Archive for June, 1996

The pursuit of happiness

Issue 2/1996 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novella Ilo (‘Joy’, Helsinki Media, 1995)

‘The flower is a characteristic feature of the highest group of the plant kingdom – the flowering plants – and is the name given to the association or organs, more or less leaf-like in form, which are concerned with the production of the fruit or seed.’
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1910

The encyclopedia made us happy. But what was happiness? That the encyclopedia did not say. You had to set out to look for it. Our exploratory party represented the highest achievements of the field: it would be difficult to find a more serious or committed group.

When we waved to the people cheering on the quay, we were overcome by a strange feeling. It was as if we had already arrived. I made the mistake of speaking my thought aloud.

‘It will all end in tears,’ remarked our welfare officer, Mrs Rose. The atmosphere was ruined. What a pity that our quick-witted Doctor Stratelli was not present at that moment! For it was he who solved the problem of happiness.


Around zero o’clock

Issue 2/1996 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from the collection Musta oli valkoinen (‘Black was white’, WSOY, 1995). Introduction by Jukka Koskelainen


			         When I learned to pay attention
to unlikely reptiles
to surprising glacier waters
to nightgowned rejections
to wall-mounted assault rifles 
to traveling angels
to lips shaped like promises
to mussels swimming in dreams 
to crashes, rules and funerals
to shady, secret sacristies
to the indecisiveness of dancing shoes
to the immeasurable indifference of looks like bullets 
to spring, myself and seductions slow as clouds
			                                     all of these
					                                         between the words,
was that when the difficulties began?

About the third

To stop waiting, the second step.
To be born of woman. The first.

The price of the word and the moon
	    are determined with the same weightless scales.

The third we don’t know about, don’t ask.

On the ear’s walk

The landscape's deepest melody flowed on
	     over the banks of the resounding Middle Ages.

Do you hear, do you hear it
the way a snail hears,
that snail there who teaches
learns from the earth’s replies, learning
the snail hears and gets there,
gets there for sure
even the slow one gets there,
even the slower one will
then get there, it will
surely get there, into the pot.


Herbal wisdom

New churches, old
	                       harmonized organs and repetitions 
like a prayer or a psalm for seven voices. 
Against scant blue
	               a hundred people
believe in pilots and safety belts. The wind
	                                                 just a little too strong.
But my heart it was, that loaded institution 
through four expectations it came 
	                                               here. Exactly here
where you, with both hands, 
	               almost inaudibly
intended to break
	              the fragrant life of a sprig of thyme.
That soundless break, the speech of dust, said all
			                                  I understood.

Around zero o’clock

Just be the shape of an angel, be, be 
	                be, be a screeching
   hatful of sleepless night	it dresses 
even the seagulls in diver's suits, be
	      be lazy intellect and come
to bed
be manager of nightmare
	  and conqueror of desire

	to say
Be the disease of saying 	Be the lifelong remedy
	   which 	                        whether you take it or not
	              certainly kills
Be the one who no longer is
	     a dab of the freedom of the void, a flight of three strides
out of thought's night	                    be

Because I’m jading

Translated by Anselm Hollo

Life is elsewhere, but you can get there by taxi

Issue 2/1996 | Archives online, Authors, Essays, Interviews

Jari Tervo interviews himself, avoiding the subject of his new novel, Pyhiesi yhteyteen (‘Numbered among your saints’)

These light mornings, the writer Jari Tervo bubbles over with springtime after he has written a page or two of his new book and is getting ready to walk to the Thirsty Camel to enjoy a pub quiz, alongside about two pints of well-brewed beer. The birds have come back like boomerangs.

On his way to the shadow of the beer­tap, some people greet him, others stare shyly. The shy starers remind him of the television quiz. Those who do not pay any attention to him are thoroughly acquainted with his work. Tervo has written a Rovaniemi sequence – three novels, a collection of short stories and a collection of poetry – about his home town. Rovaniemi, located on the Arctic Circle, is, for these southerly citizens of Espoo [next to Helsinki], as exotic, remote and startling a place as Haiti, but snowier. More…

The way to heaven

Issue 2/1996 | Archives online, Fiction

Extracts from the novel Pyhiesi yhteyteen (‘Numbered among your saints’, WSOY, 1995). Interview with Jari Tervo by Jari Tervo

The wind sighs. The sound comes about when a cloud drives through a tree. I hear birds, as a young girl I could identify the species from the song; now I can no longer see them properly, and hear only distant song. Whether sparrow, titmouse or lark. Exact names, too, tend to disappear. Sometimes, in the old people’s home, I find myself staring at my food, what it is served on, and can’t get the name into my head. The sun came to my grandson’s funeral. It rose from the grave into which my little Marzipan will be lowered. I don’t remember what the weather did when my husband was buried.

A plate. Food is served on a plate. There are deep plates and shallow plates; soups are ladled into the deep ones. More…

Poetry and speech

Issue 2/1996 | Archives online, Authors

The poet is condemned to language. He has been forced to abandon the mysterious union between language and reality. In retum, he wants his Iines, at least, to solidify into objects, part of the order of beings, to be like a ready-carved statue. But this does not happen. Language has its own caprice, meanderings and underground life.

The poems of Lauri Otonkoski (born 1959) are not like sculptures. Sometimes they do not even seem like beings among other beings. His poems gape open at the edges, and their ambiguous content emerges to question the composition of the extemal form. Metamorphosis is not the poems’ theme, but their nature: obscure at their limits and constantly changing in form, their reference is far beyond themselves, to a region where the reader must struggle with disturbing shadows and unfinished constructions. More…