Archive for December, 2001

Beastly beatitudes

Issue 4/2001 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

From Hämärä luonto. Aamunkoista Yön tuhmaan lintuun (niiden käyttäytymysestä ja elämästä yleensä) (’Natura Obscura. From the Moth of Dawn to the Naughty Bird of Night. On their behavior and life in general’, Tammi, 2001. Illustrations by Tatu Tuominen)

Anas cummea

Rubber duck

There are three species living on Earth which, it can be assumed, will survive a possible nuclear catastrophe: the cockroach, the rat and the rubber duck. Of these, the rubber duck is perhaps the most durable. Nothing affects it.

As soon as it emerges from the shell, the rubber duck secretes around its down an insulating layer of gum elastic for it cannot survive among bacteria or other non-mathematical creatures. Here begins the journey toward perfect self-sufficiency.

When young, the rubber duck looks at the world from behind its transparent membrane, protected from causes of disease, bad influences and modern poetry. With age, the rubber layer strengthens and becomes cartilaginous. Finally, the rubber duck lives alone in its own microcosmos, where there are no inter-species competition, nest-usurpers or elephant seals that mishandle their young. On the other hand, it has no room, either, for sunsets, litters of furry soft toys, or the lusty touch of lovers.

Sometimes the rubber duck finds itself in an existential panic: is there anyone, anything, outside the insulating layer? And does it itself exist? Who is speaking? Wrapped up in these thoughts, it reels around, bouncing from one bath to another, one season to the next. More…

Poetry for a new age?

Issue 4/2001 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

The brilliant colours and new free verse of the poetry of Katri Vala (1901-1944) inspired her contemporaries in the 1920s, but also divided them – into those for whom Vala’s romantic exoticism brought to mind the movies of Rudolph Valentino and those who were enchanted by the freedom of her imagination. ‘Wild and full-blooded and primitively lovely’, Katri Vala was to die of consumption at the tragically early age of 42. Vesa Mauriala introduces her work

Like many Finnish beginner poets, Katri Vala published her first works in the children’s magazine Pääskynen (‘The swallow’), and later in Nuori Voima (‘Young power’), a publication intended for schoolchildren. Around this latter, originally didactic, magazine, there subsequently grew up the Young Power League, and in the mid-1920s this in turn gave birth to a group called the Torch-Bearers, which first published intensely personal nature poetry but later began to import European influences into Finnish literature. More…

Enough is enough!

Issue 4/2001 | Archives online, Authors, Essays

Katri Vala’s admirers regarded her as a kind of priestess of passion for life. A hundred years after her birth, the contemporary writer Leena Krohn begs to differ

I have in my life been inspired by many poets – Salvatore Quasimodo, Charles Baudelaire, Nils Ferlin, T.S. Eliot, Edgar Lee Masters, Rainer Maria Rilke, for example.

Eino Leino, Uuno Kailas, P. Mustapää and Saima Harmaja are among the idols of my childhood, Edith Södergran and Helvi Juvonen those of my youth. Their verses must have formed such firm structures in my brain that I would be able to mumble them even if I were to become a victim of Alzheimer’s disease.

Katri Vala has never been one of these poets. More…

To live, to live, to live!

Issue 4/2001 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

From Kaukainen puutarha (‘A distant garden’, WSOY, 1924). Introductions by Vesa Mauriala and Leena Krohn

Flowering earth

The earth’s spilling out purple lilac clusters,
a rime of white rowan flowers,
constellations of red catch fly.
Crazy seas of blue, yellow and white flowers
ripple across the meadows.
And the smell!
More seductive than sacred incense!
The heathen smell of the earth’s skin –
hot and quivering, making you mad drunk!

To live, to live, to live!
Living the high moment of life with a rage,
petals wide open,
blossoming beautifully,
raving at your scent, at the sun –
living tipsily, the whole way!

So what if death’s coming!
or this wondrous multicolour’s
withering down to the earth?
Once at least there’s been a blossoming!
The sun – sky’s
mighty and burning love – has shone
straight into the flower heart,
down to the tremulous ovule of being!

