Archive for December, 1999


Issue 4/1999 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Among Finnish writers of the younger generation, Jyrki Kiiskinen (born 1963) has wasted no time becoming a prominent figure, both admired and disparaged. While his entry in the new three-volume literary history of Finland is allotted as much space as one of our classics, it does not grant him the status of an innovator. Reviewing his new book of poems, Kun elän (‘As I live’, 1999), for my newspaper, I proposed that it introduces, for the first time in Finnish poetry, the automobile as a metaphor for our entire motorised life style. The president of the Finnish Writers’ Union, poet Jarkko Laine, responded by presenting a list of all the Cadillacs, Renaults and Volvos that can be glimpsed in the pages of Finnish poetry books. More…

One more time

Issue 4/1999 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Kun elän (‘As I live’, Tammi, 1999). Introduction by Pekka Tarkka


Here is a treetop
with three
thousand branches,

three thousand
names, whose
syllables no one

knows, three
thousand minds,
one murmur

traversed by a
breath, a sentence,
I’m afraid to say

a million leaves
sough, speechless,

a thousand dark
branching roots,
names in the soil,

a million words
in humus heaven
a thousand sprouts

bloom yet are lifeless,
dead heroes,
pointless tales,

three million
wrinkles. faces

by branches,
in the brain’s roots
a new person’s thought

is born and
hums through branches,

the smoke disappears
through the branches,
the smoke disappears.


He saw faces behind the glass,
heard himself breathe.

With his fingertips, he brushed the glass surface
but it was not the same as skin.

Slowly, he arranged what he saw,
that blurry motion, but it did not work

as an architecture, the kind
a living city is perennially building.

He opened up to a gaze, froze,
lost the game altogether.

Then the scythe disappeared. He opened
a window onto the street, heard

leaves rustle as if waking up
to life, one more time.


But I did not sing,
I chased her away,

flushed the toilet, paced
circles in the living room

like a moth that looks for
a place to land

or a solution that does not exist
to a problem that probably

does not exist either,
just a wall full of

leather-backed books
and seats among which

the moth chooses one, a
commodified insomnia

a landscape someone
invented once: palaces,

persons, tensions,
systems and maps

constructed by language insects
on top oft he void,

in the air, an imago mundi
never seen before

never before heard-of
utopias, illnesses

people prefer to endure
rather than

giving up, once they have
forgotten the war’s causes

or the cornerstone of their learning
ground up to gravel

long ago, they still love
the country they have

destroyed, for love
is stronger than

its object, and who
needs it, the group

eats reason and everything learned,
it turns us into beasts,

the congregation executes
its christ, the state

its sages, but the sleepless
animal keeps wrestling

in the mud with its inner
hero, the beast; yearns, spits,

rages and grieves, looks for
reconciliation, tries

to mediate and interpret
between invisible enemies

to whom only sleep and murmur
can lend a shape, until the image

finally shatters
into sentences, steps

into line between covers,
on the shelf: in the closed pages

simmers yet another delirium
no one has ever seen before.

Four o’clock

Don’t know why I burst out laughing
in bed, but someone instantly answered
as if by rote, as if
comprehending eternity,

laughing without malice, life
and soul of the party, cruel
as a certain hero
who was asked to hold up

the roof while they were still making
speeches in the hall, while the fool
scratched his belly, raised his cup
to the host. while a woman

raised her skirt, the whole forest laughed
and every demon claw
inscribed history. from which
the laughter freed him.

