Search results for "kjell westö"

Goodbye to all that

30 September 1996 | Archives online, Authors

It is a couple of years since the appearance of Monika Fagerholm’s Underbara kvinnor vid vatten (’Wonderful women at the sea’), which has been bought by a number of foreign publishers. Now Fagerholm’s nostalgic and accurated description of the moodscape of the 1960s has received a companion volume which records the objects of the 1970s and opens the dark record and clothes cupboards of a different young person.

Kjell Westö’s Drakama över Helsingfors (’Kites over Helsingfors’) is, nevertheless, more extended in its trajectory than Fagerholm’s novel because it reveals how the events of the 1990s were included in the values of the 1970s and were born directly from them. More…

Kjell Westö: Hägring 38 [Mirage 38]

31 October 2013 | Mini reviews, Reviews

westoHägring 38
[Mirage 38]
Helsinki: Schildts & Söderströms, 2013. 296 pp.
ISBN 97895152332069
€34, hardback
Suom. [Translated into Finnish by] Liisa Ryömä
Helsinki: Otava, 2013. 334 pp.
ISBN 9789511274032
€29.90, hardback

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

How to survive in the fast lane

30 June 1991 | Archives online, Authors

Kjell Westö is very young, but he has enough historical sensibility to be able to understand small details and how they vary as epochs change. Reading him, I was reminded of one of the dustiest practitioners of the philosophy of art, the 19th-century Hippolyte Taine.

Taine was a dyed-in-the-wool positivist who sought connections between art and geology: just as the earth is overlaid with a layer of ‘soft mulch’ – last year’s decomposing leaves – so ‘the individual is overlaid with customs, ideals, spiritual or intellectual characteristics which last for three or four years; they are the creations of fashion and the moment’; among them are details of speech and clothing. Taine’s description, written around 1830, of the young literary hero, is unforgettable: the upstart ‘who has great passions and deep dreams, who is inspiring and lyrical, political and rebellious, humanitarian and reformist and enthusiastically consumptive, fateful looking with his tragic waistcoats and his arresting hair style’. More…

The nearness of the past

30 March 2005 | Authors, Reviews

Kjell Westö.  Photo Ulla Montan

Kjell Westö. Photo Ulla Montan

Kjell Westö (born 1961) has to a large extent converted the needs and dilemmas of his own generation into material for his own writing.

It was a generation that came too late for the wave of politicisation of the 1970s, but it was strongly influenced by the reaction against it: individualism and postmodernism, the delirium of the ‘casino-economics’ of the 1980s and the crash that followed. True, Westö stood back from many of the currents of the time, but was clearly influenced by them nonetheless. More…

Kjell Westö: Gå inte ensam ut i natten [Don’t go out into the night alone]

23 October 2009 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Gå inte ensam ut i nattenGå inte ensam ut i natten
[Don’t go out into the night alone]
Helsinki: Söderströms, 2009. 604 p.
ISBN 978-951-52-2609-9
25 €, hardback
Finnish translation (by Katriina Savolainen): Älä käy yöhön yksin
Helsinki: Otava, 2009. 604 p.
ISBN 978-951-1-23833-1
25 €, hardback

This novel completes Kjell Westö’s Helsinki series and is his tenth book. As is the case with the three earlier books in this series (Drakarna över Helsingfors [‘The kites over Helsinki’], 1994, Vådan av att vara Skrake [‘The perils of being a Skrake’], 2000, and Där vi en gång gått [‘Where we once walked’], 2006, all also translated into Finnish) this is a character-driven, nostalgia-laden story that spans several decades. The central factor is music: in the 1960s three young people from different backgrounds become friends and record a single that ought to have been a huge hit, but because the song fades into obscurity, the circle of friends breaks up. In the latter part of the novel, a young man begins to investigate what became of the members of the trio and realises that his own life is linked to theirs. Westö (born 1961) writes remarkable experiential prose that brings the reader close to the characters. The retro setting may be a bit much for some: the avalanche of details feels rather excessive in places. Där vi en gång gått was awarded the Finlandia Prize in 2006. Another of Westö’s novels, Lang (2002), was published in England under the same title in 2005.

Winner of the Nordic Council Literature Prize

6 November 2014 | In the news

Kjell Westö. Photo: Kata Portin

Kjell Westö. Photo: Kata Portin

The Nordic Council Literature Prize 2014 went to Kjell Westö and his novel Hägring 38 (‘Mirage 38’, 2013; in Finnish, Kangastus 38). The prize, awarded since 1962 and worth €47,000, was given on 29 October at a ceremony in Stockholm.

