Archive for December, 1995

Facing catastrophe

Issue 4/1995 | Archives online, Authors

Mirjam Tuominen (1914–1967) was 
one of the stronger, yet relatively
 neglected voices of European modern
ism. Had she lived in France or Germany and had belonged to the literary
 traditions of either of those countries 
(traditions which she admired and 
knew well), one imagines that her fame
 might have spread more widely.

As it was, belonging to the Swedish-
speaking minority in Finland, Mirjam
 Tuominen wrote her works, both 
poetry and prose, in Swedish (and, very occasionally, in Finnish). Though they 
show the influence of the Finland-
Swedish literary tradition, in particular
 that of Edith Södergran, they also
 demonstrate that Mirjam Tuominen
 had read very widely outside that
 tradition – the influence of other 
Nordic writers such as Karin Boye and
 Cora Sandel is evident, but so also is
t hat of Friedrich Hölderlin, Marcel
 Proust, Rainer Maria Rilke, Franz Kafka,
 Simone Weil and Sigmund Freud. More…

Original Inhabitant

Issue 4/1995 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Kuka puhuu (‘Who’s speaking’, Otava, 1994). Introduction by Tero Liukkonen

They lie in the flurrying snow, languid as a naked woman taking a shower,
the mountains, their luscious thighs ajar; under snow-white skin,
confident rib-tongues curve down to the gully
where a lone skier slides and struggles in unbroken snow

A dense stand of spruce grows from her thighs, moonlight
shimmers on her flank, her hair is green

A hundred miles long, face hidden under the covers, out of the smoke
droplets emerge

slow is her breath in the wind, waiting for spring, under the snow

No one can conquer that vision, move it, bury it,
stitch it shut

she has come without being invited, living rooms grow inside her,
mice rub their whiskers in her hiding places,
obedient, the sun sets behind her, opens the dark door More…

In the Metro

Issue 4/1995 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extract from the collection of short stories Tidig tvekan (‘Early doubt’, 1938). Introduction by David McDuff

– Mademoiselle! You’re late this evening. Was there overtime again? I’ve put a newspaper aside for you. I saw you were in such a hurry in the morning that you didn’t have time to take it. The fashion page is in today, so I thought you’d like to see it. There’s nothing to thank me for, nothing at all. You see, I seem to have got a bit of a secret liking for you. One gradually learns to pick out all the people who come this way in the morning and go back again at night. And you, you see, I noticed you right from the very first day. You looked so frightened, and then you always smiled at me in such a friendly way. I got the idea that you were someone who wasn’t at home here and who was possibly using the underground in the morning rush hour for the first time. More…

Formal logic

Issue 4/1995 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews, Reviews

Maarit Verronen’s novel, Pimeästä maasta (‘Out of the Land of Darkness’), inhabits the borderland between science fiction and fantasy. It is also a classic story of the demands of integrity in a harsh and prescriptive world. It is set daringly on the far side of time and place: the name of its main character is Ulthyraja Tharabereghist, from which one can already deduce that the novel does not deal with the real world. Pimeästä maasta is a cleverly constructed novel which surprises its reader in many different ways. The first surprise is that Verronen does not define her main character’s gender. The structure of the Finnish language, in which the personal pronoun does not reveal the gender of the person to whom it refers, makes this possible. More…

Punishment and delight

Issue 4/1995 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from Pimeästä maasta (‘Out of the Land of Darkness’, Kirjayhtymä, 1995). Interview by Jukka Petäjä

‘A being far more powerful and wiser than ourselves made the mould at the beginning of time and set it up for us as a model in order that we might shape ourselves correctly,’ the teachers said. ‘The Prime Mover’s form, actions and thoughts we are unable to understand. The Prime Mover gave us the mould in order that we should not remain formless. To this extent it has made itself known to us, although we do not deserve anything from it. It did not make the mould of bog-iron, which would soon have rusted in the cellar, but of a much better material of which we know nothing, and need to know nothing. Our duty is to aspire to fill the perfect mould given to us perfectly. Most of us will never be able to do so, for we are worthless, formless, unclean messes who deserve, many times over, all the pain of fitting the mould.’

Ulthyraja Tharabereghist did not dare ask anything, but there was something she would have liked to know. How the Prime Mover had made the mould, at least, and where it had found the materials, and what the Mover had gone on to do and where it had gone when the mould was ready and in the possession of the villagers. Even illicit thoughts were said to damage one’s shape: to be visible in it, if one knew how to look, and, of course, to be felt in the pains of fitting the mould… More…

Writing Sinuhe

Issue 4/1995 | Archives online, Authors, Fiction

Extracts from the novel Neljä päivänlaskua (‘Four sunsets’, 1949): in this novel about a novel, Mika Waltari gives a fictionalised, humorous and melancholy account of the birth of his most famous novel, the international bestseller, Sinuhe, egyptiläinen (The Egyptian, 1945). His ‘Egyptians’ do not leave him in peace, so he retreats to his summer cabin with his typewriter and faithful dog to write

Critical notes

In offering this work to the public, furnished with the requisite comments, we do so with considerable hesitation, for even the superficial reader will very soon realise that this disguised and sentimental love-story has no educational or morally uplifting intent whatsoever. On the contrary, the thoughts contained within it are often so amoral and perplexing that they are repellent to the enlightened reader. For this reason, the spontaneity of the narrative does not of itself legitimise publication of the work.

Since, however, with the aforementioned reservations, we are offering the work to the public, we do it for entirely other reasons. For this work is, by type, a terrible apotheosis of human selfishness. One must remember that it was written only a couple of months after the first use of the atom bomb for practical purposes, when the world had hardly achieved the so-called ‘cold peace’ after the so-called Second World War. If we remember this background, the author grows, in his unremitting selfishness, into a cautionary example in the reader’s eyes. For he does not, in his book, spare a thought for the sufferings of humanity, but speaks incessantly about his own heart. More…

Who’s looking

Issue 4/1995 | Archives online, Authors

During the 1990s, young Finnish poetry has been in search of a new grip on language: what is being written now is poetry of the ardent intellect.

lntellectually and consciously, Riina Katajavuori (born 1968) retreats from simple expression of emotion but, through the inner intensity of the poems, forces the reader to join her in the process of creating meaning.

In her first collection of poetry, Varkaan kirja (‘The book of the thief,1992), Katajavuori plays a sort of intertextual game. Through literary and other cultural references she seeks a polyphonic effect, but the integration of private mental images with a rough and associative textual fibre does not yet succeed completely. More…