Archive for March, 1994

In this room, or elsewhere

Issue 1/1994 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

‘Some people play bridge; some people shoot pool; we read and write poems’, says Jouni Inkala (born 1966) of his generation of poets. These poems from his prize-winning first collection of poems, Tässä sen reuna (‘Here is its edge’, WSOY, 1992)

Behind the window, wet snowflakes rise and descend,
cold white insects.

In the summer, their brothers swirled in the sun’s low,
silent volleys,

as I sped on my bicycle through the dark gullet of spruce-rows some always filtered into my eyes, my mouth.

They were cool, even then.
Now I sacrifice toenails, relinquish some of my own warmth to the back of an armchair.

As a dark, painful spot in God’s brain,
which is unknown

as long as it isn’t troubled into truth,
pain made visible, known. More…


Issue 1/1994 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Ihon aika (‘The time of the skin’, WSOY, 1993). Introduction by Suvi Ahola

In the hospital they stare at us, enquiringly, as if we are abandoning her. They look in turn at our mother’s half-conscious, ulcerous body, at the nurse who, curling her lip, cuts mother’s knickers, housecoat and apron off her, at us, the exhausted ones, who are now only at the beginning of our real work. They fill in their forms and ask their official questions; they do not know how anguished and relieved we shall be in a moment when we may leave our mother to them, that ironically smiling, wounded woman who is still, with her last strength, attempting to kick the nurse who is pouring warm water on her bloody feet.

I gaze at mother’s battered body with something like greed; I feel the same kind of curiosity toward this shocking sight as when I was four and we were in the bathroom together. I was shy, I tried to spy on mother’s fleshy body, her luxuriantly curving skin, through the mirror, but I was always left with the feeling that I had seen too little, I had been able to understand only a small part of what my eyes had registered. More…

Breton without tears

Issue 1/1994 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from Euroopan reuna (‘The edge of Europe’, Otava, 1982). Introduction by H. K. Riikonen

I am reading a book, it says pour l’homme latin ou grec, un forme correspond à un être; pour le Celte, tout est metamorphose, un même individu peut prendre des apparences diverses, so it says in the book. A strange claim, considering that the word metamorphosis is Greek, and that the best-known book about metamorphoses, Ovid’s Metamorphoseon libri XV was written in Latin. In the myths of all peoples, at least the ones whose oral poetry was recorded in time, such as the Greeks, Serbs, Slavs, Finns, or Aztecs, metamorphoses play a very important part, the Celts are not an exceptional tribe in this respect. The author must mean that the Celts still live in mythical time, the time of metamorphoses when the human being assumed shapes, was able to fly as a bird, swim as a fish, howl as a wolf, and to crown his career by rising up into the sky as a constellation. Brittany is part of the Armorica Joyce tells us about in Finnegans Wake, that book is incomprehensible if one does not know Ireland, and now I see that Brittany is the key to one of the book’s locked rooms. I thought I already had keys to all the rooms after Dublin, the Vatican, and Athens, but one door was and remained closed, the key is here now, in my hand, I can get into all the rooms in the book, and I am home even if I should happen to get lost. The room creates the person, she becomes another when she goes from one room to another, this is metamorphosis, and when she leaves the house she disappears, she no longer exists. The legend on the temple at Delphi, gnothi seauton, know thyself, has led Occidentals onto the false track that is now becoming a dead end, polytheistic religions correspond to the order of nature, but as soon as the human starts to imagine that she knows herself, as soon as the metamorphic era ends, monotheism is born, the human being creates god in her own image, and that is the source of all evil. Planted like traffic signs at the far end of this cul-de-sac stand the hitlers and brezhnevs and reagans and thatchers, new leaves are appearing on the trees, the sun is shining. Landet som icke är* är en paradox: landet blev befintligt därigenom att Edith Södergran sade att det icke är. On the sea sailed a silent ship*, as I tracked my shoeprints across the sand on the beach, it was like walking on a street made out of salty raw sugar, I felt desolate. The wind bent the grasses, the sun warmed the back of my sweater, of course the sun always has the last word, I thought, things should be as they are, this thought gave me peace of mind. I walked past the cows, two of them already chewing the cud, the others still grazing, they stood in a line and raised their heads, stood at attention, as it were, as I walked past. I was not entirely sure that I was heading in the right direction, but then I saw the boucherie and knew that there was a café nearby. Madame greeted me in a friendly fashion, brought me a calvados and a beer and sat down for a chat, wanted to know if I liked the countryside here. I said that things looked the same here as in Ireland, she said that was true, but she had never been to Ireland. I finished my drinks and paid, left, decided to walk along the beach. I saw gun emplacements and two bunkers. I crawled into a bunker. Inside, it was dark and damp. I looked through the embrasure at the sea. I thought of the boys who had been incarcerated here. They had been given a death sentence. I examined a rusty object, what was it, I looked at it more closely, it was an axle from a gun’s undercarriage. As I arrive in my home yard, I note that the lilacs are beginning to bloom. More…

