Archive for June, 1990

Across Europe

Issue 2/1990 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Mika Waltari (1908–1979) was a prolific writer, journalist and translator. In addition to historical novels, he wrote short stories, travel books, thrillers, plays, books for children, film scripts and poetry. The newly independent Finland of the 1920s, as it emerged from a traumatic period of civil war, declared that its windows were open to Europe, and Waltari’s first novel Suuri illusioni (‘The great illusion’), written in Paris when he was only 19, represents urban romanticism and the world of European capitals.The optimism and enthusiasm for modern life of the 1920s are strongly present in Waltari’s travelogue, Yksinäisen miehen juna, (‘Lonely man’s train’; 1929), an account, both ironic and engagingly naïve, of a great adventure in Europe after the post-1918 redrawing of the continent’s map. The book’s motto is a phrase from Paul Morand, a writer Waltari admired: ‘How is it possible to remain stationary when time slips like ice through our hot hands.’ This work of Waltari’s youth has never before been translated. The author travels by ship and train as far as Turkey; in the following extract, he has reached Hungary

Yksinäisen miehen juna (‘Lonely Man’s train’)

How adorable express trains are – the mighty engines, the rhythm of the rails, the sway of the carriages, the flashing-by of the milestones, the gravel embankments contracting into speeding lines. A train is the only place you can be completely at ease, free from heartache, free from longing, free from tormenting thoughts. Whenever I die, I hope it will be on a train flashing towards some unknown town at eighty miles an hour, with mountains looming on the horizon, and the points lighting up in the descending dusk…. More…

Ordinary people

Issue 2/1990 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Vaikka aamuun on vielä aikaa (‘Though it’s still a long time till morning’, 1989) Introduction by Risto Rasa

This time
 this time of consensus
 that teaches
           the poor to love the prosperous,
           the bossed to love the bossers
           the kicked to love the kickers
           and all of us to love humility
 obedience and biddability
 before the hingdom, the power and the glory:
 this time
 cries out for a tearer-up,
 calls for a muster
 of thousands and thousands
 of serious and honest busters.  More...

A birthday visit

Issue 2/1990 | Archives online, Authors

Last June the master Nieminen – poet, translator, sinologist – was sixty. So we – a group of his friends, publishers and colleagues – set off on a visit to Myllykylä to congratulate him. This is the village where, with his wife, Nelli, he has been teaching primary school since the early 1950s – right up to his retirement, at the end of the 1989 summer term.

At the approach to the school, the road petered out into a single gravel track, and someone announced his astonishment that roads like this were still around in Finland. It brought to mind a poem of the master’s: More…