Archive for June, 1993

Full circle

Issue 2/1993 | Archives online, Authors

The characteristic genres of Daniel Katz (born 1938) are the picaresque novel, the tall story, and the burlesque. He is unusual in Finnish literature in being a humorist and a cosmopolitan. Ever since his first novel Kun isoisä Suomeen hiihti (‘When Grandfather skied to Finland’, 1969) he has drawn on his Jewish family’s rich supply of stories from eastern and central Europe. Katz transforms a dark and tragic background of cruelty, pogroms and alienation into piquant, warm-hearted narratives about survival.

Daniel Katz is one of the few male Finnish authors who does not write from a wounded, introverted ego. He is cheerful, open, alert and full of healthy scepticism towards both Jewishness and Finnishness. One of his tours de force is to portray the encounter between Nordic introversion and central European extroversion. This was one of the triumphantly successful achievements of his first novel, the story of his grandfather, a cavalry officer in the tsar’s army who came to Finland in order to get married.

Katz has novels and collections of short stories. He has settled in Finland-Swedish Liljendal in eastern Nyland (Uusimaa), and at the same time broadened the thematic scope of his writing to include the Middle East, both in his prose and as scriptwriter for a film about the Finnish orientalist Georg August Wallin. It has been said of Daniel Katz’s writing that his exuberant imagination is both a strength and a weakness. The episodes and the ideas sometimes have a way of devouring one another. But Katz can also produce taut and profound psychological compositions, particularly in his short stories. More…

On the bridge

Issue 2/1993 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

From Saksalainen sikakoira (‘Schweinehund’, WSOY, 1992). Introduction by Tuva Korsström

From somewhere beneath the bridge – I still hadn’t managed to get across it, which may sound pathetic, or even ridiculous, unless you take into account my exceptional state of mind – or, rather, to one side, I heard a dragging, ominous grinding and rumbling. It stopped for a moment; then, after a short but clearly defined pause, there was a heavy splash. A snow-plough was emptying its load into the bay from the end of the pier. The mounds of snow sank deep into the black water; the tightly packed, sticky snow rose slowly to the surface in greyish-yellow blocks and clods; loose pieces of snow boiled and foamed in the eddies and melted before my eyes. My time was melting away, too, being junked, my remaining time… More…

Words of music

Issue 2/1993 | Archives online, Authors

Pentti Saaritsa believes that the perfect line of poetry is one from which all possible internal uncertainty has been honed away, which is based on lived reality, which stands up for the weak against injustice, which does not play games with words, whose strength lies in its rhythmic logic, above which spreads the sky and below which hell resounds. That is also the nature of his poetry. Resounding language.

In 1984 an ‘experimental’ group of musicians and composers, Toimii!, whose members included Esa-Pekka Salonen, currently principal conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and the composer Magnus Lindberg, commissioned from a work from Saaritsa. The result was Ascensus, a composition – at least in the sense that it is performed in concerts, and that Saaritsa receives the relevant copyright fees. On the other hand, it is also poetry – it has, after all, been published as part of a collection of poetry. More…


Issue 2/1993 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Virtaava seinä (‘Flowing wall’, 1984). First performed by Toimii!, Stockholm, 1984. Introduction by Lauri Otonkoski

Ahead lies a journey
but those who are embarking on it
are fascinated as much
by the finer-than-fine bright wall,
wall flowing like the wind separating what
is not
from what is right now
beginning to be born
from their own movements:

these restless spirits
were born in the same valley
each prepared only by their own story
each with an instrument that is more good will
than any curved or straight wood or metal,
and in this world,
its Western Yard, it is
a little dark
and it is not yet time to decide
whether it is now morning or evening.
Someone is calling, or wakening, some instrument
that is pure suggestion, a cry of departure
or a quiet enticement: ready?
It is accepted, it is answered,
it is like the voice of Reason in the cool air,
and when they all tum to start their journey
before them is rising ground, a whole hill,
a slope and a mountain the size of Europe More…

Melba, Mallinen and me

Issue 2/1993 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

From Fallet Bruus (‘The Bruus case’, Söderströms, 1992; in Finnish, Tapaus Bruus, Otava), a collection of short stories

After the war Helsingfors began to grow in earnest.

Construction started in Mejlans [Meilahti] and Brunakärr [Ruskeasuo]. People who moved there wondered if all the stone in the country had been damaged by the bombing or if all the competent builders had been killed; if you hammered a nail into a wall you were liable to hammer it right into the back of your neighbor’s head and risk getting indicted for manslaughter.

Then the Olympic Village in Kottby [Käpylä] was built, and for a few weeks in the summer of 1952 this area of wood-frame houses became a legitimate part of the city that housed such luminaries as the long-legged hop-skip-and-jump champion Da Silva, the runner Emil Zatopek (with the heavily wobbling head), the huge heavy­weight boxer Ed Saunders and the somewhat smaller heavyweight Ingemar Johansson who had to run for his life from Saunders. More…