Archive for September, 1998

Local heroes

Issue 3/1998 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Two collections of short stories, two strong displays of a diverse literary talent. Two books: the first received the Helsingin Sanomat Literary Award for the best first book in 1995, the second the Savonia Prize; it was also shortlisted for the Runeberg Prize. Sari Mikkonen received the Suomi Prize for young artists in 1997. Those are the high points of the career of this 31-year-old writer to date. Not bad.

Born in Juankoski, in eastern Fin­land, Mikkonen is a writer who is exciting because she both continues and innovates a great tradition in Finnish literature. She is a latterday F.E. Sillanpää, the chronicler of the slow life of the Finnish countryside who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1939. Mikkonen describes remote districts with the boldness of the contemporary writer Rosa Liksom. In her short stories, she often describes people in traditional surroundings – people who are no longer countryfolk, but are not yet townspeople, either. To her, juxtaposition of things is more interesting that choosing one and rejecting the other. ‘You can’t be either–or; you have to be both–and. There are no absolute truths in the world,’ she has commented. More…

Incident at Experience Farm

Issue 3/1998 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Pakkasyön odottaja (‘Waiting for a frosty night’, WSOY, 1997). Introduction by Jukka Petäjä


The round steel teapot is new. Father brought it back from Birmingham, where he went on a visit with the others from the concrete factory. In the shop, the teapot was wrapped in rustling, soft tissue paper. Pirjo was given the honour of opening the package. The pot has been used for brewing tea ever since.

At school, her sister Karoliina is proud of the fact that at home they drink only tea; they are different from other people, different in a good way, one to be proud of. They have a real teapot. Sometimes, during breaktime, a morsel of the excellence of Karoliina Kamppinen falls Pirjo’s way. ‘Yes, let’s include her, she’s Karoliina’s sister, after all.’ More…

The next nine lives

30 September 1998 | Authors

Ilpo Tiihonen

Ilpo Tiihonen. Photo: WSOY/ C.G.Hagström

‘I was blamed by another translator for working with the early Ilpo Tiihonen,’ writes Tiihonen’s translator, Herbert Lomas; ‘He was supposedly superficial.’

It’s a mistake to confuse lightness of touch or facility with superficiality. Shakespeare himself, who wrote three plays a year and ‘never blotted a line’, must have had facility. And lightness of touch is a sign of intelligence and artistic security. Ilpo Tiihonen (born 1950) carries his intelligence and his reading of the Swedish and Russian classics (Fröding, Mayakovsky, Yesenin) without self-importance, which may not always pass for a paradoxical humility. More…

Troubled by joy?

30 September 1998 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Boxtrot (WSOY, 1998)

Nine lives

So far nine lives only, and
all mine, like my head in my hands.
My first was curled up at the foot of a fir tree
in the autumn forest just at day-dawn
in nighttime's raindrops.
The resin's still in my fingernails.
My second was the scent of split wood by the shed,
and the circular-saw blade's horrific disc.
The gruel, track shoes too large, and President Kekkonen,
ink spreading across my notebook, and
the clank of the railway under my dreams.
Mayday's red flags, the neighbour's daughter
naked, and dead pigeons lying on the gravel.
My third life was the discovery of anger, blind rage
turning and turning me in its leather bag,
wearing the edges of my day down. Sitting at our schooldesks
being forced towards a goal that can't be named.
Seeing how they start drinking, drinking
into their eyes that black impotent rebellion.
I'm on the point of drowning, someone's traversing
the Atlantic in a reed boat. And if I did die,
it wouldn't matter who sneered. The stars in the sky
                     are watching us in horror.


New worlds

30 September 1998 | Authors, Interviews

Monika Fagerhom

Photo: Ulla Montan

The heroine of Monika Fagerholm’s novel Diva is a teenage girl. But this is a Lolita with a difference; for this is an intelligent Lolita, with a voice of her own. Silja Hiidenheimo interviews her creator

In Monika Fagerholm’s best-selling book Underbara kvinnor vid vatten (1994, English translation:Wonderful Women by the Water), the sun shines and the women really are wonderful. If there is a certain melancholy about the story, it is born more of longing and the unrealised dream of freedom. And although all those of us who were born in the 1960s thought Monika had stolen precisely our childhood memories of summer, that she had leafed through our photograph albums, the work is, in the melancholy lightness of its narrative, an exception in Finnish realism. While the book forces its readers to empathise so completely that one cannot imagine Monika has invented anything in the whole story, but merely, like a camera, has registered everything just as it happened, an ironic laugh is heard in the book: realism is just as banal as life itself. If one were to summarise the plot of either, one would not be able to repeat it without blushing. More…


30 September 1998 | Fiction, Prose

An extract from the novel Diva. En uppväxts egna alfabet med Docklaboratorium (en bonusberättelse ur framtiden) (‘Diva. An alphabet of your own for growing up with Doll Laboratory [a bonus story from the future]’, Söderströms, 1998)

I am Diva and everything I say is true. Close your eyes, dream about the most beautiful thing of all. Open your eyes again. See me. Girl-woman. Diva-Lucia. Thirteen, nearly fourteen. Baby Wonder. The one they thought did not exist.


(an eternal day, love is born)

Daniel and I. In the autumn we go out to a cottage in the forest. We go walking for a whole extra day. We walk and walk, and it is an autumn day which is implacable. The lingonberries glow in the sun as if on a garish work of art by an impressionist seeing the world for a moment in a sickly way, sweat running inside boots, and squelch squelch on dry crackling ground, so it feels as if the whole forest would be shattered under your boot-clad feet. Great black boots, certainly two sizes too large so as to allow for a proper squelch. Or to allow something. A dry dry autumn, Daniel admits metres ahead of me. And that the elk-flies can’t have had time to get here from across the eastern border beyond which, as far as I know, they exist; it will take years before they manage to get here, Daniel explains. I squelch on, however much those creepy-crawlies are undeniably creeping over my body under my hot tracksuit, in my hair and scalp. Daniel knows about the forest and nature. Daniel knows about everything. And he laughs again because of those flies, and later, he laughs at night, for they don’t stop crawling then either, in the sleeping-bag which in a special way attaches me to Daniel because the zip has stuck and has to be nibbled apart by my teeth, for by then Daniel is asleep, and I have to get out and spew, for I have eaten the wrong things in the wrong order, as so often, all at once, I mean. So Daniel does not believe me. We walk on. More…