Archive for December, 2004

A strong man’s love

Issue 4/2004 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

One day a Russian weight-lifter finds he has been transformed into a successful sumo wrestler in Tokyo. Zinaida Lindén’s first novel I väntan på en jordbävning (‘Waiting for an earthquake’, Söderströms, 2004), is a highly unusual story of a strong man and a great city, Leningrad.

Born in 1963 in Leningrad, Zinaida Lindén studied Swedish language and literature in her native city. In 1995 she moved to Turku, publishing her first book in Swedish a year later. Her two collections of stories, Överstinnan och syntetisatorn (‘The colonel’s wife and the synthesizer’, 1996) and Sheherazades sanna historier (‘The true stories of Sheherazade’, 2000), show a talent for effective narrative and a rich, unfettered imagination. More…

For the love of a city

Issue 4/2004 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel I väntan på en jordbävning (‘Waiting for an earthquake’, Söderströms, 2004). Introduction by Petter Lindberg

Nonna Rozenberg lived quite near the special school where I was a boarder, in a block nine stories high with a bas-relief to the right of the door. This bas-relief featured a fairy-tale figure – the Firebird or the Bird Sirin.

I often saw Nonna stepping out of a tram carrying a large brown case. She moved carefully, as if afraid of falling.

She played the cello, and resembled that bulky, melodious instrument herself. Women’s figures are often compared to guitars. But Nonna’s appearance never hinted at parties at home with parents away or singsongs around the camp-fire.

She was no beauty. Her slow, precociously mature body was neither graceful nor girlishly delicate. If I’d met her later, when I was working at a gym, I’d have said she was overweight and lacking in self-discipline. More…

An officer and a gentleman

Issue 4/2004 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

A moment in the Chinese garden: from left, Eric Macartney. Kashgar, China, 1906. Photo: C.G.E. Mannerheim

A moment in the Chinese garden: from left, Eric Macartney. Kashgar, China, 1906. Photo: C.G.E. Mannerheim

A photograph from 1906 prompted Markus Nummi to write a 500-page novel about the people of the caravan route in China. One of his characters, the Finnish photographer and spy-explorer Carl Gustaf Mannerheim, in reality later became Finland’s sixth president. Where does fiction end and history begin? Anna-Leena Nissilä investigates

The city of Kashgar in Chinese Turkestan in the year 1906: a group of French explorers and a crowd of Swedish missionaries from the local province, along with other members of the European community and their children, have gathered together in an orchard to take a picture. Midilimanglar, keep still, says the photographer, Baron Carl Gustaf Mannerheim, and presses the shutter release. The admonition is without effect; the picture turns out restless. Little Eric can’t hold still; a baby girl is grabbing at a man’s hat; the adults are looking past the camera. For some reason the host of the event, an Englishman named Macartney, is standing a pace away from the rest of the group.

Almost a century later, the author Markus Nummi (born 1959) runs across Mannerheim’s snapshot and becomes inspired. He tells how the expansive and thematically wide-ranging historical novel Kiinalainen puutarha (‘The Chinese garden’, Otava, 2004) began to form around the photograph:

‘The photograph is the starting point for everything, the intersection and blink of an eye in which all of my story’s central characters are close to another. I was fascinated by the picture’s bustle: people looking every which way, all the fumbling about. And when you look at the picture more closely, you start to see different kinds of connections; when you look at where these people were coming from and where they went in their lives, you can start to imagine what is hidden behind the picture. I started to contemplate what the photographer saw at the moment the picture was taken, maybe angels?’ More…

Conversations with a horse

Issue 4/2004 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Kiinalainen puutarha (‘The Chinese garden’, Otava, 2004). Introduction by Anna-Leena Nissilä

Colonel Mannerheim.
Near Kök Rabat, on the caravan route between Kashgar and Yarkand.
October 1906

It is growing dark. Let the others go on ahead. Let us wait here awhile. Perhaps the pain will go over. We’ll get through.

Steady, Philip.

You always obey. And listen. Your ears proudly, handsomely pricked.

Steady, I said, there in the garden. No reaction. Everyone was moving. Pure comedy. And something else.

An illusion, two girls. Then gone.

How to explain.

Before that. I had a conversation with Macartney, the British chargé d’affaires…

Pain…. It burns, now it burns again. Let us wait now, Philip. Steady, steady now. More…

On presence and absence

30 December 2004 | Authors, Reviews

 Sanna Karlström

Photo: Irmeli Jung

The calm, precisely defined atmosphere of Sanna Karlström’s poems is interlined by the fragility and seriousness of the ‘I’, suggesting a certain sorrow. The clarity and purity of Finnish modernism’s tradition shows up in her controlled style; one may detect glimpses of the classically modernist images of Paavo Haavikko (1931–2008) in her poems. Karlström’s collection, Taivaan mittakaava (‘The scale of the sky’, Otava, 2004) does consider ‘the scale of the sky’, but her gaze is more centred on what is close at hand, the small. The ‘scale’ she works on is that of windows and rooms, which reflect both the self and ‘the other’. More…

Where we are now

30 December 2004 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Taivaan mittakaava (‘The scale of the sky’, Otava, 2004)


Behind your back the city’s changing,

across the sky a crane’s swinging
ready-made components.

A tie splits the architect’s white shirt,
his paired limbs and individual organs,
two lanes, left and right.

You and I are precisely planned.
Even now we’re on a ruler’s edge. More…

Reading the world

30 December 2004 | Authors, Reviews

Helena Sinervo

Photo: Marja-Leena Hukkanen

Helena Sinervo’s intention was to write a biography of the poet, prose-writer and translator Eeva-Liisa Manner (1921–1995). But even during the early research the task looked daunting: the interviewees spoke about a luminary, the greatest genius of the modernistic Finnish poetry.

Helena Sinervo (born 1961) is a poet and a critic. She herself had recognised grief, suffering and loneliness in Manner’s works. Things went as they do with a writer; the material she had collected fictionalised itself in Sinervo’s mind. The novel-character Eeva-Liisa came to life, and Sinervo began writing about the persona’s life from within. The result was the novel Runoilijan talossa (‘In the house of the poet’, Tammi, 2004). More…

A greater solitude

30 December 2004 | Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Runoilijan talossa (‘In the house of the poet’, Tammi, 2004)

Images of love

The double door to the patio is tightly swollen into the framework, so tight I’m chary of using force to prize it open. The windows might break. The lower part remains stuck, as if screwed to a carpenter’s bench, while the upper part gapes – leans out as if longing to liberate itself from its lintel. That’s an image of love: one part longs to be free, the other part holds on fast. I get a toolbox from the cleaning cupboard and try to hammer a chisel into the space between the bottom edge and the threshold. I succeed, but the chisel marks the door, defacing it. That’s an image of love too. More…