Archive for September, 2004

No need to go anywhere

30 September 2004 | Authors, Reviews

Mirkka Rekola

Photo: Irmeli Jung

Mirkka Rekola was a minimalist before minimalism was invented. Eschewing any poetic flummery, her passion has generally been infused into brief, enigmatic notations of moments: reports of flashes of heightened awareness.

She records ‘the best thing I remember’ – captured as it flies. It may be the sight of someone intensely loved in some very ordinary action – but enhanced by an almost visionary light: a new rug is being hugged: ‘When you were embracing it I / almost felt it was breathing, / that rug, it breathed that autumn’s colours, and this one’s.’ And nature isn’t separate from us: ’embracing a tree we grow.’ Or: ‘You’ll never get such tenderness / ever as from the snowfall’s / thousands and thousands and thousands of moments.’ More…

The best thing

30 September 2004 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Valekuun reitti (‘The path of the false moon’, WSOY, 2004). Introduction by Herbert Lomas

At first light I put my hand
     in the hollow of a white willow –
once someone's cigarette box
had been left there –
     now a bird flew out
going seaward.
Touch of a wingquill on the back of my hand.
     It flew higher.
          In the evening
I felt its touch on my shoulder blade.


An antiutopia, updated

30 September 2004 | Authors, Reviews

Leena Krohn

Photo: Ida Pimenoff

How many goodly creatures are the here!
How beauteous mankind is!
O brave new world,
That has such people in’t!

The quotation is the motto of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World dystopia; in Shakespeare’s The Tempest the innocent Miranda sees strangers for the first time when a ship is wrecked on the shore of Prospero’s enchanted island. In Huxley’s world, created in 1932, children in the year ‘600 After Ford’ are bred in test tubes, and the opium for the people, ‘soma’, is taken to fight off anxiety. More…

To sleep, to die

30 September 2004 | Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Unelmakuolema (‘Dreamdeath’, Teos, 2004)


Who would not like to cheat the grim reaper? Ways are known, of course, both scientific and non-scientific, but all of them are uncertain and temporary. Except for the simplest: to get there first oneself.

The refinement of this idea was Dreamdeath’s business idea. ‘Dreamdeath – because you deserve it!’ went Dreamdeath’s slogan.

The Dreamdeath home offered those who wished it the means to the most pleasant, even luxurious realisation of an autonomic death in an atmosphere of moral approval, against a suitable fee. At Dreamdeath the client himself decided when and in what conditions he would leave his mortal clay. More…

Cosmic and comic

Issue 3/2004 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Sabine Forsblom’s first novel Maskrosguden (‘The dandelion god’; Söderströms, 2004) is compulsive reading, an intelligent, action-packed family chronicle, whose secretive but vulnerable female narrator has a strong sense of both the tragic and the comic in daily life and, no less important, a clear analytical understanding of historical events.

Maskrosguden is unusual among recent novels in being firmly rooted in the history of the Swedish-speaking working class in Finland. Finland is a bilingual country that contains a small but influential Swedish-speaking community mainly concentrated in Helsinki and on and around the western and southern coasts. The Swedish-speaking working class was mainly concerned with farming and fishing but, like much of the rest of the country, it was overtaken in the 20th century by rapid industrialisation. This development is one of the themes in Sabine Forsblom’s novel, which is set in the small picturesque coastal town of Borgå, fifty kilometres east of Helsinki. Today Borgå is a tourist attraction, but it was once the home of ordinary folk whose humble lives involved a constant battle for survival and integrity amid harsh working conditions. More…

Daddy’s girl

Issue 3/2004 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Maskrosguden (‘The dandelion god’, Söderströms, 2004). Introduction by Maria Antas

The best cinema in town was in the main square. The other was a little way off. It was in the main square too, but you couldn’t compare it to the Royal. At the Grand there was hardly any room between the rows, the floor was flat and there was a dance-hall on the other side of the wall, so that Zorro rode out of time with waltzes, in time with oompahs, out of time with the slow steps of tangos and in time with quick numbers. The Royal was different and had a sloping floor.

