Archive for June, 2007

True or false?

30 June 2007 | Fiction, Prose

An extract from the novel Toiset kengät (‘The other shoes’, Otava, 2007). Interview by Soila Lehtonen

‘What is Little Red Riding Hood’s basket like? And what is in it? You should conjure the basket up before you this very moment! If it will not come – that is, if the basket does not immediately give rise to images in your minds – let it be. Impressions or images should appear immediately, instinctively, without effort. So: Little Red Riding Hood’s basket. Who will start?’

Our psychology teacher, Sanni Karjanen, stood in the middle of the classroom between two rows of desks. Everyone knew she was a strict Laestadian. It was strange how much energy she devoted to the external, in other words clothes. God’s slightly unsuccessful creation, a plump figure with pockmarks, was only partially concealed by the large flower prints of her dresses, her complicatedly arranged scarves and collars. Her style was florid baroque and did not seem ideally suited to someone who had foresworn charm. Her hair was combed in the contemporary style, her thin hair backcombed into an eccentric mountain on top of her head and sprayed so that it could not be toppled even by the sinful wind that often blew from Toppila to Tuira. More…

Telling the tale

Issue 2/2007 | Archives online, Essays, On writing and not writing

Writer's block

Half of the art of writing lies in not telling the reader everything, writes Kaari Utrio, historian and writer of historical fiction

Fantasy is a curse to science but the lifeblood of literature. The combination of these two opposing factors lies at the core of my work. In the expression, ‘historical novel’, the emphasis is on the word ‘novel’. To me a novel is a story, and I am a storyteller. This is an important basic definition for the genre of literature I write. More…

Besotted with colour

30 June 2007 | Authors, Interviews

Hannu Väisänen

Photo: Otava/Petri Puromies

Colours, smells and sounds paint a vivid word-picture of a small, northern Finnish town in the 1950s in Hannu Väisänen’s first novel, Vanikan palat (‘The pieces of crispbread’, 2004; see Books from Finland 2/2004).

Little Antero, the novel’s protagonist, is an alter ego of the painter and graphic artist Hannu (born 1951). Antero has three brothers, a sister and an alcoholically inclined widower NCO father. The queue of potential stepmothers is a long and tragicomical one. The title of the novel refers to the stone-hard, thick rye crispbread produced for army consumption; the greyness of barracks life and a small town with incredibly harsh winters did not add up to a colourful life.

But Hannu became an artist to whom colour speaks. More…

The heart of reality

Issue 2/2007 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

The experience of nature always inspired the poet Aaro Hellaakoski (1893–1952), but in his universe – composed of rhyme, rhythm and linguistic brilliance – existential questions remain vital.

Man is a being tied to an intersection. Like some creature floating helplessly in the water, he sees shadows of the infinite in the surface and senses the depths beneath the surface, but neither is within his grasp. The poet Aaro Hellaakoski often uses the surface of water, two-dimensional space, as a symbol of the fate of man. Expertise in the natural sciences and experience with research, both rare for a poet, left their mark on Hellaakoski’s lyrics; he received his doctorate in geography in 1929 and had a long career as a schoolteacher. More…

An eye of the unseen

Issue 2/2007 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems and aphorisms by Aaro Hellaakoski. Introduction by Pertti Lassila


How tranquilly the evening’s darkening,
dusk deepening beneath the trees.
Consult the long alleyways of the skies
for the gift of this evening
and the cause of your ease.

But the waste! the pain and stress –
those reachings into secrets of the dark –
quarrying endlessness,
plummeting bottomlessness,
quizzing every question mark.

Why this rummaging into whence and why?
Empty let’s be. Open and free.
Let secrets come, or let them fly
away, diffuse like cloudscapes
or whisperings through a tree.

Eyes must glow as your spirits peer
through a wakeful cranny in where you are.
Only the silent have ears to hear.
When the doorstep feels the touch of a toe
only the vigilant’s door is ajar.

Huojuvat keulat (’Swaying prows’, 1945) More…

The show must go on

Issue 2/2007 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Piru, kreivi, noita ja näyttelijä (‘The devil, the count, the witch and the actor’, Gummerus, 2007). Introduction by Anna-Leena Ekroos

I hereby humbly introduce the maiden Valpuri, who has graciously consented to join our troupe,’ Henrik said.

A slight girl thrust herself among us and smiled.

‘What can we do with a somebody like her in the group? A slovenly wench, as you see. She can hardly know what acting is,’ Anna-Margareta snapped angrily.

‘What is acting?’ Valpuri asked.

Henrik explained that acting was every kind of amusing trick done to make people enjoy themselves. I added that the purpose of theatre was to show how the world worked, to allow the audience to examine human lives as if in a mirror. Moreover, it taught the audience about civilised behavior, emotional life, and elegant speech. Ericus thought that the deepest essence of theatre was to give visible incarnation to thoughts and feelings. None of us understood what he meant by this, but we nodded enthusiastically. Anna-Margareta insisted that, say what you will, in the end acting was a childish game. Actors were being something they were not, just like children pretending to be little pigs or baby goats. More…

Fools and devils

Issue 2/2007 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews, Reviews

Anneli Kanto.

Anneli Kanto. Photo: Gummerus/Milka Alanen

Witch trials began to be history in 17th century Finland, thanks to the arrival of the country’s first university and an enlightened Governor-general. A new novel by Anneli Kanto is in those times, with a wandering theatre troupe as its focus. Anna-Leena Ekroos talks to the author

Laurentius Petrus Bircalensis, a poor boy from a backwoods village, is accepted to study at the recently founded Åbo Academy, the first university in Finland, in the town of Åbo (known as Turku in Finnish). The young studiosus, greedy for money, is more interested in occult than in theological studies, and becomes charged with witchcraft. Desperate, Laurentius flees a death sentence to wander the countryside with the Comet theatre troupe.

Journalist, theatre critic and playwright Anneli Kanto’s mischievous and adventurous first novel Piru, kreivi, noita ja näyttelijä (‘The devil, the count, the witch and the actor’) takes us to 17th-century Finland, to the days of the Swedish Count Per (Petrus) Brahe, the Governor-General of Finland. At that time the eradication of the ignorance and superstition of the peasantry was beginning in earnest. More…