Archive for August, 2014
Lapsuus ja talous
[Childhood and the economy]
Helsinki: Gaudeamus, 2013. 186 pp.
In her book the cultural anthropologist and researcher Minna Ruckenstein examines the Finnish and Western economy from an unusual angle, looking at it from the point of view ofchildren mainly under the age of 12. The preconceptions of educators about a deep divide between children and the market economy do not necessarily correspond to reality; the economic activities of children are diverse. They include, for example, reciprocity and exchange as a value creator that supports social relations. Children have a different relationship to money and its valorisation from that of adults. The difference between work and play is blurred, and children’s forms of paid work and their experience of it are also not as unambiguous as has been traditionally thought. During recent decades commercial children’s culture has become an increasingly obvious part of the child’s life; information technology has created new forms of participation, and children are not only targets of active marketing but also producers. This interesting book shows that childhood and the economy have closer and more nuanced links than is generally assumed.
Translated by David McDuff
21 August 2014 | This 'n' that
Pop-up restaurants came into being in Helsinki in 2011: a few times every year any eager amateur cook is able to set up a ‘restaurant’ for one day on a street corner or in a park: citizens are welcome to take their pick, at a modest price.
In a northern city, not exactly suitable for street food trade all year round, in a country where rules of food hygiene are strict, the innovation of the Restaurant Day has been welcomed by the public. The latest event took place on 17 August.
The idea has now spread to at least 60 countries. Foodie culture thrives.
We find an article in The New Yorker by Adam Gopnik, No rules! Is Le Fooding, the French culinary movement, more than a feeling? interesting – according to comments quoted in it, ‘food must belong to its time’, and the traditional French cuisine ‘was caught in a museum culture: the dictatorship of a fossilized idea of gastronomy’.
In the 1960s, ‘nouvelle cuisine’, as opposed to cuisine classique, began to promote lighter, simpler, inventive, technically more advanced cooking. Well – some of us may remember that, at worst, this could also manifest itself in, say, three morsels of some edible substance placed decoratively on a plate topped with three chives: expensive, insubstantially elegant and pretty useless.
Today, Finland, the traditional stronghold of liver casserole, brown sauce and ham-mincemeat-pineapple pizzas (yes), seems to have moved onto a higher level of the culinary art – at least in selected restaurants. In a recent article, Helsinki’s food scene, coming on strong, published in The Washington Post, Tom Sietsema enjoys the pleasure of discovering things Finnish.
He is treated to parsnip leaves turned into ice cream imparting a coconut flavour, crackers made from leek ash and risotto in which ‘tiny green hops and their purple flowers interrupt the beige surface of the bowl, whose rim is dusted with golden chanterelle powder.’
The Executive Chef of Helsinki’s esteemed Savoy restaurant (est. 1937) cooks braised pig cheeks served with rhubarb and spring greens. A hunter-gatherer chef collects wild things: wood sorrel, spruce shoots and orpine and serves them in an omelette, with a drink made of chaga mushrooms (used for making tea; a sort of ‘sterile conk trunk rot of birch’, currently very much in vogue among the most eager of foodies for its medicinal [antioxidant, anti-inflammatory] properties).
It is true that Copenhagen and Stockholm have advanced further on their way to international fame of cuisine, but perhaps Helsinki will follow suit. And people who go out for a meal are no longer expected to settle for morsels with chives on top – food belongs to its time, and time changes food(ies).
A comment on Sietsema’s article claims though that his ‘verbiage’ has ‘nothing to do with what 99.999% of Finns eat! and what 99.99% of Finnish restaurants offer!’
But the truth (we know) is now closer to Sietsema than the commentator: ambitious restaurants may play with golden chanterelle powder, and even if it is not exactly what Finns often have for tea, we believe Finns today are losing interest in cheap chicken slivers in industrial marinade for dinner, and even beginning to accept that greens may not be only for bunnies.
Chanterelles have always been considered as a treat: fresh from the woods, quickly cooked in butter and cream, served with new potatoes and rye bread, or in an omelette: bon appetit (even without orpine)!
Most of us live in box-shaped houses; the long-prevailing laws of modernist architecture relate to cubes, geometry and masses. Together with an architect, artist Jan-Erik Andersson designed a leaf-shaped house for himself. Could it be both art and architecture? In his new book he takes a look at non-cubical buildings in Finland and beyond, attempting to define what makes ‘wow factor architecture’: good architecture requires freedom from strict aesthetic rules.
Extracts from the chapter entitled ‘Det inre rummet’ (‘The inner room’) in Wow. Åsikter om finländsk arkitektur (‘Wow. Thoughts on Finnish architecture’, Schildts & Söderströms, 2014)
I remember from my childhood in the 1960s how my brother and I each lay in our beds in a little room late in the evening and stared up at the ceiling, onto which the lights from cars outside cast patterns. The patterns were constantly changing, they were like the doors of imagination onto eternity. Along with the hum of the engines they lulled me into a kind of half-stupor.
During the days the floor of the room grew to a town as we threw ourselves into a world of adventures and sped around with Formula 1 cars. Or the waste-paper bin was squeezed into a corner between the bookshelf and the wall, and the room took on the dimensions of a basketball court.
