Archive for December, 1987

Higher goals

Issue 4/1987 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

An extract from the novel Tammerkosken sillalla (‘On Tammerkoski bridge’, 1982). Introduction by Panu Rajala

I had thought there were a lot of books in the libraries in Oulu. But both those libraries were totally overshadowed when, having climbed up to the top of the Messukylä Workers’ House, I began to cast my eyes along the bookshelves in the attic. A tallish and refined-looking librarian responded when I exclaimed aloud.

‘Just under seven thousand volumes altogether. Some of them are out on loan. We’d like to have a lot more books, but getting the money to buy them is like getting water from a stone.’

‘But you’ve already got an incredible amount compared to what we have in the rural library at home… In Taivalkoski during the war all we had was two cupboardsful.’

‘You didn’t have a lot of choice there,’ agreed the librarian. More…

Kalle Päätalo – work hero of Finnish literature

Issue 4/1987 | Archives online, Authors

Finland’s most profilic and successful author is a former forestry worker and builder, Kalle Päätalo. Since 1962 he has produced, on average, a 600-page novel every year. Published in an initial edition of 100,000 – which always sells out immediately – Päätalo’s works are constantly on loan from the country’s libraries, and there are lengthy waiting lists for his newest books. At a cautious estimate, around a million Finns read a Kalle Päätalo book every year. There are five million Finns. In relation to the population, the scale of Kalle Päätalo’s readership is, in world terms, a rarity; perhaps unique. More…

In my memory

Issue 4/1987 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems and aphorisms from four collections. Introduction by Erkka Lehtola

Let the healing epidemics out! There must be some.

The many-headed monster, the market ideology, it can simultaneously read, count and even write at least 666 works. And without the sign of the beast no one can buy or sell.

Those who can read know you only realise you’ve forgotten how
when you can do it again.

What a handsome winter we have here! If it weren’t so dark, we’d see it. We could orientate ourselves on the stars with the beam from a pocket torch. Somewhere in mid-sky, I’d say, they come flying along on long lights.

As a child I said I’ll do what I want. Now I want what I do.

Who’s in the middle when the two sides of your face are side by side, as they are, in the mirror.

The trees that hide the sun are bright inside.

A frosty night when you feel the stars on your skin and discuss what you’re wearing.

Somebody’s walking over there, with an umbrella over his head, taking the rain for a walk.

I’m so delighted to find so much that’s useless.

What a relief there’s no longer enough time to get acquainted.

From Tuoreessa muistissa kevät (‘Springtime fresh in the memory’), 1987 More…


Issue 4/1987 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Maskuja (‘Mickeys’, WSOY, 1987). Introduction by Erkka Lehtola

When I was on a trip with my friend and there was a wide enough bed in the southern night for the two of us to sleep easily side by side, it was a big shock when, even so, I sprang up suddenly at midnight, and my friend did too, and there was a thud as our heads banged together and we saw stars, and in the morning no one could understand why we were so stupefied.

Micky ran to the barber’s. ‘Are you free? Could you do something with my hair?’ He took his cap off. ‘Look, all the hairs are loose at the other end.’

Once, out of sheer absent-mindedness, he was officiously helping someone onto a tram from behind; he grabbed their bottom, got a furious look, and spluttered,’ Sorry, but I thought it was your bag.’ More…

Keeping silence

Issue 4/1987 | Archives online, Authors

The October sunlight filters through the dense pine forest. Nature is completely silent, waiting for winter.

Through the open window over the forest and the lake floats the sound of an old grand piano, made in St Petersburg in the days of the Tsars, a tiny, exquisite fragment of Tchaikovsky.

Mirkka Rekola is playing the piano. For her aphorism has become reality. In her book Silmänkantama (‘As far as the eye can see’), she wrote: ‘Trees like delirium, myself in twilight mood, I open the door, the forest is inside the house.’ In these days of voracious publicity, Mirkka Rekola is an unusual and estimable figure in the Finnish media circus: she does not give interviews, does not open her home to the media, does not appear on chat shows or take part in other public entertainments. She avoids being photographed, shunning the camera as she shuns all other journalistic intrusions. More…

The tower

Issue 4/1987 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from the collection Torni (‘The tower’, 1987). Introduction by Erkka Lehtola

The dog came through the door first, a big, long-haired brute. He hadn’t said anything about it on the phone, but from the look on his face you could tell it was his and that he meant to take it with him into the forest.

He shuffled across the yard with his rubber boots on and a rucksack on his back. In one hand he held a camera tripod.

I rolled down the window.

‘Wait a minute,’ he said.

He walked behind the cars standing in the parking lot, over to his own car and opened the trunk. The dog twisted around his legs whining softly. He took something out and slammed the trunk shut. More…

Short and sharp

Issue 4/1987 | Archives online, Authors

Juha Seppälä. Photo: WSOY

Juha Seppälä. Photo: WSOY

The latest development in Finnish literature has taken a couple of decades to emerge. Instead of the long, epic prose that was so popular for so long, we now have short fiction that often takes the form of the short story. Descriptions of country surroundings and vanished ways of life have been supplanted by prose that pulsates to the rhythm of the city.

At the same time the image of the writer has changed. Today’s young Finnish author is not an amateur or someone who is forced to make his living by other means; he is often a highly educated professional writer with a grasp of many new and diverse fields of knowledge.

Juha Seppälä (born 1956) is a good example of this changed author type. He is a graduate of Turku University in Finnish literature and cultural history. He has never worked in, for example, a school or, indeed, had any other steady job. His job is writing, and he works to a strict regime, for there is much to be done: Seppälä has written many radio plays, television scripts and two collections of short stories which have had a very positive critical reception. He also writes literary criticism for a number of newspapers, including a weekly column for Aamulehti, one of Finland’s biggest daily papers. More…