Author: Antti Tuuri

Digging for gold

Issue 2/1989 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Antti Tuuri has found his theme in the life of Finnish émigré communities and their experience in what used to be called ‘the New World’. Uusi Jerusalem (‘The New Jerusalem’, 1988), is about the Finns who migrated to Canada during the Depression, only to find that their utopian dreams had no basis in reality. In the following extract the narrator finds himself and his fellow mineworkers in the middle of the forest at night, on the way by foot to the Kirkland Lake gold mines, where they are going to be strikebreakers. The novel, an ironical tale of life in a new land, follows on from Pohjanmaa (‘Ostrobothnia’, 1982), Talvisota (‘The Winter War’, 1984), Ameriikan raitti (‘The American road’, 1986).

The train pulled up at Swastika station, many a mile from Kirkland Lake, and Hamina said we’d have to press on by foot from the station to the town.

Swastika, he said, meant the crooked cross, but he didn’t know whether there were any of those German Adolf-fanciers around, who were so keen on the sign. He was certain, in fact, the town had got its name long before anyone in Germany had heard of Adolf or his swastika.

We asked why we had to walk from here to the town. Hamina said we’d got to walk because even in Canada vehicles didn’t drive through the backwoods; moreover, it wasn’t a good idea to walk along the Kirkland Lake road: we might meet up with the kind of guys who’d make our arrival at Kirkland Lake seem very unwelcome. More…

At the sand pit

Issue 3/1985 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Antti Tuuri

Antti Tuuri. Photo: Jouni Harala

‘After nearly 40 years of observing the Ostrobothnians, I am convinced that they have certain characteristics which explain the historical events that took place there and which also shed light on the region today. I do not know how these characteristics develop, but it appears that heredity, economic factors and even the landscape form the nature of people. Everywhere people who live in the plains are different from those who dwell in the mountains, and from those who fish the archipelagos,’ writes the author Antti Tuuri, himself an Ostrobothnian.

Antti Tuuri’s Pohjanmaa (‘Ostrobothnia’, 1982), which last January was awarded the Nordic Prize for Literature, has now been translated into each language of the Nordic countries. Tuuri’s novel describes the events of one summer day in Ostrobothnia, on the west coast of Finland, where a farming family, the Hakalas, has gathered for the reading of the will of a grandfather who emigrated to the United States in the 1920s.

The inheritance itself is insignificant, but it has brought together the four grandsons, with their wives and children. The story is narrated from the point of view of one of the brothers. The women of the family remain inside while the men take out an automatic pistol which has been kept hidden away since one of them smuggled it home from the Continuation War. The men go off to a sand pit to do some shooting and to drink some illegal home brew. There they meet their former schoolteacher, who joins in with their drinking and shooting. Some surprising events take place as the day’s action unfolds, and Tuuri’s narrator views them in an unsentimental way, describing them matter-of-factly and at times with ironic humour. The men recall the violent history of Ostrobothnia, the years of the Civil War and the right-wing Lapua movement of the 1930s.

The Nordic Prize jury commented that the novel ‘portrays the breaking up of the old society, and conflicts between generations as well as between men and women.’ Tuuri has constructed his novel on conflicts, and the result is a highly dramatic narrative.


An extract from Pohjanmaa (‘Ostrobothnia’)

A Finnish hound dog came out of the woods just beyond the sandpit, stopped at the edge of the pit and started to bark at us. The boys quickly began putting the weapon together. Veikko yelled that you were allowed to shoot a dog running loose in the woods out of hunting season. He kept asking me for cartridges; he’d shoot the dog right away, before it could tear to pieces the young game birds that couldn’t fly yet. I told him to shut up. Seppo finished putting the automatic pistol together and gave it to me. I ran to the car, put the gun down on the floor in front of the back seat and tossed a blanket over it.

When I got back, I saw the teacher coming out of the woods over by the pit. He snapped a leash on the dog and started towards us through the pine grove. The boys sat down around the campfire and began taking swigs of home brew from their cups. More…

The engineer’s story

Issue 2/1981 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Maailman kivisin paikka (‘The stoniest place in the world’, 1980). Introduction by Pekka Tarkka

Coffee was going to be served down by the river. The engineer took my elbow and led me across his paved courtyard and over his lawn; we settled ourselves down in cane chairs under the trees. Mirja came out of the house with a tray of coffee and coffee-cups, a loaf of sweet bread, already cut, some marble cake and some biscuits. The engineer said nothing. My eye wandered over the ample weeping birches by the river, the mist creeping up in the cool of the evening and shifting in the cross-pull of the breeze and the current, and I watched Mirja moving under the trees back to the house and then down again to the riverbank.

As we sipped our coffee we spoke about chance, and the part it plays in life, about my husband – for I was able to speak about him now: enough time had gone by. The engineer eased himself into a comfortable position, gave me a quick look and then launched off into an account of his own, about his trip abroad:

I spotted the news item as I was going through the morning paper on the plane. I sat more or less speechless all of the first leg, listening to Kirsti and her husband confabulating. I didn’t say anything during the stop-over in Copenhagen, either, where they wanted to get some schnapps and, of course, some chocolate ‘if Kirsti would really like some’. We came rushing back into the plane just as the last English, German and Danish announcements were coming over, and then we sat waiting for the take-off. That was delayed too because of a check-up (not announced), and then we were off again for Zurich, me without a word and they whispering together. Then it was the bus as far as the terminal, and after that a taxi to the hotel. Quite clearly Kirsti hadn’t heard a thing about it yet, and probably hadn’t had much contact with Erkki for quite some time, her new husband even less. More…