Archive for December, 1991

Dark gods: on the prose and poetry of Mirjam Tuominen

Issue 4/1991 | Archives online, Authors

‘With her collection of short stories, Mirjam Tuominen, hitherto an unknown name, has won a place among the very elite of our literature; it is a long time since we have witnessed such an important debut. What is so strange is that the author who is now making her appearance is a truly original talent. She is an artist in soul and spirit, and not merely a more or less gifted writer… There is no doubt that she touches the nerve of our time very intimately, and that her short stories are not products of literature, but really do contain within their form the living word.’

With this enthusiastic review, in 1938, the leading Finland-Swedish critic Hagar Olsson, who had also been the friend and active supporter of Edith Södergran, introduced the young Mirjam Tuominen’s first collection of short stories, Tidig tvekan (‘Early hesitation’). More…

End of the carnival

Issue 4/1991 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extract from the novel Ottopoika (‘Otto the adopted’: Otava, 1991). Introduction by Pekka Tarkka

Verily, verily, keep peace with your God!

The way people are arranged in the courtroom means that Joseph Vissarionovich finds himself in the dock. All right, never mind, if they want to play games with Stalin: they’ll soon find out who comes off second best, very much second best.

The former politburo, led by Trotsky, has occupied the right wing of the front bench. Tanya, the girl from Petersburg, is sitting by Rykov, with her artificial leg under her arm, stuffing her pigtail in her mouth; she giggles and tries to stuff the other pigtail into Rykov’s mouth. Not succeeding, she spits in his face and pulls her skirt over her ears, revealing a small reddish quim. The 1925 politburo appears unmoved, but Trotsky jerks round enough for Stalin to see the axe sticking out of the back of his neck. Meanwhile, a susurrus of tut-tuttings goes round the courtroom. More…

Delirium into art

Issue 4/1991 | Archives online, Authors

Sometimes with fury, sometimes with delight, the Finnish reading public has followed Hannu Salama’s career with unflagging interest for almost 30 years. For the past ten years, the author has let it be known that he has been working on a novel about the Finnish traitor Otto Wille Kuusinen, a henchman of Stalin entrusted with high office in the Kremlin, who managed to survive the worst years of his mentor’s terror.

Ottopoika (‘Otto the adopted’, 1991) is a disappointment in that it is not, in fact, a political novel about the chameleon-like Kuusinen, but rather a story about a Finnish writer, Risto Mikkola, Hannu Salama’s alter ego, whose intention it is to write a book about Kuusinen. Neither is this Mikkola a Kremlinologist of any description, but, patently, a prisoner of his upbringing: he spent his childhood among the proletariat of Tampere, an industrial city in central Finland sometimes known as the Manchester of Finland, whose suburb, Pispala, was a hotbed of Finnish communism. More…

Thunder in the east

Issue 4/1991 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extract from the novel Colorado Avenue (Söderström & Co, 1991). Introduction by Pia Ingström

Come. We are going to look at schoolmaster Johansson’s photographs.

It is true that Johansson himself died of TB back in 1922, and the collection of glass negatives he left behind – several dozen boxfuls – was destroyed in a peculiar manner. This, however, constitutes no hindrance to us. Where reality falls short, fantasy must intervene. By expanding realistic style beyond the scope of the possible we create a new reality.

To seek to grasp at Time and hold her fast is a dangerous and hopeless undertaking; Time wreaks a terrible revenge on those who seek to rise up against it. Thus, too, was schoolmaster Johansson’s dream of eternity with the help of silver nitrate and glass frustrated. In the spring of 1926 schoolmaster Johansson’s household effects were finally sold by auction. A certain Eskil Holm from Blaxnäs snapped up the glass negatives for a small sum. More…

Between cultures

Issue 4/1991 | Archives online, Authors

The task of a story is to find words to express that which is too extraordinary to be told. ‘Stones should interpret silence and make it understandable.’

Colorado Avenue, Lars Sund’s third novel, is undoubtedly his most spectacular and dramatic so far. A substantial and weighty epic (a rare genre in Finland-Swedish literature), the book is at the same time formally inventive and playful. A particularly dramatic, action-packed episode may be written in the form of a script for a silent film, while a broader portrait of the times is sketched in a chapter which invites the reader to examine a set of old glass negatives, found among the effects of a parish primary schoolteacher, which an enthusiastic indoor gardener has later incorporated into a greenhouse to protect his tomato seedlings. More…