Archive for June, 2004

Romantic and political

30 June 2004 | Authors, Reviews

Tomi Kontio

Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

If I had to describe Tomi Kontio’s new book of poems, Vaaksan päässä taivaasta (‘A span away from heaven’, Teos, 2004, page 93) in ten words or less, I would say that it is a succession of deep breaths taken between catastrophes great or small.

Since I have a few more words at my disposal here, I’ll also say that it meets every expectation set up by his previous three volumes of poetry: sonorous language, an essentially Romantic but not egocentric worldview, and extraordinary skill in combining straightforward narrative with spectacularly effortless runs of metaphors, as in these lines from the poem ‘Pietà’: More…

Between good and evil

Issue 2/2004 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

There are some wounds which take far longer than three generations to heal. In 1918 the great grandfathers of today’s Finns fought a bloody war, and touching the scars that conflict left behind still hurts.

The Finnish Civil War erupted in the aftermath of the Russian revolution. The reasons for the war were nonetheless deeply embedded in Finland’s internal problems, issues of land ownership and the weak position of the working classes. The workers formed the Red Guard and their opponents the White Guard, resulting ultimately in 30,000 deaths, mostly on the side of the Reds, who lost the war.

Amongst the Whites there served a group of officers called Jägers, who had been trained in Germany. They had been smuggled out of the country in order that they would one day return to lead Finnish troops in the struggle for independence against the tsar’s army. When they returned, however, the tsar had been overthrown and Finland had gained independence. Thus the Jägers ended up fighting their own compatriots, the insurgents of the workers’ uprising. The heroic Jägers have become one of the many myths surrounding the Civil War, but so have the Red Guard women who fought like beasts, Leena Lander (born 1955) explores these myths in her novel Käsky (‘Command’). More…


Issue 2/2004 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Käsky (‘Command’, WSOY, 2003). Introduction by Jarmo Papinniemi

Only once he had led the woman into the boat and sat down in the rowing seat did it occur to Aaro that it might have been advisable to tie the woman’s hands throughout the journey. He dismissed the thought, as it would have seemed ridiculous to ask the prisoner to climb back up on to the shore whilst he went off to find a rope.

It was a mistake.

After sitting up all night, being constantly on his guard was difficult. Sitting in silence did not help matters either, but they had very few things to talk about. More…

Daring to dream

30 June 2004 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Vaaksan päässä taivaasta (‘A span away from heaven’, Teos, 2004)

In the evenings they lit a candle on the cat’s grave
In the daytime they made a cosmological model
with a skipping rope
feet tapped the rhythm and its shadow
the rope slapped against the street
once in a while a rock flew
against a concrete wall
plunged from the oval galaxy’s edge
to the edge of space. More…

Our fellow creatures

30 June 2004 | Authors, Reviews

Hannele Huovi

Photo: Tiina Itkonen

Hannele Huovi is a compelling story-teller (see page 98) but, again and again, she makes us realise what a strange place our world is – how easily we can slip out of it into dream or psychosis, or cross some concealed frontier into a parallel universe.

Hers is a readable form of surrealism – the art of defamiliarising familiar things by putting them in anomalous environments. The results are absorbing for children but fascinating and entertaining for adults too, an essential of good children’s literature. Because it can be serious without being solemn and can expand consciousness, the genre has engaged very great wits from Jonathan Swift to Lewis Carroll. Eeva-Liisa Manner’s stories (see Books from Finland 1/2004) are another obvious point of contact, but Huovi is brilliantly inventive and completely original. More…

Lipstick memories

Issue 2/2004 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews

Hannu Väisänen has always used images from his childhood in his work as an artist, but now he has also recorded the life of his family in an autobiographical novel entitled Vanikan palat (‘Pieces of crispbread’), in which colours, smells and sounds paint a word-picture of 1950s Finland. Interview by Soila Lehtonen

Hannu Väisänen (born 1951) is a graphic artist and painter. His major projects have included illustrations for the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, for an edition published in celebration of its 150th anniversary in 1999. He now lives in France, and his work has been shown in numerous European countries.

Mixing his colours himself, Väisänen aims for a state in which ‘even black would be a colour’. Characteristic of his art are two-dimensionality, the absence of perspective, ‘the sanctity of surface’, and a subject recurrent in his image, a seriality associated with numbers. He has also used literary subjects, including a serigraphy sequence on Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies and a sequence of paintings about the Kaspar Hauser story. Väisänen has made art for churches, a television series about art classics, opera sets, and has written articles about art as well as a collection of poetry. More…

Animal crackers

30 June 2004 | Children's books, Fiction

Fables from the children’s book Gepardi katsoo peiliin (‘A cheetah looks into the mirror’, Tammi, 2003). Illustrations by Kirsi Neuvonen


The rhinoceros was late. She went blundering along a green tunnel she’d thrashed through the jungle. On her way, she plucked a leaf or two between her lips and could herself hear the thundering of her own feet. Snakes’ tails flashed away from the branches and apes bounded out of the rhino’s path, screaming. The rhino had booked an afternoon appointment and the sun had already passed the zenith.

When the rhinoceros finally arrived at the beautician’s, the cosmetologist had already prepared her mud bath. The rhino was able to throw herself straight in, and mud went splattering all round the wide hollow. More…

Daddy dear

Issue 2/2004 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Vanikan palat (‘Pieces of crispbread’, Otava, 2004). Interview by Soila Lehtonen

Dad’s at the mess again. Comes back some time in the early hours. Clattering, blubbing, clinging to some poem, he collapses in the hall.

We pretend to sleep. It’s not a bad idea to take a little nap. After a quarter of an hour Dad wakes up. Comes to drag us from our beds. Crushes us four sobbing boys against his chest as if he were afraid that a creeping foe intended to steal us. We cry too, of course, but from pain. Four boys belted around a non-commissioned officer is too much. It hurts. And the grip only tightens. Dad whines:

‘Boys, I will never leave you. Dad will never give his boys away. There will be no one who can take you from me.’ More…