Archive for December, 1985

Emotional transgressions

Issue 4/1985 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Three extracts from the novel Harjunpää ja rakkauden lait (‘Harjunpaa and the laws of love’). Introduction by Risto Hannula

It was a few minutes to two, and Harjunpää was still awake, lying so close to Elisa that he could feel her warmth. He kept his eyes open, staring into the night through the crack between curtains. Once again the boiler of the central heating plant started up, and the smoke began to rise like a stiff column in the cold. Another fifteen minutes had passed, and morning was a quarter of an hour closer. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to concentrate on Elisa’s breathing and the sleepy snuffling of the girls, but his thoughts still wouldn’t leave him in peace. Inexplicably, he felt there was something wrong, that the darkness exuded some kind of threat, that he’d left something undone or had made some kind of mistake.

He swung his feet onto the floor and got up as quietly as he could. But all his care was wasted, he should have known that.

‘What’s the matter?’ Elisa asked sleepily.

‘I just can’t get to sleep.’

‘Again … ‘

‘I can’t help it. I wonder if there’s a bottle of brew left.’

‘Sure. But listen …’

Pipsa turned over in her crib, rattling the sides, groped around a bit and began to suck her pacifier so you could hear the quiet sucking noises.


‘Maybe you could see a doctor. You could ask for some mild … ‘ More…

A policeman’s crimes

Issue 4/1985 | Archives online, Authors

Matti Yrjänä Joensuu. Photo: Jouni Harala

Matti Yrjänä Joensuu. Photo: Jouni Harala 2010

The Finnish section of the major Nordic Crime Novel Competition in 1976 was won by a newcomer, Matti Yrjänä Joensuu, with his Väkivallan virkamies (‘Civil servant in violence’). A realistic crime and police novel in the style of the Swedish writers Sjöwall and Wahlöö, the book represented something completely new in Finland. In the previous competition, held in 1939 as Europe hovered on the brink of war, the winner of the Finnish section was Mika Waltari’s Kuka murhasi Rouva Skrofin (‘Who killed Mrs Skrof?’); the novel is now regarded as one of the classics of Nordic detective fiction. But Waltari was, of course, a literary polymath; his Sinuhe, egyptiläinen (1945; English translation The Egyptian) is among the internationally best-known Finnish novels.

The detective novel and thriller tradition in Finland is both short and slight, and apart from Waltari’s book and its two sequels, many of its representatives – even those that have been most widely acclaimed and read at the time – are of little worth by any objective standards. Joensuu, therefore, has no living tradition to follow, and in interviews he has said that at the start of his career he was not familiar with the two Swedish writers to whom his work is most readily likened, Sjöwall and Wahlöö. This is not difficult to believe; in terms of both politics and social criticism Joensuu’s first novel, in particular, is much tamer than the Swedish writers’ – what all three writers have in common is the gravity with which they approach crime and the individuals who engage in it, and their realistic description of the work of the police. More…


Issue 4/1985 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Introduction by George C. Schoolfield

Birds of passage

Ye fleet little guests of a foreign domain,
When seek ye the land of your fathers again?
When hid in your valley
The windflowers waken,
And water flows freely
The alders to quicken,
Then soaring and tossing
They wing their way through;
None shows them the crossing
Through measureless blue,
Yet find it they do.

Unerring they find it: the Northland renewed,
Where springtime awaits them with shelter and food,
Where freshet-melt quenches
The thirst of their flying,
And pines’ rocking branches
Of pleasures are sighing,
Where dreaming is fitting
While night is like day,
And love means forgetting
At song and at play
That long was the way. More…

Poetry and Patriotism

Issue 4/1985 | Archives online, Authors, Essays

J.L. Runeberg. Painting by Albert Edelfelt. 1893.

J.L. Runeberg. Painting by Albert Edelfelt. 1893.

Much revered, but little read today, Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-1877) is famed for his patriotism and glorification of war in a just cause. Yet Finland’s national poet did not write in Finnish, and never heard a shot fired in anger. It is, perhaps, time for a reappraisal.

What did he himself think about becoming a national poet?
Enjoyed it, probably? Who wouldn’t!
Did he write what he wanted and let
the people find their own interpretation?
Or did he write what he believed
the people expected
of a national poet?

Lars Huldén, 1978


It would not be inappropriate to begin a collection of thoughts about Finland’s ‘national poet,’ Johan Ludvig Runeberg, with a biblical text, Second Samuel, 1:25: ‘How are the mighty fallen!’ Runeberg does not own the position he once did, either in the world at large or in Scandinavia; even in his home land his exceptional grandeur has been reduced or, horribile dictu, smiled at. More…