Kukkiva maa

Maa kuohuu syreenien sinipunaisia terttuja.
pihlajain valkeata kukkahärmää.
tervakkojen punaisia tähtisikermiä.
Sinisiä, keltaisia, valkeita kukkia
lainehtivat niityt mielettöminä merinä.
Ja tuoksua!
Ihanampaa kuin pyhä suitsutus!
Kuumaa ja värisevää ja hulluksijuovuttavaa,
pakanallista maan ihon tuoksua!

Elää, elää, elää!
Elää raivokkaasti elämän korkea hetki,
terälehdet äärimmilleen auenneina,
elää ihanasti kukkien.
tuoksustansa, auringosta hourien –
huumaavasti, täyteläästi elää!

Mitä siitä, että kuolema tulee!
Mitä siitä, että monivärinen ihanuus
varisee kuihtuneena maahan.
Onhan kukittu kerta!
On paistanut aurinko,
taivaan suuri ja polttava rakkaus,
suoraan kukkasydämiin,
olemusten värisevään pohjaan asti!


Writing letters

30 December 2001 | Fiction, Prose

From Meddelande. Noveller i urval 1971–1997 (‘Messages. Selected short stories 1971–1997’, Schildts, 1997)

I’ll make it to Maritim, got hold of Gustafsson, van coming at 8, have redirected mail to summer address, bye kiss Tooti
Take last things out of fridge

Hi my name is Olavi. You write well but last time you didn’t make a happy ending. Why do you do this?

We look forward to your valued reply soonest concerning Moomin motifs on toilet paper in pastel shades

Don’t say too much if they ring, don’t promise yet. Bye Tooti

Hi! We’re three girls in a mad rush with our essays about you could you help us by saying in just a few words how you started writing and why and what life means to you and then a message to young people you know the kind of thing. Thanks in advance More…

What if?

30 December 2001 | Articles, Authors

GateA little familyFor an extraordinary period between 1944 and 1956 part of Finland – the Porkkala peninsula, close to Helsinki – was leased to the Soviet Union as a military base. Inspired by the photographs by Jan Kaila, Olli Jalonen explores those silenced and mysterious years, which prompted Finns to ask the question: what if the whole of Finland had succumbed to the same fate?

In the autumn of 1944, the Soviet Union set up an enormous military base close to Helsinki. The Porkkala area, which had been forcibly leased from Finland for 50 years, was returned to the Finns early, in 1956. Completely divorced from its surroundings and strongly armed, the foreign power’s base was like a bear sleeping in Finland’s back yard. It has left in the minds of Finns hidden images of silence, fear and mystery. More…

Life in the mist

30 December 2001 | Authors

Tove Jansson

Photo: C-G Hagström

Although most famous for her classic Moomin tales for children, Tove Jansson (1914–2001) also wrote extensively for adults. Maria Antas is surprised by the unexpected coldness of many of these stories of art and solitude

It was easy to love Tove Jansson. The creator of the Moomin characters, painter, author of children’s books and books for adults, she was the public symbol of a rare combination of pure wisdom and human kindness. Finns needed her. As she records in the fragmentary letters that make up the short story ‘Meddelande’ (‘Messages’), people turned to her in order to ask for advice on the most diverse matters: how does one become a good artist, help me to understand my parents, my cat has died: help me! More…

Art in nature

30 December 2001 | Fiction, Prose

A short story from Dockskåpet (‘The doll’s house’, 1978)

When the summer exhibition closed in the evenings and the last visitors went away, it became very quiet. A short time later boat after boat set off from the shore and sailed back to the village on the other side of the lake. The only member of staff who remained overnight was the caretaker; he slept in the sauna changing room at the bottom of the large lawn where the sculptures had been lined up among the trees. He was very old and had a bad back, but it had been hard to get hold of someone who didn’t mind the long, lonely evenings. And there had to be a night caretaker because of the insurance. More…

The dog-man’s daughter

30 December 2001 | Fiction

Extracts from the radio play Porkkalansaari (‘The island of Porkkala’, the Finnish Broadcasting Company, 1993)

The surface of the earth is the first to freeze; then the still waters. The sea freezes at the shore often at the same time, on the same night, as the slow-flowing brooks. I have watched them for many years. When you live in the same place for a long time, you notice this much: that almost everything just repeats and repeats.

It flows into a plastic tube. I suppose water flows inside it. You could drop matchsticks in on the other side of the road and wait on this side for them to swim through the drum. You’d only have to find one; that would be enough to prove it. More…