Archive for September, 1981

Choosing a play

Issue 3/1981 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Leiri (‘The camp’). Introduction by Vesa Karonen

The local amateurs were having their theatre club meeting on a Friday evening in the main part of the parish hall. It was late August, the light was beginning to fade and no one had remembered to put the lights on. First the stage grew dark, then the floor, then the ceiling. The light lingered on the inside wall for the longest. There were creaks and groans from the rooms at the back and from the attic. The caretaker had been moving around in there about three in the afternoon, and his traces lingered, as they do in old buildings.

“Something of that sort but short, and it’s got to be bloody funny,” said the chairman, a carpenter called Ranta.

In the store cupboard there were 108 old scripts. Tammilehto, the secretary, hauled out about 30 scripts onto the table. His job was running a kiosk down the road.

“Nothing out of date,” said Ranta.

“There’s got to be a bit of love in it, I say,” said Mrs Ranta.

She had a taxi-driver’s cap on her head and was wearing a man’s grey summer jacket, a white shirt and a blue tie. Her car could be seen from the window. It was in the yard. She always parked her car so it could be seen from inside. More…

The Comb

Issue 3/1981 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Tilanteita (‘Situations’, 1962). Introduction by Vesa Karonen

The young man’s comb dropped behind the radiator under the window. The young man crouched down to look and felt with his fingers in between the pipes and along the floor. No trace of the comb.

Lose something on a train and it eludes you. A train ticket I left once – just placed it long enough on the window ledge for it, too, to fall behind the radiator. Couldn’t find it. The conductor came along, said “Any new fares! Tickets please.” I just sat still, totally unconcerned, until he’d gone. I’m sure there are little details which give the game away to conductors, they know who’s just got on.

New passengers are always somehow fresher, more alert. In winter, I hear, they look at the passengers’ feet. If there’s snow round the edges of the shoes, no need to hesitate. A lot of people are done for by looking straight in their eyes. Offenders always look straight back and then in the middle try to look somewhere else entirely. I was careful not to look steadily into the conductor’s eyes. It was easy when I concentrated on the way the long ventilator cords swung back and forth from the ceiling. They all swung in the same direction but some cords were a bit behind the others. Perhaps it was because the cords were all slightly different in weight and length. Now I remember – it’s not the weight that counts, just as it’s not weight that affects the way a pendulum swings. When the conductor had gone I began to look for my ticket again. I went on looking for it all the way to Tampere. The young man, too, would obviously go on looking for his comb until he got where he was going, without finding it. More…

Veijo Meri’s errant heroes

Issue 3/1981 | Archives online, Authors

Veijo Meri. Photo: Irmeli Jung / Otava.

Veijo Meri. Photo: Irmeli Jung / Otava.

At the funeral of F. E. Sillanpää, the Nobel prize-winner, Veijo Meri was one of the pall-bearers, representing the younger generation of Finnish writers. The coffin was heavy and it suddenly began to slip the hands of the bearers just as they reached the church doors. A tiny stone in one of his shoes was causing Meri the most intense agony. It was a critical moment. Novels, short stories and plays by him are full of such situations. The characters stumble and are confused. The more difficult the situation, the more comic it often is.

Veiio Meri (born 1928) grew up in army barracks in the small town of Hämeenlinna. His childhood and youth were overshadowed by the war – as is reflected in many of his works. His first book, Ettei maa viheriöisi (‘Lest the land grow green’, 1954) is a collection of short stories about a lonely soldier wandering on both sides of the lines. More…