Archive for September, 1993

God and the incomplete

Issue 3/1993 | Archives online, Authors

It took 25 years for Gunnar Björling to be transformed from the madman traditionalists universally considered him to be into a writer the world could not ignore and, moreover, a poet who, in his at- tempts to capture silence and say the unsayable, supplied ‘equipment for living’. When the Swedish Literature Society of Finland finally gave him a prize after the Second World War – his breakthrough as a poet had taken place in 1933, with Solgrönt (‘Sungreen’) – there was an outcry. The Society’s long-time president, an anti-Nazi historian, could not stomach the work of the poet’s Sturm und Drang period, and resigned in protest.

Björling published his first collection with his own press in 1922, a year before the death of Edith Södergran. Along with Södergran and Elmer Diktonius, he is one of the three great figures of Finland- Swedish modernism. His friend, the poet Rabbe Enckell, one of the few people who understood and were in sympathy with him early on, called him Europe’s last Dadaist. He himself gave himself the title of Universal Dada-Individualist. After the publication of his first book, he spent some time drinking in pubs, carrying on debates and writing moral laxatives for the constipated bourgeoisie in the hope that it would have a spiritual bowel-movement. It responded by laugh ing at him. He became incomprehensibility personified. He gave generous quantities of copies of his books to friends and patrons of literature which he would sometimes find, their pages uncut, in second-hand bookshops. More…

Eye to eye

Issue 3/1993 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

A selection of previously untranslated poems by the Finland-Swedish modernist poet Gunnar Björling (1887–1960), introduced by Birger Thölix

Like silent sounds sail passes after sail.
But the night’s globe stands
and just as open stands the wide sea
and all the days expire in morning brightening.
Like a thing not expired
a life-warm scent throbs
through my limbs
and my hand is filled with tablets to read
and new hearts burn.

1933 More…

Virtual realities

Issue 3/1993 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Prose pieces from Bamalama (WSOY, 1993)

After eating his family, he went abroad. There was a heatwave in Torremolinos. The sandy beaches were empty despite the Mediterranean waves’ enticing glitter. Although it was so hot, not a trace of the sun could be seen in the sky, and no clouds either. He sat in an armchair in his modest hotel room and breathed deeply. He thought about the pretty young girls on the beaches just waiting to be casually plucked, bony adolescent bodies, opulent and luscious adult female forms, and lips beyond all powers of description. He sat there, and time passed. Soon darkness spread over the beach, and he could see nothing but velvety black nothingness stretching out to the horizon. He was overcome by a powerful sense of fear, caused by the bleak desolation of the scene, this gloomy darkness that covered and hid the millions of shades of natural colors. He accepted his feelings and let them flow into himself, because he knew that morning, sunrise, and the play of nature’s colors down there on the beach boulevards, would resuscitate within him a great dreamer, impervious to the storms of the world. More…

All at sea

Issue 3/1993 | Archives online, Authors

Tytti Parras’ novel Vieras (‘The stranger’, 1993) is a chronicle of fear and loathing among boating classes of the Baltic. Introduction by Pekka Tarkka

Of all modern writers, the best delineator of life at sea is probably William Golding. His skill is apparent, among other things, in the way in which, as his ships do battle with the ocean, he arranges encounters between old styles of literature and, both on and below decks, lays bare the divisions of class. The most developed character in Rite’s of Passage, Mr Summers, has done something unusual, risen from deck-hand to first lieutenant; but despite his social ascent, he is forced to acknowledge: ‘In our country for all her greatness there is one thing she cannot do and that is to translate a person wholly out of one class into another. Perfect translation from one language into another is impossible. Class is the British language.’ More…


Issue 3/1993 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

An extract from the novel Vieras (‘The stranger’, Otava 1992). Introduction by Pekka Tarkka

I lay there for a moment, motionless, eyes closed.

The bunk was damp. It felt damp around my thighs; I slid down lower – and there, it was really wet.

My sleeping bag was obviously soaked, and that meant that the mattress was soaked, too. Oh, rats. I couldn’t imagine having wet myself. Or – worse – had the boat sprung a leak, the water already rising up to the floorboards? I bounded to my feet: the rugs were dry. So was the cabin floor. I raised the boards, peered down: two fingers of water in the forward bilge, as usual. So, where the –? In the course of yesterday’s rough sailing, some water had seeped in below the windowframe. No more than a cupful, but it had trickled down inside the panel and then onto the mattress. I tried the other side of the bunk. It was dry. Well, I would just have to pick up the mattress and set it on its side. More…