Archive for December, 2000

Daddy’s girls

Issue 4/2000 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Aura is the twelfth novel in the twenty-year writing career of Anja Snellman (born 1954; until 1997 Kauranen). It clearly recalls Snell man’s first book. Sonja O. kävi täällä (‘Sonja O. was here’, 1981) in its depiction of the difficulty of becoming, and the desire to become a writer. The novels are also linked by a confessional narrator; by varying her voice, the writer has deliberately dramatised a personally experienced and already written-about world.

Reading Aura, it feels increasingly as if Kauranen-Snellman is telling her best stories, depicting intimate relationships that are important to the identity of the individual. Ihon aika (‘The time of the skin’, 1993) was memorable as a moving depiction of a woman’s body painfully delineated between a mother and daughter. The writer has dedicated her new novel to her father, and it is built on the tension between father and daughter. More…

Briefcase man

Issue 4/2000 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Aura (Otava, 2000). Introduction by Mervi Kantokorpi

He was born in the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland the year the world caught fire. He learned to read the year of the revolution, and spoke two languages as his mother tongue border – language and enemy language, as he often used to say. He was proud of only one of his languages; the other, he loved secretly. He spoke one loudly, the other softly, almost in a whisper.

At night, on the telephone, he spoke far away – you could see it, even in the dark, from his expression, his half-closed eyes sometimes breaking into song. It was so beautiful and soft that I wept under the blankets and hated myself because of the effect that language had on me.

Stinking tinker Karelian trickster Russian drinker, little Russky’s dancing in a leather skirt, skirt tears and oh! little Russky’s hurt.

Count to ten, he said. But count in Finnish. Or Swedish, that’ll baffle them. And if they call you a Swedish bastard, it’s not so bad. I’ve taught you the numbers in Arabic and Spanish, too, but I don’t think you’ll be able to remember them yet. More…

Into the animal kingdom

Issue 4/2000 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews, Reviews

In her first novel, Ennen päivänlaskua ei voi (‘Not before sundown’, Tammi, 2000), Johanna Sinisalo has developed a new science, that of trollology, discovering in the northern forests a new mammal species, the troll. The novel takes its readers into a world beyond taboo. where human beings may fall in love with non-human creatures – and mortal danger may ensue. Introduction and interview by Soila Lehtonen

There are still wild beasts in the forests of northern Europe. It is still not far from the cities to the forest -and the forest is no manicured parkland. where the mark of man is everywhere visible. A berry-picker may encounter a bear, a schoolchild see wolf-tracks in the snow. But the territory of wild creatures in shrinking, and it is becoming more difficult for them to find food; and so they are making inroads into the human landscape. There are a thousand bears in Finland, one for every five thousand people; more than one hundred licences to shoot bear were granted this autumn. More…

Perfect thing

Issue 4/2000 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Ennen päivänlaskua ei voi (‘Not before sundown’, Tammi, 2000). Interview and introduction by Soila Lehtonen

A youngster is asleep on the asphalt in the backyard, near the dustbins. In the dark I can only make out a black shape among the shadows.

I creep closer and reach out my hand. The figure clearly hears me coming, weakly raises its head from the crouching position for a moment, opens its eyes, and I can finally make out what it is.

It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

I know straight away that I want it. More…

Love and war

Issue 4/2000 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Väinö Linna ‘s famous war novel, Tuntematon sotilas (The Unknown Soldier), was editorially censored, with the author’s agreement, on its first publication in 1954. But, as Pekka Tarkka discovers, the English translation that appeared three years later was outrageously falsified

Tuntematon sotilas (The Unknown Soldier) is a story about Finnish soldiers fighting Soviet forces in Second World War. When it came out in 1954, it immediately gained an almost incredibly important place in the hearts of Finnish readers: it sold 160,000 copies in the first year, it has been made into a movie twice, and over the years, it has been one of the steadiest sellers of Finnish literature, reaching a record figure of more than 600,000 copies. More…

Morale crisis

Issue 4/2000 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

An extract from Sotaromaani (’A war novel’, 1954): the italicised passages denote text omitted from the original edition of Tuntematon sotilas (1954; The Unknown Soldier) and now published for the first time in Sotaromaani (2000). Introduction by Pekka Tarkka

‘Battalion-at-tention!’ The battalion, gathered in a snowy clearing, froze to attention. Major Sarastie produced a sheet of paper and started reading from it. The men listened, a little perplexed. They already knew what had happened. What was the sense of reading to them about it. Two men had been executed because they had refused to return to their sentry posts. After they had heard about the execution, some had tried to chase down the military policemen who had performed it. Luckily, they had not been able to catch up with them; after all, they had been the least culpable parties to this crime.


A sensitive pessimist

30 December 2000 | Authors, Reviews

Pentti Saaritsa

Photo: Irmeli Jung

When we arrive in Oaxaca, we find a Sapotek culture pulsing with quiet wisdom, a people who, even in their appalling poverty, have preserved their joy in life, mezcal bars which threaten to overturn our blameless work schedules, and the house rented by the Finnish Writers’ Union, where the rooms we are shown to as are empty and unfurnished as the solitary confinement cells in the central jail.

But Pentti Saaritsa has the language skill and, more essentially, the art of relating to people as though he has been lifelong friends with the whole of humanity. During the first week, we explore the squares, markets and furniture stores of Oaxaca. Ritsa haggles with astonishing perseverance, with the result that, in the second week, we are the proud owners of two genuine Mexican desks, stools and standard lamps. But the typewriter takes up an entire chapter in Pentti Saaritsa’s autobiography. Untiringly, he finally reaches the price he wants. And so we settle in a town turned upside down by the Zapatista movement: ‘The Mexican typewriter has / its own handwriting: with letters that bounce / off the lines it continues / the story of my life….’ More…

A fifth season

30 December 2000 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Elävän mieli (‘A mind alive’, WSOY, 1999). Introduction by Lauri Otonkoski

In sparser gusts of wind
metaphors sough through the mind,
spinning as on the much-frequented
boulevards of a great park.
Even one’s most private thoughts are as common
as public transport, what a relief,
as shared as our anatomies and our bacteria,
for there is only one thread in the skein of the Norns
and the same fabric is always being woven
from the whims of fate: is that not a relief?
Treacherous individuality suffices only
for a fingerprint.
Metaphors always the same,
but constantly born anew
like a mind alive. More…