Author: Jari Järvelä

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23 October 2014 | Essays, Non-fiction, On writing and not writing

Writer's block

In this series, authors discuss the difficulties of their trade. Jari Järvelä finds it difficult to stop gathering source material which then gets piled in towers on his desk and in sacks around it. He knows that it’s got to stop though – for when it does, the stories will finally emerge, and life is a bliss… for a moment

When I was younger I thought that writing a novel began with the moment when I sat down at my desk and pressed a key for the first time. A. Hmmm…no, H. No, let’s make that S. No no no, I need a more original beginning…Z!

That’s not the case. The writing of a novel begins between two and twenty years before the choice of the first letter and the first word. Sometimes longer.

In the case of my novel Särkyvää (‘Fragile’, 2014), I know the exact moment of its birth.

Before I began to make a career as an author, I spent a year as a teacher at Hamari school in Porvoo. It was the beginning of the 1990s. Hamari was an old sawmill community on the sea, full of wooden houses more than a century old and motor boats put-putting toward the horizon. The headmaster looked more like a sea dog than a teacher; one morning he announced that it was his fortieth birthday. After that he sat down on the staff-room sofa, fell into deep thought and suddenly ejaculated, ‘Why the hell does a person have to gather so much junk in their life?!’ More…

Journey to the first palm tree

16 October 2014 | Fiction, Prose

Teemu is a fat, desperate middle-aged man who’s had it with life – he drives his old Lada to Spain, where he intends to commit suicide by letting himself be trampled to death by bulls in the Pamplona bullrun. (However, there is a chance of this tragedy being cancelled, thanks to a tenacious hitch-hiker, female.) An extract from the novel Särkyvää (‘Fragile’, Tammi, 2014)

When I was seventeen, I yearned to leave behind the small town where I grew up. I heard the owl hooting in the forest: go to Europe.

I heard the dirt-track gravel crunching beneath my shoes: run, lad, run.

The birch in the yard rustled and whispered: if you spend one more summer hanging around the garden of your childhood, you’ll stay here forever.

A frog in the ditch gave a stern croak: look at your father; if you don’t escape you’ll end up an old codger just like him.

Even the smoke twirling up from the sauna chimney spoke to me in billows: I’ll show you the right direction, head south, and don’t stop until you see the first camel. More…


19 September 2013 | Fiction, Prose

A short story from Novelli palaa! Matkanovelleja (‘The short story returns! Travel stories’, edited by Katja Kettu and Aki Salmela; WSOY, 2013)

Mum didn’t want to travel abroad. Mum wanted to tend her rose garden and her pea beds, which sloped down the hill towards the lake. In mum’s opinion, the view from the porch was the best view in the world.

Dad wanted to travel. He never got very far, because Mum wouldn’t go. Dad got as far as the neighbouring forest. In Mum’s opinion, there was no better long-haul destination than the lake at the bottom of the slope and the grove around the house, which was full of blueberries and raspberries and, in the spring, morel mushrooms.

In Dad’s opinion, the forest was full of mosquitoes and flies and ants and mites.

On the lake, the loons dived and called on late summer evenings, Mum thought it was the best sound in the world. Beautiful and harrowing, at the same time. The lamentations of the loon demonstrated that a living creature can be so completely happy that its cry is full of grief. Her children’s crying and whingeing and desire to go to the Linnanmäki funfair in Helsinki were, to Mum, a sign that they are ecstatically happy at home.

Little loons, Mum said to us. More…

A roof with a view

27 August 2009 | Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Mistä on mustat tytöt tehty? (‘What are black girls made of?’, Tammi, 2009) Introduction by Tuomas Juntunen

I’m a chimney sweep’s daughter, born October 1962 as a gift, a light to a darkened world. I’ve had lots of mothers, but none of them ever stuck around for good. One of them gave birth to me, so she’s Mother, not mother. Her name is Dewdrop, because water has spilled over the only photograph of My Mother and now her face has dissolved into a single translucent droplet; her nose, cheeks and chin are now a fat, shiny blob that looks like it’s about to fall out of the bottom of the picture. More…

Man and boy

Issue 4/2006 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Kansallismaisema (‘National landscape’ Tammi, 2006). Introduction by Tuomas Juntunen

Plans were afoot to establish boys’ camps across the country. This was an experiment, a chance to test the water, to be a pioneer. Here was the opportunity to be the first in line to conquer the Wild West, just as many a brave cowboy had done in years gone by. The Ministry of General Affairs planned to put all 15-year-olds to work for the duration of the summer holidays. Casual labourers were often even younger. Our task was to ascertain a suitable minimum age. In addition, special camps were planned for those not suited to normal work camps. In the summers to come the youth of Finland would be fully employed. Weren’t we in fact driven by the same desire, Tikka had wondered. We both cared about the next generation. We wanted to root out their deficiencies so that they would be able to face life’s challenges to the full. More…


Issue 3/2002 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Afrikasta on paljon kertomatta (‘Much is still untold about Africa’, WSOY, 2002). Introduction by Maria Säntti

You’re exactly what a dog should be, I told him. You’ve a black ear and a white one. You’re not too big and you’re not all teeth.

I stroked his black-spotted coat. He wagged his curly tail.

I crouched down. He squeezed up against my chest. I sent my ball rolling along the stairway corridor. He shot after it, accidentally running over the top of it. As he braked, his claws screeched on the tiles. Sparks went flying.

He snapped the ball in his jaws, nibbled its plastic and sent it back with a snuffle. His tongue was wagging with glee. Next I wanted to roll the ball so he wouldn’t get it. It bumped against the iron banister and went off in a different direction, skidding under the dog’s belly. He turned and dashed after it. More…