When defining a room it is difficult to distinguish between the outer, physical room, and the inner room formed by your consciousness. More…
Toim. [Ed. by] Markku Löytönen, Tommi Inkinen, Anne Rutanen
Helsinki: Suomen tietokirjailijat ry. [The Finnish Association of Non-Fiction Writers], 195 p., ill.
paperback; available also online:
In the Western world the experience of reading is undergoing a critical change. There is even talk of a third information revolution. Books are increasingly acquiring electronic form, and the future of the printed book is being called into question. Kirja muuttuvassa tietoympäristössä contains the considered opinions of 18 experts on what is taking place in the field of non-fiction, and gives an overview of the literature on the current situation, which is seen from the point of view of the bookstore, the library, the author and the publisher. There is a discussion of intellectual property issues, developments in technology, and changes in the use of teaching materials, language, and reading habits. Finland is a leading country in both literacy and reading. The number of books has slowly declined in recent years, but it seems that the country’s youth has maintained an interest in books, and in fiction in particular. Although printed reference works of the encyclopedia type have given way to the information provided by the Internet, it is likely that literature and reading will preserve their status as a part of human culture.
Translated by David McDuff
Cinematographer, camerawoman and director Pirjo Honkasalo has travelled and filmed widely – Japan, Estonia, India, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Russia – and her documentary films in particular have gained fame. American film critic John Anderson interviews Honkasalo; they talk about her documentary film Atman (1996) about a pilgrimage in India.
Edited extracts from Armoton kauneus. Pirjo Honkasalon elokuvataide (‘Merciless beauty. The film art of Pirjo Honkasalo’, Siltala, 2014; translated from English into Finnish by Leena Tamminen)
You can almost catch a whiff of the Ganges watching Atman [Hindu term, ‘self’], a documentary film in which religious pilgrimage, devotion, exhilaration and hysteria compete with tormented bodies, physical mortification, corpses, pollution and the acrid smoke of ritual cremation for domination of the viewer’s senses. The fact that it won the top prize at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in 1996 proves there is, if not justice, then good taste in the world. With all due respect to her previous work, Atman signified the full manifestation of Honkasalo’s genius.
What is it about? Eternity. Also, Jamana Lal: a member of the low-caste of Baila, a wifeless, crippled devotee of Lord Shiva whose mother has died, and who must – according to Hindu tradition – take her ashes from the ostensible mouth of the Ganges to the foothills of the Himalayas. More…
Juho Kotakallio: Hänen majesteettinsa agentit. Brittitiedustelu Suomessa 1918–1941 [His Majesty’s agents. British Intelligence in Finland 1918–1941]
Hänen majesteettinsa agentit. Brittitiedustelu Suomessa 1918–1941
[His Majesty’s agents. British Intelligence in Finland 1918–1941]
Jyväskylä: Atena, 2014. 297 pp., ill.
Historian Juho Kotakallio’s book deals with the work of the British Intelligence Service (SIS) in Finland from the Declaration of Independence (1917) to the early phase of the Continuation War (1941–1944). The Bolshevik Soviet state was also seen as a threat to Europe in its western neighbour Finland, which offered a key observation post for the gathering of secret intelligence about the Soviet Union. Undercover British agents took up residence in the country, and were moved to and fro across the eastern border. Russian émigrés and some Finns also worked for the British. One victim of the spy world was Sidney Reilly (considered to be a prototype of James Bond), who was lured through Finland to the Soviet Union, where he met his death by execution. In the 1930s the agents’ interest also increasingly focused on economics and on the growing power of Germany. During Finland’s Winter War with the Soviet Union in 1939–40 British intelligence was based more on openness and trust. After the outbreak of the so-called Continuation War, in December 1941, Britain declared war on Finland, and the possibilities for intelligence gathering there became fewer. The book, which gives a fascinating and objective view of the intelligence world, unfortunately lacks an index of names.
Translated by David McDuff
Poems from Helise, taivas! Valitut runot (‘Ring out, sky! Selected poems’, Siltala, 2014). Introduction by Marja-Leena Mikkola
Who will tell me?
Who will tell me why white butterflies
strew the velvet skin of the night?
Who will tell me?
While people walk, mute and strange
and they have snowy, armoured faces,
such snowy faces!
and the eyes of a stuffed bird.
Who will tell me why in the morning, on the grass,
the thrushes begin their secret game?
Who will tell me?
While black soldiers stand at the gate
in their hands withered roses
such withered roses!
and broken tiger lilies.
Who will tell me, quietly in the sun’s shadow
how to bare my heart?
Who will tell me?
Come to me over the fields
Come close and softly
Open the clothes of my heart. More…
7 August 2014 | In the news
The Dancing Bear Poetry Prize (Tanssiva karhu -palkinto), founded by Yleisradio, the Finnish Broadcasting Company and worth €3,500, is awarded annually to a book of poetry published the previous year. In July, at a poetry festival – Kajaanin runoviikko – in the north-eastern town of Kajaani, it was given for the 20th time.
The winner was Juha Kulmala: his collection, entitled Pompeijin iloiset päivät (‘The merry days of Pompeii’, Savukeidas, 2013), is written in the vein of the ‘beat’ tradition of the poet’s home town of Turku; the landscape of the poems includes Finland and regions in Southern Europe.
The other finalists were Ville Hytönen, Harry Salmenniemi, Pauliina Haasjoki, Sinikka Vuola and Ralf Andtbacka. The prize jury, chaired by the poet Harri Nordell, chose the winner from almost 200 collections.
Yleisradio also awards a prize for the best poetry translation (Kääntäjäkarhu-palkinto) of the year, worth €1,100; this time it went, for the first time, to an anthology. Entitled 8+8. Suomalaista ja virolaista runoutta / Eesti ja Soome luulet (‘8+8. Finnish and Estonian poetry’, NyNorden, 2014) and edited by the Estonian poet and writer Eeva Park, the book contains poems by eight Estonian and eight Finnish poets, all published in Estonian and in Finnish, translated by twelve translators.