All of a sudden the clock struck four,
but I heard only my heartbeat,
the rush of systole and diastole,
tides of a muddy delta,

the sleepless whimper
of birth and death, the streams of cellular fluids,
the pulsing of stars, the animal’s paws
as it padded along the runner,

all in step; not long now until the wolfs hour,
nothing stirred on the plains, I felt
a thundercloud push down on my forehead,
and the wind died, the grass

stopped rustling, sugar coagulated, and then
lightning stopped my heart with one blow,
in one rapid motion my hand
tore off the pillow case, my body

sat up in bed, my mouth shouted,
the primal animal, evolution howled.
Upright. he stood in front of me,
in the rearview mirror the car came closer

struck me again and again from behind
with a huge iron fist, made words burst
from my mouth, the car rose into the air: a plane,

a pegasus galloping straight at the pillar,
now muteness, the windshield
cracked, flew out in one piece
to rest on the hood

in the rearview mirror the car
came closer again, I saw how I flew
into the foliage, in my mind
two separate memories:

thus memory shatters time, and so
one can look at the past as true,
barely, barely endure it: she
bent over me, said something.

At the wake, lips moved. behind
the glass stood a fair boy
whom I knew, even though
he had already grown up to be a man.

Translated by Anselm Hollo

Still lives

Issue 4/1999 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews, Reviews

The composition of Raija Siekkinen’s short stories is almost always the same: a woman, a man, slowly developing understanding or alienation, a resolution. In her new, book-length story, Se tapahtui täällä (‘It happened here’), the motivating events take place before the narrative begins, and the journey is toward emergence from grief.

‘One must listen to one’s own voice, and cultivate it. I am no moralist, except in the relation to myself. The persona and voice of the writer must be on the same lines, otherwise one cannot be honest, and writes only for entertainment. One has to live with what one writes,’ says Raija Siekkinen, rolling a cigarette at home in the small coastal town of Kotka, a 120 kilometres from Helsinki, near the church, in her picturesque wooden house. She says she was sensitive and shy as a child, but somehow realised that she had to defend her own words and manner. ‘And in literature honesty is one of the most essential things.’ More…

Between two loves

Issue 4/1999 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

From Se tapahtui täällä (’It happened here’, Otava, 1999). Introduction and interview by Nina Paavolainen

She thought of the period between two loves as a spacious room, full of light, outside whose windows the seasons change unhurriedly. On the walls are reflections of the morning light. There is the sound of piano music; and the number of rooms grows. Somewhere, far away, a young girl, dressed in white, is at the piano; the wind fans the curtains. Slow awakening, the soft rocking of time, the sound of bare feet on a wooden floor. In the air there is the scent of flowers, apples, and the gentle morning breeze, and perfume, and the scent of clean, ironed clothes and furniture wax. The afternoon shadows are long and cool; the pages of a book rustle slowly. Now the music pauses.


Mystery and the imagination

30 December 1999 | Authors, Reviews

Jyrki Vainonen

Photo: Niko Aula

Jyrki Vainonen mixes reality with miracles: in his story ‘The pearl’ the central character is a living model in a department store. Introduction by Pekka Tarkka

The setting of Jyrki Vainonen’s short story ‘Helmi’ (‘The Pearl’) reminds me of the Finnish architect Sigurd Frosterus, who lived at the beginning of the 20th century. He wrote a brilliant essay on the Wertheim department store in Berlin, which he saw as a work of art of the age of capitalism, similar to the baths for Romans or the cathedral for the people of the mediaeval period. He realised his vision by designing a handsome building, the Stockmann department store, which has been a much-loved temple of goods for Helsinki people for 70 years. More…

The pearl

30 December 1999 | Fiction, Prose

A short story from Tutkimusmatkailija ja muita tarinoita (‘The explorer and other stories’, Loki-kirjat, 1999)

My name is Jan Stabulas. I am one of the quietest and inconspicuous workers in our department store, this giant ant-heap swarming with people. No one really pays any attention to me, although I am on show all the time. My job is quite simple: to stand in the menswear department, dressed in fashionable clothes. Now that doesn’t take much, I have heard it said. Well, try it yourself. Try standing for ten hours, without moving, in an awkward, even an unnatural, position, wishing that the air conditioning would work when it was hot, or that it would be switched off when you can feel the draught cutting you to the marrow. Think how the customers stare at you as they pass by, like an object which they cannot buy, and consider your words once more. More…