Archive for September, 1986

Jacob’s Dream

Issue 3/1986 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

An extract from Hänen olivat linnut (‘Hers were the birds’, 1967). Introduction by Pirkko Alhoniemi

‘It was Jacob’s Dream, Alma.’

How could she put it so Alma wouldn’t get hurt. Alma had ruined the surface of the painting. The pastor’s widow stood nervously in front of the window and tried to say what she’d had on her mind for several days but couldn’t quite come out with. When Alma went out of the house, the pastor’s widow would wander through the rooms and check on things. And the painting wasn’t the only object in danger, but also the birds. Their feathers were ruffled because Alma kept wiping them with a wet rag. How could she put it.


Alma turned to look at her.

‘It’s called Jacob’s Dream.’ More…

The Vatican

Issue 3/1986 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Maan ja veden välillä (‘Between land and water’, 1955). Introduction by Pirkko Alhoniemi

At the top of the hill there was a cow barn with all kinds of trash scattered along its walls: rusty pails, pottery shards, old shoes, all the stuff country people toss onto rubbish heaps. The clucking of chickens and bleating of sheep filled the air. As I was running across the barnyard I had an idea that a chicken had probably just laid an egg on the grass or was looking for some place to lay an egg, because it was letting out such sharp scolding cries.

Many of us were running across the yard and in back of the cow barn. If I hadn’t been on my way to the Vatican I would have stayed to pat a calf that was rubbing its side against a wall of the cow barn in the glow of the rising sun. But I was in a hurry. I didn’t dare let the women out of my sight because I couldn’t find the way by myself, I couldn’t even remember exactly where I had joined the crowd. I had just seen them running by and while I hadn’t intended to start off for the Vatican just that day, I went along with them anyway. More…

Three prose poems

Issue 3/1986 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry, Prose

Prose poems from Runot ja proosarunot (‘Poems and prose poems’,1966) and Maan ja veden välillä (‘Between land and water’, 1955 ). Introduction by Pirkko Alhoniemi


I went underground, I was looking for my brother’s grave, and I saw him lying under a transparent slab of marble. His face was like gold, death had passed from it, and I knew I no longer mourned him. I came above ground. At the edge of the graveyard there was a round tower made of stone and I was high up in the top of the tower. There stood my brother in dark trousers, white shirt, looking exactly the same, in the same position as in the dim photograph someone, I don’t remember who, took of him when he was about to go fishing, hands in his pockets, head held high, he was looking up at something, not at me. And I asked him: ‘Did it hurt when the bullet went through your head, when the exploding bullet went through your head in the battle of Karhumäki, and you were still alive at the first aid station and you said something they told us about in a letter.’ He answered, ‘Yes, it did hurt.’ ‘What’s your life like now, tell me.’ I said. He raised a hand and pointed to the sky. The sky was blue, and white clouds were scudding across it. More…

Concrete dreams

Issue 3/1986 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Marja-Liisa Vartio

Marja-Liisa Vartio. Photo: SKS archives

Pirkko Alhoniemi on Marja-Liisa Vartio’s works

Although it is now 20 years since the death of Marja-Liisa Vartio (1924-1966), her writing remains as vivid as ever. Her books are regarded as classics of modern Finnish prose, and they constantly attract new readers, as the demands for reprints testify. Vartio’s style has not lost its freshness, nor her social vision its edge, even in the teeth of the aggressive feminism of the 1980s.

It is a little difficult to gauge the secret of her continued popularity. Although the main character of her novels is always a woman, Vartio cannot really be seen as a champion of the feminine point of view. Most essential and at the same time paradoxical in her work is perhaps the fact that, from a purely Finnish starting point, she is able to give valuable insights into the general change in world view that followed the Second World War. More…

Power or weakness?

Issue 3/1986 | Archives online, Drama, Fiction

An extract from the play Hypnoosi (‘Hypnosis’, 1986). Introduction by Soila Lehtonen

As you all know, this company has been my life’s work and it stands for everything I’ve had to renounce. You know that for years I have not received a penny for my personal expenses, that I am on the firm’s lowest wage level, zero.

I haven’t even had a free cup of coffee; if, because I have been working hard or I wanted to improve my concentration, I have felt like a cup of coffee, I have always gone to the canteen during my coffee break and challenged one of the boys to a bout of arm wrestling under the agreement that the loser buys the coffees, and the bloke has paid. The money never came out of the firm’s running expenses, investments, trusts or funds. More…

Jouko Turkka’s factory of ideas

Issue 3/1986 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Jouko Turkka (born 1942) is a man of theatre by profession, not a writer. But according to him, all theatre people want to write: dramatic art is very transient, somehow one would like to immortalise one’s thoughts. ‘I want to destroy this virus’, he says in his book Aiheita (‘Themes’, 1983). ‘I don’t want future generations to waste their lives on this. – I have set down these “themes” of mine, in as simple a form as possible, just to show that I too have had a go at it. – Now I have got them off my chest, I need never write anything again.’

The following year Turkka published a novel, Kantelu oikeuskanslerille (‘A case for the Chancellor of Justice’), this year his play Hypnoosi (‘Hypnosis’) was performed at the Helsinki City Theatre; and this year, too, his play Lihaa ja rakkautta (‘Meat and love’) was performed in Gothenburg, Sweden. Turkka – theatre director, producer, former rector of the Theatre Academy (1983-85), where he is currently professor of theatre directing – evidently could not shake off the writing bug as easily as he had thought. More…

The life of a lonely friend

Issue 3/1986 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Bo Carpelan. Photo: Charlotta Boucht

Bo Carpelan. Photo: Charlotta Boucht

Extracts from Bo Carpelan‘s novel Axel, ‘a fictional memoir’ (1986). In his preface to the novel Bo explains how he ‘found’ Axel.


In the 1930s I came across the name of Axel Carpelan (1858-1919), my paternal grandfather’s brother, in Karl Ekman’s Jean Sibelius and His Work (1935). In the bibliography, the author briefly mentions quotes from letters in the book addressed to Axel Carpelan, ‘who belonged to the Master’s most intimate circle of friends, and in musical matters was his constant confidant. Sibelius commemorated their friendship by dedicating his second symphony to him’. I had never heard Axel’s name mentioned in my own family.

Many years after Karl Ekman, the original incentive for the novel about Axel arose through Erik Tawaststjerna’s biography of Sibelius, in which Axel is portrayed in the second volume (1967) of the Finnish edition, and whose life came to an end in Part IV (1978). From early 1970s onwards, I started notes for Axel’s fictional diary from to 1919. It is not known whether Axel himself ever kept a diary. I relied as muchas possible on all the available facts. These increased when I was given access to letters exchanged between Axel and Janne from the year 1900 onwards. It became the story of the hidden strength a very lonely and sick man, and of a friendship in which the give and take both sides was far greater than Axel himself could ever have imagined.

Hagalund, June 1st, 1985

Bo Carpelan


1878, Axel’s diary

On my twentieth birthday, I remember the young Wolfgang; ‘Little Wolfgang has no time to write because he has nothing to do. He wanders up and down the room like a dog troubled by flies’. However, that dog achieved a paradise. I have learnt yet one more piece of wisdom: ‘It is my habit to treat people as I find them; that is the most rewarding in the long run’. More…