New from the archives

13 February 2015 | This 'n' that

Daniel Katz

Daniel Katz. Photo: Veikko Somerpuro/WSOY.

In the midst of today’s richly cosmopolitan literary scene – we’re thinking of blockbusters like Sofi Oksanen’s Puhdistus (Purge, 2008), or Patjim Statovci’s Kissani Jugoslavia (‘My cat Yugoslavia’, 2014) (linkit) – it’s hard to imagine the colour and excitement represented by the work of Daniel Katz (born 1938) from the publication of his first book, Kun isoisä Suomeen hiihti (‘When grandfather skied to Finland’, 1969) onward. Characterised by dark humour, gentle irony, a wild imagination and a profound world view, Katz’s writing is informed but never defined by his outsider status as a Jew writing in Finnish.

Today’s story, taken from Katz’s book Talo Sleesiassa (‘A house in Silesia’) describes the journey taken by Erwin, a German Jew, to visit the home he lived in before the Second World War. Katz has a fine grasp of the ironies of history:

‘We arrived at the city of his birth, which currently is referred to as The City, for the sake of simplicity and tact: the town has – used to have, rather – two names, a German and a Polish, and one or the other party might take offence. My brother-in-law had in fact been born in a city whose name began with a B, though now it began with a W. Evolution of this kind is called phonetic history.’

The extract is accompanied by an interview of Daniel Katz by Daniel Katz.

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The digitisation of Books from Finland continues apace, with a total of 356 articles and book extracts made available online so far. Each week, we bring a newly digitised text to your attention.