Archive for June, 1988

The Blinking Doll

Issue 2/1988 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Metsästys joulun alla (‘The hunt before Christmas’, 1982). Introduction by Erkka Lehtola

There was a strong bond between Juutinen and Multikka: both their lives, from their beginnings, had been fragmented and scattered, lacking any solid, reliable points of support. Even their marriages had come and gone; they had left no residue worth remembering. As in the old parable, their lives resembled the trail a skier leaves in fresh snow in a blizzard: behind him, it disappears in a few moments without a trace, and ahead and on either side there is only pristine density and no one or nothing one might follow. More…

Where have I gone?

Issue 2/1988 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Näköisveistos ruumiskirstusta (‘An effigy of a coffin’, 1987). Introduction by Erkka Lehtola

The maple is being stripped for nesting materials
by big crow and his lady.
Their endeavours are more pleasing
than the imminent drinking party, in a finished house
in celebration of early spring. Dreary, to know
in advance that one is insulting one’s guests
– and not even in a constructive manner. More…

The comi-tragedist

Issue 2/1988 | Archives online, Authors

Early March, Rome. Mimosas and cherries are in bloom. Few tourists are about as yet. On a street corner close to the Spanish Steps I bump into Juhani Peltonen. He and his family have been to see Pompeii the day before. We agree to meet again back in Finland.

The journey into the world of Juhani Peltonen passes through clean, white snow. Two big dogs are barking in the garden of the yellow house. They are familiar from Peltonen’s books. The dogs are as friendly as their master.

In the house there are many rooms, many beautiful things, many paintings, framed book jackets and theatre programmes, books, books, books, an old-fashioned typewriter that is still in use, an aged grand piano, flowers. The stuffed birds on top of the book case are so life­like that they look as if they have just alighted for a second to listen to our conversation before flying off again.

This is not just a house. It is also a fantasy world. In these spacious rooms it is easy to believe that Juhani Peltonen began his career as a romantic with leanings towards surrealism. More…

Life and sun: the writer and his time

Issue 2/1988 | Archives online, Authors

Frans Emil Sillanpää (1888–1964), one of Finland’s most read authors, was born in the parish of Hämeenkyrö, amid the farmlands of Western Finland. In forty years he published twenty works: novels and short stories. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1939; his works have been translated into more than two dozen languages. His centenary year produced exhibitions, lectures, publications, readings, radio and stage plays, radio and television programmes.

Sillanpää, biologist, realist and mystic: literary scholars in Finland have always disputed about his qualities as an author. Depth psychology, D.H. Lawrence, nature lyricism, Henri Bergson, deep-rooted peasant philosophy, intertextuality, life worship – all can be found in Sillanpää’s work. Modern or old­ fashioned, a regional writer, or an internationally renowned Nobel Prize author?

From time to time the world press prints survey assessments, rather like score cards, of the Nobel literature prizes. They are usually intended to rap the knuckles of the Swedish Academy, but at the same time they attach a value on the international literary market to the recipients of the awards.

Finland’s only Nobel laureate, F.E. Sillanpää, who received his prize in 1939, seems at present to rate low internationally. Writers awarded the prize at around the same time seem, it is true, to have suffered a similar fate: his predecessor Pearl S. Buck, and his post-war successors Johannes V. Jensen and Gabriela Mistral, although the latter do have their own purely local importance. There are some literary histories that allow Sillanpää just a couple of lines along with other regionalists and describers of peasant life, such as the Pole Władysław Reymont, Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz of Switzerland, and Jean Giono of France. More…

The Nobel pursuit

Issue 2/1988 | Archives online, Authors

The award of the Nobel Prize for literature is always a combination of political expediency and literary judgement. The events leading up to the award of the prize to F.E. Sillanpää (1888–1964) tell us a great deal about successful strategies in the game called ‘How to win your Nobel Prize’.

At the beginning of the Thirties Sillanpää had the approval of Sweden’s literary public behind him, since translations of his early works – a large number of the important short stories he wrote during the 1920s as well as his novel Hurskas kurjuus (1919; English translation Meek Heritage, 1938) – had been very well received in Sweden. Sillanpää had many friends among Finland’s western neighbours and his robust and impressive figure was well known in the literary salons of Stockholm. More…

The lake

Issue 2/1988 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Järvi (‘The lake’), a short story, 1915. Introductions by Kai Laitinen and Pekka Tarkka

I travel the world, not out of any desire for adventure, but because that is the way things have happened. The best of my wanderings are in obscure, tucked-away regions, where life is humdrum and pitched in a low key. There I have no need to stave off nostalgia for the past by leading a hectic life: my days go by in stolid succession from season to season, I am an ordinary unimportant individual among all the rest. For long stretches of time my life does not strike me as being either dull or bright; I derive a certain satisfaction from its very emptiness. It is as though I were, by degrees and to the best of my ability, paying off a kind of debt. More…

Caravans of winds

Issue 2/1988 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from three collections. Introduction by Kaija Valkonen

The river of death froze

It froze, the river of death,
	froze too the boat of death in the nights of the Winter War, 
			in the Winter War's nights.
The men shed blood,
				shed blood ,
		and it froze, the river of death.
In the nights of the Winter War, it froze, the river of death.

Day of mourning

For one day I’ve the right to mourn,
for one day I’ll shut the windows of the sky,
I’ll dismiss the blue,
I’ll raise a black sun to mark my mourning.
For one day I’ll wilt the flowers,
for one day I’ll silence the birds. More…

A respectable tragedy

Issue 2/1988 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

An extract from the novel Säädyllinen murhenäytelmä (‘A respectable tragedy’, 1941). Introduction by Kaija Valkonen. The central theme of the novel is love: young, old, passionate, innocent, proper, improper. The main characters are a middle-aged couple, the doctor and his wife Elisabet, his sister Naimi and the love of her youth, Artur. Hämäläinen’s fine irony, careful and thoughtful psychology and colourful language have made the novel a bestseller. Naimi, an aesthete and an uncompromising character, has left her husband Artur twenty years ago because of his infidelity. But slowly she begins to forgive: this tragic but compassionately told love story, not without tragicomedy and humour, ends in reconciliation

Embalmed passion

In that new Helsinki of the ‘thirties, which had opened like a garden flower, gaily coloured, sunlit, practical and impractical, in love with every novelty of the moment, which it thought astonishing, lived Naimi Saarinen, back from her exile, where she had been driven by wounded passion twenty years before. More…

Poet of the senses

Issue 2/1988 | Archives online, Authors

The midwinter Finlandia contest is followed in Finland with almost as much excitement as the Booker Prize in Britain. The fourth Finlandia Prize – 100,000 Finnmarks – was awarded in January to the poet and prose-writer Helvi Hämäläinen, 80, for her collection of poetry Sukupolveni unta (‘Dreams of my generation’, WSOY).

Hämäläinen was tipped as favourite among the ten contenders. All the same, the award was a pleasant surprise, for the author had not published a word for twenty years. To the new generation it was as if she were making her debut.

Hämäläinen’s comeback, in other words, was brilliant. More…