Among the 13 nominees was another Finn, the poet Henriikka Tavi with her collection Toivo (‘Hope’, 2011).

The jury said: ‘The Nordic Council Literature Prize goes to the Finnish writer Kjell Westö for the novel Mirage 38, the evocative prose of which breathes life into a critical moment in Finland’s history [the time before the Winter War, 1939–1940] – one that has links to the present day.’ Here, more on Westö and his winning novel.

Compelled to write

30 June 2000 | Authors, Interviews

Kjell Westö

Photo: Marica Rosengård

Kjell Westö (born 1961) is one of a generation of younger, urban Swedish-language writers who are at home in both Swedish and Finnish. An extract from his novel Vådan av att vara Skrake (‘The perils of being Skrake’, Söderströms, 2000), which traces the fortunes of the Helsinki family of Skrake from the 1910s to the present day. Here, Westö is interviewed by his alter ego, the discontented poet Anders Hed, editor of the cultural journal Bokassa (now sadly extinct)

Anders Hed: So, to get us going: do you write any poetry at all nowadays?

Kjell Westö: No. The last poem I wrote comes at the end of the title story in Fallet Bruus (‘The Bruus case’). And that book came out in 1992.

It’s a poem about human face and the search for ‘the Thou’, isn’t it?

Exactly. More…

Finlandia Prize for Fiction 2013

14 November 2013 | In the news

One of the following six novels will be awarded this year’s Finlandia Prize for Fiction, worth 30,000 euros: Ystäväni Rasputin (’My friend Rasputin’) by JP Koskinen, Hotel Sapiens (Teos) by Leena Krohn, Jokapäiväinen elämämme (‘Our everyday life’, Teos) by Riikka Pelo, Terminaali (‘The terminal’, Siltala) by Hannu Raittila, Herodes (‘Herod’, WSOY) by Asko Sahlberg and Hägring 38 (‘Mirage 38’, Schildts & Söderströms; Finnish translation, Kangastus, Otava) by Kjell Westö.

Half of the writers have already won the Finlandia Prize once, namely Krohn (1992), Raittila (2001) and Westö (2006).

Four of the six works deal with a historical character or history: Koskinen with the Russian ‘holy man’ Rasputin, Pelo with the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva, Sahlberg with Herod the Great of Judea. Westö goes back to the year 1938 in Finland.

Raittila’s realistic novel takes place on contemporary airports. Krohn, again taking a look at an unknown future, presents the reader with a imaginary Earth which no longer is habitable to humans.

The runners-up were chosen by a jury – appointed by the Finnish Book Publishers’ Association – of three: the journalists Nina Paavolainen and Raisa Rauhamaa and the translator Juhani Lindholm. The winner of the 30th Finlandia Prize for Fiction will chosen by theatre manager of the Helsinki City Theatre and actor Asko Sarkola, and announced on 3 December.

Bright lights, small city

26 August 2010 | Articles, Non-fiction

Helsinki people on the big wheel: Linnanmäki amusement park, 1968

Photographs and excerpts from Helsinki 1968 by Claire Aho and Kjell Westö (text in Finnish, Swedish and English; WSOY, 2010)

A year that rocked the world: 1968. The Vietnam War, the Chinese cultural revolution, the invasion of Czechoslovakia, hunger in Biafra. Helsinki that year: a quiet little city, in a quiet little country. But Finland’s baby-boomers, born after the war, were now coming of age, resulting in the beginnings of a change of generation in politics; and the students of Helsinki University  joined the global student unrest of this ‘crazy year’. Photographer Claire Aho takes a series of photographs of her home town, participating in an exhibition in Kiel, Germany. Forty-two years later her photos are published in Helsinki 1968, together with reflections by Kjell Westö, whose novels are deeply rooted in his native city. Here are words and images of Helsinki that mirror the past – and the present

Both the city and its people carry their past with them, find it hard to let go, and don’t really want to. Many of us are reluctant to embrace the new. Hence there is often something ambivalent, something enigmatic in the frozen moment of the photograph…. More…

The search goes on

31 December 2007 | Archives online, Essays, On writing and not writing

The Finlandia Prize-winning author Kjell Westö recalls his literary adolescence, and the moment ­– of a dark January night – when he stopped worrying about writer’s block and began to write

When I was in my twenties, my urge to write was very strong. I was driven, almost consumed, by this ever-present zeal, which tore me apart nearly as inexorably and effectively as love did. But I wrote precious little. Now, some twenty years later, I have a general idea about the traps I so unknowingly walked into. More…

Reclaiming the body

30 September 1992 | Archives online, Authors

The work of Agneta Enckell is a good example of what happened in young Finland-Swedish writing during the 1980s. The developments that took place then have much in common with what had happened earlier in the rest of Scandinavia: the strong social and political interests which a large number of the writers had explored since the mid 1960s changed character and were supplemented by a critical scrutiny of language itself, and by an examination of the possibilities and limitations of literature as a form of communication.