Inside, the Royal was several hundred metres long. You could buy sweets on one side and tickets on the other. From Martina Wallin’s mum. She was refined. So was everyone except us: Mum, Dad and me. More…

Right between the eyes

Issue 3/2004 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Something that most Finnish men have in common is the one year’s service in the army they experience at the age of around twenty. Military service affects all males, but nowadays many opt to discharge their obligation in the form of community service working in daycare centres or hospitals.

The army also brings together a considerable number of Finnish writers. Compulsorily united, men from different backgrounds who are doing their national service form a kind of laboratory, and by studying them the writers have managed to tackle many different themes, from the exercise of power, violence and oppression on the one hand, to comradeship and solidarity on the other.

The army is in itself an extreme situation: the limits of the young men’s freedom are closely regulated, and the purpose of training is to learn how to wage war. In books that depict the army, conditions are often presented in an even more exacerbated form. In his novel Lahti (WSOY, 2004) Arto Salminen (born 1959) makes an unusual emphasis: the officers in the novel treat war as though they were consultants to the management of a business concern; they talk of dead soldiers as ‘products’, of the war as ‘the market area’, of civilian casualties as ‘waste material’. The most important things are economic efficiency and functional logistics – these officers do not recognise any other values. More…

The business of war

Issue 3/2004 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Lahti (‘Slaughter’, WSOY 2004). Introduction by Jarmo Papinniemi

Major Tuppervaara put his plate down on a tree stump and walked over towards us. He had long legs and walked with a spring in his step. Twigs crunched beneath every step.

‘Okay, boys,’ he said. ‘Peckish?’


‘Take your time and listen carefully to what I’m about to tell you. The training exercise will begin soon. Your job is to help out here, you’ll be doing the medical officers’ jobs, all things you’re familiar with. During the course of this drill you will see things you have never seen before. You must not tell anyone about them. I repeat: no one. Not your father, not your mother’ not your girlfriend or your mates, not even the staff at your divisions. No one. That’s an order. Is that clear?’

‘Yes, Sir,’ said Äyräpää. Hiitola and I nodded. More…

Briefly put

Issue 3/2004 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Petri Tamminen (born 1966) is literally a man of short stories. He made his debut in 1994 with a volume of fictional biographies called Elämiä (‘Lives’), containing the stories of peoples’s lives presented in about 200 words each.

In them, entire decades flash by in a sentence, or lives are summed up in a single event, often apparently insignificance. In most cases, the comic, the tragic and the melancholy are not captured in language, but in what the author chooses not to say.

His novel Väärä asenne (‘Wrong attitude’, 2000) describes the nightmares of a new father plagued with a bacteriophobia. Tamminen’s collection of short prose, Piiloutujan maa (‘The land of the hider’, 2002), is a kind of manual for those oppressed by the anxiety of existence. The author suggests that anxious people should look for good hiding places to escape the madding crowds for a while. Attics, libraries or airports can be suitable refuges, but havens are also provided by states of mind and modes of behaviour. By hiding, ‘the anxious person rests, takes a holiday from the world and its rules’, he explains. More…

Scenes from a life

Issue 3/2004 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from Muistelmat (‘Memoirs’, Otava, 2004). Introduction by Soila Lehtonen

1973, Mietoinen
The shot put circle

Great Grandma knew a lot. She could look over to the neighbor’s yard two kilometers away and told us she could see a broom there leaning against the door. I was practicing the shot-put with the boys by the gable end of the barn. The shot flew three meters. Great Grandma walked past: ‘So what are you boys up to?’ I stared at the ground and said: ‘We don’t know yet.’

1980, Turku
The people in the neighboring car

Reeds rustled against the sides of the boat. The car stood in the sun. We drove into town. At the end of the trip, traffic slowed. I sat in the back seat and got a good view of the people in the car next to us. When we started moving again, I knew I would never see them again. After thirty seconds, they were there, right next to us. More…