Archive for December, 1982

Chronicles of crisis

Issue 4/1982 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Books from Finland presents here an extract from Dyre prins, a novel by the Finland-Swedish writer Christer Kihlman that is to be published in 1983 by Peter Owen of London under the title Sweet Prince, in a translation by Joan Tate.

Christer Kihlman (born 1930) first became known as a poet; but, after publishing two collections of poetry, he turned to novels. He has been branded a merciless scourge of the bourgeoisie. Equally important in his writing, however, are his masterly psychological analyses, his examination of the myriad aspects of the human personality, his sovereign disregard for taboos and his unflagging search for the truth. His books are about crises – the conflict between the generations, between the individual and society, between opposing political ideologies, between homosexual and heterosexual love. As Ingmar Svedberg remarked in an extensive appreciation of Kihlman’s work that appeared in Books from Finland 1-2/1976, ‘In his perceptive moral analyses, his exploration of the depths of human destructiveness and degradation, Kihlman is sometimes reminiscent of Faulkner.’ Since 1970, Kihlman has published three revealing autobiographical works, two of them dealing with his encounter with South America; Dyre prins, first published in 1975, represents a brief interlude of fiction.

The extract printed below is accompanied with a personal appreciation of the novel by its English translator, Joan Tate

Grandfather’s astonishing revelation gave me a new perspective on my life. I had suddenly been given a concrete, genuine foundation for both my hatred and my self-esteem. In a way I took the story of my origins as an extreme confirmation of the rightness of the Communist interpretation of reality, and at the same time it gave me a wonderful, dazzling sensation of being someone, despite everything, of having a place in a meaningful human perspective of time, despite everything, of being a link, however modest, in the historical family tradition. I did not need to found a dynasty; I already belonged to a dynasty, if only a minor branch. One was less important than the other, and even if the two experiences were irreconcilable and contradictory, they existed all the same in the same consciousness, contained within the same consciousness, my consciousness. I, Donald Blad! More…

A personal appreciation

Issue 4/1982 | Archives online, Authors

Christer Kihlman

Christer Kihlman. Photo: Magnus Weckström

Almost twenty years ago, a book arrived on my table from a London publisher, a large book called Den blå modern, by someone called Christer Kihlman, of whom I had never heard. Although the book came from Stockholm, in fact it turned out to be the work of a Finland-Swedish writer, perhaps the second or third I had ever read.

The book was to me remarkable. I had never read anything quite like it before, and I have been reading adult fiction for over fifty years. Looking back now in my ancient tatty files, I see I typed three single-spaced pages of synopsis and two and a half of comment, and even translated several extracts, not something I can normally afford to do. This was partly because I was impressed with the book, partly because it was almost impossible to explain the style, or styles, in which it was written, and also it was very difficult to say succinctly just what kind of book it was. The blurb called it a ‘family chronicle’, which in a way it was, but in all other respects it was nothing like what we normally call a family chronicle, anyhow of the kind so familiar from the United States. Two sons trying to live up to their father’s image of a third son, who is dead; but in fact it seemed to me to be the story of one man’s struggle with himself and the agony of existing in a world in which pain and hatred and suffering and despair are constantly victorious over love. In the book was almost everything any thinking person struggles with in his or her mind during a whole lifetime, a search for some kind of meaning in a life that appears meaningless. More…

They believe in Father Christmas

Issue 4/1982 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews

Mauri Kunnas

Mauri Kunnas. Photo: Otava / Katja Lösönen

Mauri Kunnas, 32, says he believes in Father Christmas more than ever before. His wife Tarja agrees; she and her husband work together in their studio in Turku on the illustrated children’s books that have won them fame in Finland and abroad. It is easy to believe the truth of the young artists’ protestations: the success of their book Joulupukki, or Santa Claus, must have seemed like a gift from Father Christmas. It appeared in the early autumn of 1981 and was taken to the Frankfurt Book Fair by its publishers, Otava, where it attracted more attention than any Finnish book had done previously. Rights immediately went to ten countries, from Japan to Canada, and four more contracts have since been concluded. Arto Seppälä intervews Mauri and Tarja Kunnas

Mauri Kunnas says he has drawn all his life. He intended to study law, but his sister persuaded him to go to art school instead. Towards the end of his course, short of money, Kunnas began to draw a strip cartoon for a Helsinki evening paper. He progressed to cartoons – but at present his plans for new books keep him too busy to contemplate anything else.

Mauri Kunnas’s first book was Suomalainen tonttukirja (‘The book of Finnish fairies’, 1979). ‘I never thought I would write children’s books until the fairy idea came into my head,’ he says. ‘At that time I was unhappily employed in an advertising agency, and life wasn’t living up to my expectations. I wanted to splash out, try something new. The fairy idea came to me as the result of a chance conversation about the Finnish world of faerie – elves, gnomes, guardian spirits and so on. More…