Archive for December, 1997

A view to a kill

Issue 4/1997 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Klassikko (‘The classic’, WSOY, 1997). Pete drives an old Toyota Corolla without a thought for the small animals that meet their death under its wheels – or anything else, for that matter. Hotakainen describes the inner life of this environmental hazard with accuracy and precision

Pete sat in his Toyota Corolla destroying the environment. He was not aware of this, but the lifestyle he represented endangered all living things. The car’s exhaust fumes spread into the surroundings, its aged engine sweated oil onto the pavement, and malodorous opinions withered the willowherbs by the roadside. Granted that Pete was an environmental hazard, one must nevertheless ask oneself: how many people does one like him provide with employment? He leaves behind him a trail of despondent girlfriends who require the services of human relations workers, popular songwriters, and social service officials; during his lifetime, he spends tens of thousands of marks in automotive shops and service stations, on spare parts and small cups of coffee; he benefits the food industry by being a carefree purchaser of TV dinners and soft drinks. Pete is the perfect consumer, an apolitical idiot who votes with his wallet, the favorite of every government, even though no one seems interested in putting him to work, least of all himself. Every government, regardless of political power struggles, encourages its people to consume. Pete needs no encouragement, he consumes unconsciously, and one might ask: is there anything that he does consciously, the Greens and left-wingers would like him to? Does Pete make smart long-range decisions? Hardly.


One hell of a time

Issue 4/1997 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from Lanthandlerskans son (‘Country shopkeeper’s son’, Söderströms, 1997). Brooklyn Bridge, Christmas Eve: Otto, a Finland-Swede, attempts to start a new life in 1930s America, where swindlers and even gangsters can, he finds, be duped – even Al Capone. Otto’s grandson listens to his story on tape

I have always loved that sight. A city that you see from the air at night, all lit up. It’s’ beautiful – and at the same time so frightening. I don’t really know how to describe it.

Well, it was Christmas Eve. I was wandering around New York. I had eaten at an automat. Do you know what that is? They don’t exist any more, but in the Twenties and Thirties they were common in America. It’s a cafe, but they didn’t have any staff or waiters, instead the walls were full of little glass boxes where the food was on display. You could select what you wanted – sandwiches and pies and salads, anything. Then you put your nickels and dimes in a slot beside the box and the glass opened and’all you had to do was take out the plate. I was fond of the automats. I liked just sitting there and watching other people eat, no one bothered about you, you were left alone and that suited me. When I’d finished eating I went outside again and somehow or other I wandered upon to Brooklyn Bridge. There was a lot of traffic, people were on their way home. Well, just as I was walking there alone in the company of my thoughts I heard someone shouting ‘Help! Help me!’ More…

A passion for darkness

Issue 4/1997 | Archives online, Authors, Essays

In the fourth part of an occasional series on writers and their inspirations, the essayist and short-story writer Leena Krohn considers the poet Uuno Kailas (1901–1933)

I’m far from claiming that Uuno Kailas has ever been my favourite author. But I definitely had a close affinity to him in an early phase of my life.

There were a lot of his volumes on the shelves in my childhood home. I leafed through them at a very early age – in my sixth, seventh and eighth years. There were times when, as a child, I was very afraid of the dark. I might lie awake at night, stiff with fear, hardly daring to breathe. Presumably that’s why I was drawn to his poem ‘On the edge’:

I’m afraid in my room,
I’m afraid of the window.
And the shadows
of people the window shows
as reptiles – lizards crawling
across my wall.
I’m afraid to look at the door,
it opens on dark.
The doorknob gleams:
it could turn
and they’d be there
the ones I’ve no name for,
the ones I see in my dreams. More…