Archive for March, 1984

The Sleepwalker

Issue 1/1984 | Archives online, Drama, Fiction

We print here an extract from the radio play Somngångerskan (‘The sleepwalker’, 1978). Walentin Chorell himself said that he felt this genre to be the closest to his heart, and his radio plays are perhaps the element of his work that has contributed most to his reputation in Finland and in the rest of Europe.

As the play begins, we sense night in the old, rambling log house, with a clock ticking in the background; the sound comes closer, intensifies, and then dies away again. The clock strikes three; its works are old and complaining. Long silence.

Then the silence is broken by the loud and happy laughter of Jerine, the sleepwalker. A flock of gulls is heard calling over the beach; there is a gentle summer breeze, and the waves are lapping against the boulders on the shore.

FIRST VOICE (=the mother, frightened)

What’s wrong? What have you wakened me up for?

SECOND VOICE (=the father)

It’s Jerine. She was laughing in her sleep. More…

Ethics and the individual

Issue 1/1984 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews

Walentin Chorell

Walentin Chorell. Photo: SLS

Over one hundred stage and radio plays, twenty six novels, poetry – the extent of Walentin Chorell’s work, from the early 1940s to his death last November was huge. The Finland-Swedish writer was by profession a teacher of psychology; his writing sprang from a real need to analyze the psychological drama of human life, to study other people – and at the same time himself – through the medium of literature.

His last television play, Hyena, is to be shown in Finland this summer, and his last radio play, Utopia, is to be broadcast in the spring. Many of his radio plays have been translated into the other Nordic languages, and his works have been performed and published in more than twenty countries.

The 71-year old writer was interviewed by Glyn Jones in Helsinki two months before his death.

‘I would say that writing for radio is what gives me most satisfaction, for there no limits are placed on your imagination. There are no limits in either time or space. On the radio you can have one scene portraying your main character as a child, and in the next as an adult; you can quickly follow that main character from childhood to adulthood, and your listeners will believe in it. As for space, you can set one scene in Paris – and indicate this by making a hotel porter call out the number of a room in French – and the following one can be set in Stockholm or Helsinki, and you can do it so convincingly that your listeners will believe in it.’ More…


Issue 1/1984 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

An extract from the novel Mirdja (1908). Introduction by Marja-Liisa Nevala

Now they were in the city – their minds more alive than usual with wilfulness and daring.

For – quite unable to jettison their shared life – they had at least to get on top it… Had to … Every single person has to battle …

And Mirdja’s head was full of efficacious rules for balance, countless cool and wise thoughts – to meet all conflicts.

Lucidly and coldly she had clarified her present position for herself. She was married. Right. No particular joy in that. But no need for any particular disaster in it either. And if she had thrown herself into dependence through this banal arrangement, the sort that everyone has a little of in this life, she had only herself to blame. She had to be able to live by rising above the trivialities of existence. Besides, she had always known that in the final count it was immaterial whom one was married to. A marriage always had its own profile, its dreary distinguishing marks, but one was not compelled to absorb these dreary sides into one’s own being. How did they do it in France? Every year thousands of marriages occur, without an atom of personal liking entering into the game, and extremely seldom are the marriages unhappy. Why so? Mutual politesse: a little of the art of social intercourse, and the whole problem is solved. In the morning a tiny friendly greeting at the breakfast table: ‘Bonjour ma chère,’ –  ‘Bonjour, mon ami’; a courteous kiss on the hand, a pretty smile in response, and everything’s as it should be. Because those people know how to go about it. Marriage – one of society’s many empty regimentations! Only stupid people tried, within narrow limits like these, to find fullness of content or idealize. Stupid, Mirdja had been. Comically destructive in that heavy northern solemnity of hers – refusing to acknowledge any form without content, yet fearful of endowing content with any form except the conventional and time-tested. She had lived with a common-or-garden person’s longing for fullness, and then allowed, exactly like that sort of person, her disappointment and bitterness to flood over all her nearest and dearest. She had lived in indiscretion. She had been paltry and rotten and considered herself a slave … More…

A life of one’s own

Issue 1/1984 | Archives online, Authors

L. Onerva. Photo: Otava, 1907

L. Onerva. Photo: Otava, 1907

When L. Onerva (1882–1972) published her novel Mirdja in 1908 she was twenty-six years old. Two previously published collections of poetry had already established a reputation for her as a promising young writer and she was also achieving a name as a first-rate critic. Her career thus began in circumstances which augured well for distinction and fame, both of which came to her, although her fame derives not only from her literary abilities – it is due in part to the notoriety of her private life. Her works, always thought to have a biographical element, are often read for glimpses of bohemian and artistic life at the start of the century.

In the puritanical climate of the period Onerva was unquestionably unusual, although Finland was not without independent and literary women. Onerva had many talents; she was well educated, and when she met Eino Leino, the most famous poet of the day, she had published her first collection of poems. This meeting changed the nature of Onerva’s life. She left her husband. Leino’s marriage also broke down and the couple ran away to Germany and Italy for a year. They were never married and both later married other people. Nevertheless, their profound friendship lasted until Leino’s death in 1926. More…


Issue 1/1984 | Archives online, Children's books, Fiction

A story from Läsning för barn (‘Reading for children’,1884). Introduction by George C. Schoolfield

There was once a little child lying in a snowdrift. Why? Because it had been lost.

It was Christmas Eve. The old Lapp was driving his sledge through the desolate mountains, and the old Lapp woman was following him. The snow sparkled, the Northern Lights were dancing, and the stars were shining brightly in the sky. The old Lapp thought this was a splendid journey and turned round to look for his wife who was alone in her little Lapp sledge, for the reindeer could not pull more than one person at a time. The woman was holding her little child in her arms. It was wrapped in a thick, soft reindeer skin, but it was difficult for the woman to drive a sledge properly with a child in her arms.

When they had reached the top of the mountain and were just starting off downhill, they came across a pack of wolves. It was a big pack, about forty or fifty of them, such as you often see in winter in Lapland when they are on the look-out for a reindeer. Now these wolves had not managed to catch any reindeer; they were howling with hunger and straight away began to pursue the old Lapp and his wife. More…

Fairy tales of a journalist

Issue 1/1984 | Archives online, Authors

Zacharias Topelius

Zacharias Topelius. Photo: SLS

In 1918, Selma Lagerlöf, the Swedish novelist and recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature, was commissioned by the Swedish Academy to write a book on the life and works of Zacharias Topelius, in celebration of the centennial of his birth. As she says in the introduction to her Zachris Topelius of 1920 (where she uses the familiar contraction of the great man’s given name), she realized that she was up against the monster work-in-progress of Valfrid Vasenius, which had already reached three volumes and which would not be finished, with six, until 1930.

Lagerlöf jotted down her almost novelistic account of Topelius’s first thirty-eight years, from his birth in Ostrobothnia, as the son of a country doctor with strong folkloristic interests, to the appearance of his major patriotic poem of 1856, Islossningen i Uleå älv (‘The breakup of the ice in Uleå river’), filled with hopeful thoughts about an independent Finland. It can be reckoned that more people have enjoyed Lagerlöf’s chatty pages than have struggled with Vasenius’ positivistic monument, and that a common notion of Topelius, influenced either by Aunt Selma or schoolteachers who have partaken of her burbling spirit, is that of a man too good and emotionally too limited to be great. More…