Archive for December, 1988

The attentive lover

Issue 4/1988 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

In this short story, from his collection Pronssikausi (‘The bronze age’, 1988, on the Finlandia Prize shortlist in 1989), Martti Joenpolvi takes up the subject of the problematic transportation of a human cargo

He braked abruptly; the woman lurched forward, straining against the seat belt, and the car drove into the parking space. The only vehicle parked there was a solitary trailer loaded with timber: a resinous pulpwood-odour came wafting through their open window, so physical, it was as if someone were snooping into the car’s most intimate interior. When they stopped, they got the whiff of a yellow refuse bin, incubated in the heat of the day.

‘What’s up?’

‘We’ve got a problem.’ More…

The funeral

Issue 4/1988 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Hannu Salama’s short story Hautajaiset (‘The funeral’) – taking place in Pispala, Tampere – in the volume Kesäleski, ‘Summer widow’, was published in 1969. Introduction by Pekka Tarkka

On Tuesday Venla came round: as Sulo was being lowered into the grave Vihtori had had a heart attack. The next day a letter arrived from father: funeral on Sunday, and Gunilla and Timo want you to speak at the grave. I telegraphed back: ‘Vikki too close to me. Unable to speak.’ Outside the post office I realised I could have sent fifty words for the same money.

Irma ordered a flower arrangement. Did I want to put an inscription? Part of the last stanza of a revolutionary song went through my head:

Sowing makes the corn come into ear:
Hundredfold higher that happier age will be.

I said not to put anything, I’d say something at the grave if it seemed the thing to do. I told her to put mother’s, father’s and Heikki’s names on, and we’d take these off if they’d sent their own wreath. More…

Writers from Pispala, the Red citadel: Lauri Viita and Hannu Salama

Issue 4/1988 | Archives online, Authors

Pispala is a Tampere suburb of some 7,000 inhabitants which has produced two top-class writers, Lauri Viita and Hannu Salama, as well as many others. In Finland it has the same kind of legendary status as London’s Bloomsbury, but how different it is from Bloomsbury!

No university, no museums, no old patrician mansions. Its little wooden houses are built higgledy-piggledy on a high moraine ridge from which a magnificent view opens out over two lakes and the river valley between them, where the chimneys of Tampere’s machine works, textile factories and paper mills rise. Pispala’s inhabitants have traditionally been factory workers whose contact with acting and literature has come through working men’s associations, sports clubs and local settlement houses. How is it that such surroundings gave rise to the birth of real literature? More…

That remarkable man

Issue 4/1988 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems by Lauri Viita. Introduction by Kai Laitinen


Mothers alone, endowed
with hope, see God.
They’re given strength and given will,
to climb in dream from under the cloud,
and look from a higher hill.

Alfhild, she who gave me birth,
nightly sailed away from earth
to where her Eemeli growled his say,
coming and going, as he did in his day.
Now they walk
the bright star track,
father and mother, looking back
at the little hill and the family home,
the cats, the dogs, the people they’ve known,
waving and calling as best they can
lest any of us trip on Pispala’s stone.
On a distant planet on a garden swing
under a rowan they linger and cling
and silently remember their light and dark
as a courting couple in Tampere Park –
and if it was payday, the extra fun
of tucking away a coffee and bun. More…

Builder of words

Issue 4/1988 | Archives online, Authors

The poet Lauri Viita (1916–1965) was a master of rhyme and rhythm, a linguistic sorcerer who, for that reason, has been little translated into other languages. He also gave his home of Pispala, a suburb of Tampere, a lasting place in Finnish literature with his novel Moreeni (‘Moraine’)

In the course of a couple of years after the Second World War Finnish poetry altered unrecognisably. The old post-symbolic poetry with its artful end rhymes suddenly seemed old-fashioned and its diction hackneyed. The new poets, Paavo Haavikko foremost among them, wrote a great variety of texts, abandoning fixed rhythms and end rhymes. The circle of adherents to the ‘old’ poetry seemed to be restricted to poets who had begun their careers before the war; almost all the younger writers followed the new direction.

There was, nevertheless, one exception: Lauri Viita (1916–1965). Making his first appearance in Finnish poetry in 1947 with a volume entitled Betonimylläri (‘Concrete mixer’), he was able to breathe new life into many of the stylistic forms of traditional poetry: he used end rhymes in a way that had never been seen before and brought into his poems words that had previously been avoided; he demonstrated himself to be a master of rhythm, with a totally individual ability to paint with vowels and hammer home combinations of consonants to their greatest effect; he brought to poetry new attitudes and subjects, above all the fresh, unself-conscious rhythms of speech. More…