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Issue 4/1998 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

The short stories in Irti (‘Away’), a first collection by Sari Vuoristo (born 1964), are often set on the beach, at sea or even in the water. The characters include ship passengers, rowers, swimmers, sun-bathers, drowning people and fish.

Vuoristo lives in the Kallio district of Helsinki, high above the city, with a clear view of the flashing lighthouse on the Suomenlinna fortress island and the ships departing for Sweden and Estonia. ‘The sea before me,’ she says, ‘perhaps it’s some classic kind of longing for freedom.’ The short stories describe states of disengagement. ‘If there is some unifying idea, then it is the realisation that it is possible to disengage from unsatisfactory situations, or to let the past go.’

The central characters are, for the most part, women, and rather quiet. ‘I am sure women readers will experience my texts very differently from men. Men are perhaps more straight-forward than women; men perhaps like more straightforward texts.

‘It may be that women are more easily trapped by situations of disengagement; leaving is more difficult for them – or perhaps it is just that I have seen a lot of that. But I do not wish in any way to say that women are not masters of their own lives, or oh dear, poor little us.’

And although I can see your self-satisfied smile as I undress in front of you in the hotel room, you have no real power over me, thinks one of the women in the stories.

Vuoristo works in the office of the Finnish National Opera so as not to have to take out a student loan; ‘clerical work’. She writes her stories first in longhand; ‘then you can write them anywhere.’ With ‘Järvi’ (‘The lake’), one of the stories published in Irti, she won the Nuoren Voiman Liitto (‘Young Power League’) short-story competition in 1996. In addition drama literature and religious science, she has also studied creative writing.

Vuoristo began with poetry, but ‘the short story is interesting. Can I find a short story with sufficient intensity? What is behind human relationships and little things?’ The short stories in Irti were written for the most part last autumn and winter over a period of two or three months.

Weather conditions and landscapes are visible in Vuoristo’s short stories. ‘I write with my eyes. I remember events visually and as smells. The settings of the stories come from ‘what I remember or think I remember. In writing, I use things which are not real, but which come from reality.’


This is an edited version of an article first published in the daily paper Helsingin Sanomat


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