The power game

Issue 2/1984 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Puhua, vastata, opettaa (‘Speak, answer, teach’, 1972) could be called a collection of aphorisms or poems; the pieces resemble prose in having a connected plot, but they certainly are not narrative prose. Ikuisen rauhan aika (‘A time of eternal peace’, 1981) continues this approach. The title alludes ironically to Kant’s Zum Ewigen Frieden, mentioned in the text; ‘eternal peace’ is funereal for Haavikko.

In his ‘aphorisms’ Haavikko is discovering new methods of discourse for his abiding preoccupation: the power game. All organizations, he thinks, observe the rules of this sport – states, armies, businesses, churches. Any powerful institution wages war in its own way, applying the ruthless military code to autonomous survival, control, aggrandizement, and still more power. No morality – the question is: who wins? ‘I often entertain myself by translating historical events into the jargon of business management, or business promotion into war.’

‘What is a goal for the organization is a crime for the individual.’ Is Haavikko an abysmal pessimist, a cynic? He would himself consider that cynicism is something else: a would-be credulous idealism, plucking out its own eyes, promoting evil through ignorance. As for reality, ‘the world – the world’s a chair that’s pulled from under you. No floor’, says Mr Östanskog in the eponymous play. Reading out the rules of a mindless and cruel sport, without frills, softening qualifications, or groundless hopes, Haavikko is in the tradition of those moralists of the Middle Ages, who wrote tracts denouncing the perversity and madness of ‘the world’ – which is ‘full of work-of-art-resembling works of art, in various colours, book-resembling texts, people-resembling people’.

Kai Laitinen

Speak, answer, teach

When people begin to desire equal rights, fair shares, the right to decide for them­selves, to choose

one cannot tell them: You are asking for goods that cannot be made.

One cannot say that when they are manufactured they vanish, and when they are increased they decrease all the time.

This can also be reported from the observation of certain small grain-eating creatures with tails. When a large number of them are collected together, they obtain warmth from each other and information. They become morose and frustrated. And they say: We want freedom from experiencing reality. It cannot be so narrow. From mutual dependence, good manners, giving suck, caring for offspring, supporting them.

And they become alcoholic, neurotic, destroy their environment, start biting each other, choose, become equal.

On the other hand they now have sufficient opportunity to elect, to vote, to influence and to be fulfilled.

I do not wish to change this system. It is bad enough already.


When there is a monopoly on lying, other products must be quickly developed for sale.


One discovers that it is impossible to produce sufficient near-useless goods and services.

The impossible is not necessarily the improbable.

Then one begins to think of means to implement it. If the purpose is good, they will be found.

The task of management is to plan, organize, inform, motivate, supervise, says the manual. And want, say I.


Real delicacies are raw: oysters, salmon, and power.


Taxation today favours inherited property and public waste. They represent continuity.


When history lectures, fools still make notes. Though there’s the street outside. Events, not trends.

The big moment is when the oppressed becomes the oppressor. That’s when history takes a deep breath and starts lecturing.


I’ve seen quite a few things in my time. I don’t recall that a single one of them seemed reasonable.


This is not philosophy. These are needles from a great pine. I sell them, because if they were for free they’d get no attention.

Translated by Philip Binham

A time of eternal peace
A list of allies, short and sweet

Because this war is continuous, endless and successful, the writing of history is continuous, endless and also successful.

It is now possible to write history objectively, for this war is a victorious one, and there is no explaining to do.

A war against nature, against the human mind. The mighty ones of the world do not like death, an annihilation which could happen to them twice. That second time would prove their immortality. What the mighty ones of the world do not wish for cannot be a bad thing. Therefore death should be constantly approached, sought out, asked after and cultivated.

Great powers die more greatly.

A list of allies, short and sweet.

What makes a great power great, a great enemy, and why the enemy must not be too great. And what is the maximal minimum size of the enemy. Such as will neither grow to excess nor slip through the hands. For then the great power will choose its next enemy, the one that is always to hand, the people it owns and puts its stamp upon.

But when they have been owned and stamped, what happens is that destruction passes through the human mind and is directed upon plants and animals.

They are torn from their habitats, the forest is destroyed. Information is printed on it.

Histories are of two kinds, the pathetic and the factual, and the function of the pathetic kind is to bring tears to the eyes so that the reader is blinded. When pathetic writers tell you that such and such a horde destroyed such and such a village and such and such towns, and such and such a little girl, or bear … the list goes on so long, that you begin to weep.

And they harness these waters, harness you to pull the great waggon of history which is already on the road, and which will move on when you – yes, you whom history now summons –, take your place and begin to pull on the great rope, which is fitted over the branch of a tree in such a way that if the waggon does not move, it is stone, the harder you pull, the tighter the rope begins to twist, angled over the tree-branch it tightens around your neck, which is not yours, and you are told that the only way to stop stop stop it twisting around your neck is to pull harder and make the waggon move.

That was a subclause. With every sentence, they say less than they leave unsaid. With every word, they leave more unsaid, listing villages, because that leads away from the facts, brings tears to the eyes. They know it. Otherwise they wouldn’t. Soon they will write more, more, soon they will be speaking all the time, keeping silent about everything.

A list of allies, short and sweet.

But this is war, the industrial kind, and so the ability to die, the ability to lie, must be kept in trim and preserved. Quite right. To change into something like a fascist; and kill him, quick. A list, short and horrid, of frightful atrocities which the enemy intends, which those who belong to him and his allies intend, and are preparing, to perpetrate, and to prevent which the following measures will have to be taken. Hanging, having one’s own grave dug, asking an unborn mother the sex of her unborn child, answering the question at once, obtaining the information necessary for answering it, answering it without bothering to ask it: these are some of their amusements.

But this is not scientific history-writing. Scientific history-writing involves a choice of facts and the ability to recognize them. It is produced industrially, because there is a requirement for it – a requirement, because this is war. And he who believes in scientific thought has already ceased, once and for all, to be a thinking person.

Gather as much as you possibly can of the world’s light, which exists inside a tree, inside the earth, in yourself, inside. Joy, seize it and take it with you when you go away from here. Perhaps it will survive, where you are going. Here, it is a danger and a temptation. The world cannot stand any more praiseworthy ventures. The ventures-box is full. To bursting.

I myself do not wish to say this.

A list of allies, short and sweet. Even now they are on their way through the forest. Loyalty is the prime virtue of an ally, even unto death. That is why an ally must die first, before his lord and his king. Then the vassal will have proved himself an ally, right to the end. And his lord can die knowing that he has not been betrayed.

Thus death is the virtue of an ally and a vassal.

He does not have the right to live after his owner. But to die before him is a right he certainly has.

The world has lost already. I look upon this, to my delight. This no longer exists.

Translated by David Barrett

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