mirage 38]
Helsinki: Schildts & Söderströms, 2013. 296 pp.
Suom. [Translated into Finnish by] Liisa Ryömä
Helsinki: Otava, 2013. 334 pp.
The previous novels by Kjell Westö (born 1961) have been sweeping in their scope, encompassing several generations. Westö’s writing is characterised by a precise instinct for historical details and love for his hometown of Helsinki. Hägring 38 focuses on the year 1938; the new ideas of that era and the worsening political climate in Europe are reflected in the differences of opinion among a group of Finland-Swedish gentlemen. In June of 1938 these friends attend the opening gala for the new Olympic stadium in Helsinki and watch as the winner of the 100-metre dash, a Jew, is demoted to fourth place. [In October 2013, after the publication of Westö’s novel, the Finnish Athletics Federation finally corrected that erroneous decision, which had been made for racist reasons.] Claes Thune, a lawyer who has lost his wife to another man and suffers from depressive episodes, is a leading member of the circle of friends. His new secretary, the taciturn Mrs Wiik, is one of the central figures Westö utilises to portray the prison camps and traumatic events of the Finnish civil war of 1918.
Translated by Ruth Urbom