In Finland the writers of the 1960s, led by the poet Claes Andersson, called into question the inheritance of Edith Södergran and the modernists of the 1920s, who at that time seemed to represent a tradition that was burdensome and limiting rather than living and productive in an Eliotian sense. More…

Human destinies

7 February 2014 | Articles, Non-fiction

To what extent does a ‘historical novel’ have to lean on facts to become best-sellers? Two new novels from 2013 examined

When Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest newspaper, asked its readers and critics in 2013 to list the ten best novels of the 2000s, the result was a surprisingly unanimous victory for the historical novel.

Both groups listed as their top choices – in the very same order – the following books: Sofi Oksanen: Puhdistus (English translation Purge; WSOY, 2008), Ulla-Lena Lundberg: Is (Finnish translation Jää, ‘Ice’, Schildts & Söderströms, 2012) and Kjell Westö: Där vi en gång gått (Finnish translation Missä kuljimme kerran; ‘Where we once walked‘, Söderströms, 2006).

What kind of historical novel wins over a large readership today, and conversely, why don’t all of the many well-received novels set in the past become bestsellers? More…

Thrills and spills

23 October 2009 | This 'n' that

In September the comic strip Viivi & Wagner by Juba, number two in August on the list of best-selling books (Mitä Suomi lukee, ‘What Finland reads’ – in Finnish only), gave way to Jari Tervo’s political satire Koljatti (‘Goliath’) and to a new thriller by Ilkka Remes (Isku ytimeen, ‘Strike to the core’).

Number three was Kjell Westö’s novel Älä käy yöhön yksin (in Finnish; the original, Gå inte ensam ut i natten, was published in Swedish, Westö’s mother tongue; ‘Don’t go out into the night alone’) and number four Kari Hotakainen’s novel Ihmisen osa (‘The human condition’).

Numbers eight and nine were new thrillers / crime novels by Leena Lehtolainen and Matti Rönkä. Historical novels by Kaari Utrio and Laila Hirvisaari took the fifth and sixth places.

Not surprisingly, the international bestsellers Paulo Coelho, Henning Mankell, Donna Leon and Patricia Cornwell led the translated fiction list.

As for non-fiction, the doings of Finnish Security Police interests people greatly: a history of it from 1949 to 2009 (edited by Matti Simola), entitled Ratakatu 12 (‘Ratakatu street 12’, WSOY) made its way to the top. It was  followed by a biography of the industrial magnate Pekka Herlin of the Kone elevator company, Koneen ruhtinas (‘The prince of Kone’) – and Hitler by Ian Kershaw.

He came in through the bathroom window

30 June 1991 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Utslag och andra noveller (‘Rash and other stories’, Alba, 1989). Introduction by Pekka Tarkka

He heard a voice behind him:

‘Hey, Aspelin, what are you doing here?’

Awakening from a half-sleep, he looked around as Ilpo approached his seat.

‘I work near here. I’m teaching math to the visually impaired.’

Ilpo sat down next to him. For several seconds they sat without speaking. Then Aspelin collected himself.

‘And you?’

‘Visiting a friend. He lives in Mäkkylä.’ More…

A day in the life

30 September 1996 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Drakarna över Helsingfors (‘Kites over Helsingfors’, Söderströms, 1996). Introduction by Jyrki Kiiskinen

It is December 1970, it is Friday afternoon and Helsingfors is shrouded in a damp, leaden-grey fog when Jacke Pettersson, trainee electrician at Mid-Nyland Vocational College, signs a receipt for his driving licence at Vallgård Police Station.

At home in the flat in Svenska Gården in Munkshöjden: the very next evening Jacke sneaks his hand down into his father’s, typesetter K-G. Pettersson’s, overcoat pocket. It is getting on for 9 o’clock and KG is sitting deeply submerged in his favourite armchair, staring concentratedly at the premiere of a new show.

Six out of forty
make it every week

sings a bright girl’s voice.

Then: the Official Supervisors and their solemn ‘Good evening’. And then: the blonde girl in her mini-dress and high boots, the glass holder with its plastic balls, the plastic balls with numbers on. More…