27 April 2015 | Letter from the Editors
No one could call reading – or writing, for that matter – a social activity. No matter how many reading, or writing, groups you may choose to join, the actual engagement with a book is something you do alone.
Music, theatre, cinema, dance – those really are social enterprises. You can go to them together; you can watch them together, at the same time; you can talk about the experience you’ve shared. Even computer games, which sometimes seem to their elders to be making solipsists of all our children, are social, even if the ‘friends’ they play with may be the other side of the world, and may not speak the same language.
You’re never alone with a good book, as the advertising slogan says. But you’re not exactly in company, either… except…. More…
Hitting the ‘like’ button is not only boring but also working its way from Facebook deeper into society, says Jyrki Lehtola. Surely there must be some other way of solving the world’s problems?
At the end of the autumn the theatre critic of the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper panned Sofi Oksanen’s stage adaptation of her novel Kun kyyhkyset katosivat (‘When the doves disappeared’, 2013).
That’s life. Artists struggle with their projects, sometimes for years. Then a critic takes a glance at the result and crushes it in a matter of hours.
Then there’s a huff about unfairness, the use of power and all the things artists blow off steam about when they feel that their creations have been treated unfairly. The debate is held between injured authors and sometimes the critic, but generally few others participate, and just as well. More…
8 November 2013 | Letter from the Editors
More and more new Finnish fiction is seeing the light of day. Does quantity equal quality?
Fewer and fewer critical evaluations of those fiction books are published in the traditional print media. Is criticism needed any more?
At the Helsinki Book Fair in late October the latest issue of the weekly magazine Suomen Kuvalehti was removed from the stand of its publisher, Otavamedia, by the chief executive officer of Otava Publishing Company Ltd. Both belong to the same Otava Group.
The cover featured a drawing of a book in the form of a toilet roll, referring to an article entitled ‘The ailing novel’, by Riitta Kylänpää, in which new Finnish fiction and literary life were discussed, with a critical tone at places. CEO Pasi Vainio said he made the decision out of respect for the work of Finnish authors.
His action was consequently assessed by the author Elina Hirvonen who, in her column in the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, criticised the decision. ‘The attempt to conceal the article was incomprehensible. Authors are not children. The Finnish novel is not doing so badly that it collapses if somebody criticises it. Even a rambling reflection is better for literature than the same old articles about the same old writers’ personal lives.’ More…
9 July 2010 | Letter from the Editors
‘Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue has never been erected in honour of a critic,’ said the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.
No, probably not; but people still read what the critics write – and, sometimes, also what they wrote fifty or a hundred years ago.
An annual list of professions most highly valued by the public in Finland is always headed by surgeons. Shepherds generally feature at the bottom of the list. But critics fare none too well, either – a couple of years ago they were ranked between butchers and gravediggers. Which, of course, can be interpreted, in metaphorical terms, either as hilarious or tragicomical. More…