Archive for September, 1984

The report

Issue 3/1984 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Kesä ja keski-ikäinen nainen (‘Summer and the middle-aged woman’) Introduction by Margareta N. Deschner

Dear Colleague,

First of all, I want to thank you and your wife for the pleasant evening I and my wife had in your summer villa in August. Briitta (since we are old acquaintances: with two i’s and two t’s, remember?) especially wants me to mention that she will never forget the half moon climbing the hill behind your sauna, surprising us with its speed. The next time we looked it was half-way up the sky! Without doubt, your fine tequila had something to do with the matter, one shouldn’t forget that. Even so, it was quite a show, just like the time a bunch of us guys had gone skiing and you bragged that you had arranged for the barn to catch fire. I hope that you and your wife – I mean Alli – will be able to visit us next winter and taste a superb Mallorca red wine called Comas, which we brought home. It is by far the best red I have ever tasted and indecently cheap to boot. I hope you will come soon. The wine won’t keep indefinitely, as you well know. We’ll save it for you. So thanks again.


Home and solitude

Issue 3/1984 | Archives online, Authors

Eeva Kilpi

Eeva Kilpi. Photo: Veikko Somerpuro

By Eeva Kilpi’s own admission, the genre of the short story seems best suited for her themes. But she has also gained recognition as a novelist and poet, both inside and outside Finland. Among the many Finnish authors who have read and traveled widely, Kilpi assumes a somewhat unique position: the wider contemporary world with its interlocking problems can be sensed as the broader context of her writing; yet the foreground actions of her stories, with a few notable exceptions, take place in Finland, often in the backwoods of the Eastern border districts. Likewise, her main characters are unmistakably Finnish, from teenagers spouting Helsinki slang to old folks lapsing into a colorful Karelian dialect.

Eeva Kilpi was born in 1928 in Hiitola on the Karelian isthmus. Her latest novel, Elämän evakkona (‘Life’s refugees’, 1983) demonstrates again the author’s capacity for casting into the foreground gripping individual life stories while opening up in the background the epic journey of Finnish Karelians, uprooted in the last war from home and village and sent wandering around Finland in search of new livelihoods, homes and roots. Kilpi’s story is poignantly Finnish and reflects the journey she herself at the age of eleven started with her family from Hiitola. But it fits into the larger context of our own time, which produces growing numbers of evacuees and refugees with stories largely untold. More…

The stages of Aleksis Kivi

Issue 3/1984 | Archives online, Authors

The organic unity of written and performed drama is today considered an unarguable truth especially in acting circles. The work of Aleksis Kivi appears, on this view, anachronistic to say the least: he created the basis of Finnish drama at a time when the indigenous Swedish-language theatre was taking its first faltering steps and theatre in Finnish was not even dreamed of. And more: his most important works still inspire interpretation after interpretation, and audiences continue to flock to see his plays.

Kivi’s drama is no mere paper art, scribbled by an artist in a garret. Details from contemporary accounts reveal that Kivi was naturally drawn to acting, and presumably he had some gifts in that direction. Some of his friends thought him a good mimic. Kivi had marked out his first stage as a boy on the slopes of the Taabori mountain close to his home. His first play concerned the weekly trip to church; he sketched his own satirical version of the sermon and the reading of the banns. As a schoolboy and a student he invented and organised brigand plays in Helsinki and Nurmjärvi; scholars believe that his model was Schiller’s Die Räuber. In Siuntio he read Shakespeare aloud, in Swedish, to his saviour and patron Miss Charlotta Lönnqvist, and to her students of household economy – ‘although, of course, a lot had to be cut out.’ More…


Issue 3/1984 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

The poems of Aleksis Kivi were long considered no more than a peripheral aspect of his work. They were, as Kivi’s friend Kaarlo Bergbom wrote in a review, ‘gold that can’t be minted into coins’. The reason appears to have been Kivi’s poetic technique, which made a clear break with tradition. He did away almost completely with rhyme and instead emphasised the rhythm and musical sound qualities of words. He shortened words in a way that did not find favour with any subsequent Finnish poets. He avoided emotional expressions of patriotism and romantic love poetry; instead, he composed poems that were extended, narrative and fresco-like. Lauri Viljanen, whose 1953 study brought about a re-evaluation of Kivi’s poetry, has given them the apt soubriquet ‘epic idyll’.

The first of Kivi’s poems appeared in the Kirjallinen Kuukauslehti (‘Literary monthly magazine’) in 1866; a collection of his poetry entitled Kanervala was published the same year. Other poems appear in his novels and plays, and some have appeared in a collection after his death. Karhunpyynti (‘The bear hunt’) is from Kanervala. Its descriptive nature is typical of Kivi. The verse structure is tightly controlled but unrhyming. The winter landscape of the third verse, repeated at the end of the poem, is a ceremonious point of rest among the otherwise busy activity.

– Kai Laitinen


The Bear Hunt

The men on skis set out for the forest, a brave company
With guns and bright spears
And clamouring dogs on the leash,
With blazing eyes,
As the dawn chases gloomy Night
From the sky’s brow,
And the sun raises his head. More…

The man and his work

Issue 3/1984 | Archives online, Authors

Aleksis Kivi

Aleksis Kivi. Drawn in 1873 almost certainly by Albert Edelfelt (1854–1905).

Aleksis Kivi’s Seitsemän veljestä (Seven Brothers, English translation 1929), is the best known and the most beloved in Finland. Its sentences have become part and parcel of the common tongue. Its events are often cited as historical happenings, its characters and their vicissitudes are now permanent national property just as the characters of Shakespeare are for the English, those of Molière for the French, or those of Cervantes for the Spaniards.

Aleksis Kivi’s life (1834–1872) is filled with paradoxes and unanswered questions. How could a village tailor’s son who has acquired only a little learning at home and who managed to graduate from secondary school, after many efforts, only at the age of 23, became an author of the first rank? How could a man who travelled within a radius of only a few dozen miles during his life know the Finnish landscape and the Finnish mind so thoroughly that his novel even today, mutatis mutandis, conveys a true picture of an entire nation? How could he free himself from the spirit and the idealised conception of the art of his own day so completely as to be able to write books sharply at variance with the other literary works of the same era, in which he followed his own path and found fully independent artistic solutions? And how could a book which is, practically speaking, the first Finnish-language novel and which thus springs up as a unique phenomenon from an inadequately cultivated linguistic soil, reach such heights as to become the supreme achievement of all Finnish literature? The enigmatic quality of Kivi’s character is further enhanced by the fact that there exists only one authentic portrait of him, drawn when he already lay dead; that the original manuscript of Seitsemän veljestä is not extant; and that of his letters, only about seventy have been preserved, some only brief notes and most of them dealing with financial arrangements. More…