Onward, downward!

Issue 1/1994 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Lauri Viita (1916–1965) was one of the self-taught writers who made his debut after the Second World War. His extensive, realist novel Moreeni (‘Moraine’, 1950) taking place in Viita’s native Tampere, begins with this prose poem

…over wolds, hummocks, ridges, between boulders, under branches, from cabin to cottage to manor, from coppice to fen, and ditch to puddle – down it drew us, the sloping earthcrust, southward the magnificent granite ploughland slanted.

Paths linked to paths, brooks joined brooks. Onward, downward! The roads widened, the currents strengthened. Bigger and bigger, heavier and heavier were the loads they could sustain. More and more trees, bread, potatoes, butter, meat, people and gravestones, huge boulders, rocks, went into the maw of those channels, and the hunger only redoubled. From channel to strait, from hour to hour, the lines of barges crawled along; from day to day the broad rafts of logs passed their sleepless summer on the long blue strip of Lake Näsijärvi. Spruce, pine, birch, aspen – different pieces for different purposes. How vast the supply and how vast the need! The months and days went by; in the depths of the lake, layer after layer, there wandered the shades of clouds, ships, faces. More…

Travels in language

Issue 1/1994 | Archives online, Authors

‘I become paralysed when I have to write prose, for publication, lf I do not get down on paper something fit to be printed at the first attempt, I become nervous and lose my patience, I do not know how to analyse…’

(Ihmisen ääni, ‘The human voice’, 1976).

Pentti Saarikoski (1937–1983) was a poet – his first collection was published when he was 21 – and translator whose passion was language; among his translations were Homers Odyssey, works by Aristotle, Heraclitus, Euripedes, Sappho, James Joyce’s Ulysses and Dubliners, Ibsens Peer Gynt, Henry Miller, J.D. Salinger, Italo Calvino, Swedish poetry. Despite the fact that he found prose-writing a painful process, he wrote a number of prose works, which have their existence in the border territory between the novel, the diary, the work-diary, autobiography and confession. More…

The personal is real

Issue 1/1994 | Archives online, Authors

It is never easy to be a writer, but it can be particularly difficult if you are forever thrusting weapons into your critics’ hands. A writer who mixes and interleaves her literary texts with her own life is very vulnerable to both literary and other criticism.

Anja Kauranen (born 1954) is precisely this kind of writer. The characters and events of ali her seven prose works have clear connections with Kauranen’s own life, her Helsinki childhood, her Karelian family background, her sporting youth, her personal losses. She is not ashamed to allow herself to be interviewed by women’s magazines on subjects including, for example, boxing. She writes magazine columns on feminism and television programmes and took part enthusiastically in the debates over this winter’s presidential elections.

She is a talkative, lively and good-looking woman. This merely increases the burden she has to bear: if Kauranen writes about sex, it must be based on her own experiences. That is what was thought when her first novel, Sonja O. kävi täällä (‘Sonja O. was here’) was published in 1981. The newspaper reviews of the time consistently confused the novel’s writer with its narrator, a literature student who collected experiences and men. It was a young women’s odyssey and Entwicklungsroman which also attempted to analyse the arrival of feminism in Finland, in the midst of the extreme left-wing student movement of the 1970s. More…