Archive for June, 2008

The forest and us

30 June 2008 | Fiction, poetry

Poems from Kerttu ja Hannu (‘Gretel and Hansel’, Tammi, 2007). Introduction by Anselm Hollo

In the emptiness

When we were children. We went to sleep in our father’s and mother’s bed. I got father’s sweaty side. You got mother’s fragrant blankets. We dreamed pale green spherical cloud dreams in wrought-iron beds and burnt our fumbling paws on the red-hot shade of the night light. We did not know. That this downy softness wouldn’t last. The rooms were always large and the big people were big and there was no sin. More…

Over the rainbow

Issue 2/2008 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Poet, novelist and dramatist Juhani Peltonen (1941–1998) wrote about love, loneliness and melancholy in a manner uniquely distinguished by a playful gloominess, a sense for deeply gripping-comic tragedy and a virtuosic ability to mould language into any shape he pleased.

In his novel Maanäären viinitarhurit (‘The vintners of the ends of the earth’, 1976), Juhani Peltonen tells of the ‘atheistic Orthodox’, who are afflicted by an incessant wanderlust, but who never go anywhere. The atheistic Orthodox do not believe in God themselves, but they are convinced that the painters of the icons that adorn their beautiful churches must have seen God, if even just a glimpse.

This sort of coincidentia oppositorum, in which the longing for faraway places and homesickness combine as a melancholy wanderlust, symbolises the whole of Juhani Peltonen’s output.

The author of seven collections of poetry and seven novels, four plays and four collections of short stories, Peltonen debuted as a poet. He is best known for his novels and short stories, though he wrote those with his poet’s pen as well; reckless lyricism in even his declarative statements became his trademark. More…

Elmo’s fire

Issue 2/2008 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Elmo (WSOY, 1978)

After returning to Finland and Kainalniemi, Elmo got to feel like a celebrity. The various sport clubs were insufferably keen on getting Elmo into their training rings, but Elmo rebuffed them. He had belonged to Kainalniemi Sweat since he was a little boy, and that was enough for him. His mind was occupied by other matters. In the end, even his mother and father began to wonder at his attitude.

‘Why don’t you just go, since they keep asking, and since you do seem to have some talent in that direction,’ his mother urged as she made Sunday coffee from the can Elmo had brought as a gift.

‘Right. Somewhere down the road you could snatch a few gold medals out from under the noses of the others, just for the hell of it,’ his father said. More…

Blocks and locks

Issue 2/2008 | Archives online, Essays, On writing and not writing

Writer's block

For the writer, not being able to write is just one of the profession’s occupational hazards, says the author Eeva Kilpi. She recalls a particularly debilitating attack of the affliction, and offers suggestions for escaping it

I had no idea I was currently suffering from writer’s block until I was asked to describe the condition.

Now I feel – as I sit at my oId, muscle-powered, Facit typewriter – that a horror of words is the first and normal reaction every time I have to begin a piece (let alone a book). Words dart into hiding like a frightened flock of birds that has barely settled to rest. (And now I hear successful, prolific colleagues rushing to explain how easy it is to use a computer to correct mistakes and move entire paragraphs even from one chapter to another, but I am paralysed by the very thought of a flickering screen, ready and waiting, and of the fateful key by pressing which one may destroy an entire immortal manuscript, as I have heard has happened to some people.) More…

In the woods

30 June 2008 | Authors, Reviews

Riina Katajavuori

The tale of Hansel and Gretel is an ancient one, woven around the themes of abandonment, cannibalism, and the terrors of dark forests in those forests’ ancient heyday. Told, edited and retold by the German Brothers Grimm in the early 19th century, the tale’s archetypal magic has inspired composers, writers and artists for hundreds of years.

Riina Katajavuori’s new book of poems, Kerttu ja Hannu (‘Gretel and Hansel’, Tammi, 2007), is an imaginative de-and reconstruction of it. By reversing the traditional order of the names, Katajavuori (born 1968) gives notice that her poems are a her-not-his version of the story, a retelling from Gretel’s perspective. More…

A hard day’s night

Issue 2/2008 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Arne Nevanlinna. Photo: Veikko Somerpuro/WSOY.

Arne Nevanlinna. Photo: Veikko Somerpuro/WSOY.

Marie Myhrborgh was born in Strasbourg on the last day of the 19th century. A hundred years later she is living her last days in a Finnish nursing home. Her mind wanders, searching for a vanished time in the landscapes of her childhood and her later life in Finland, where she was brought by a hasty marriage, formed amid the clamor of the First World War.

In his first novel Marie (WSOY, 2008) Arne Nevanlinna follows his protagonist’s associations and reminiscences, creating comic and ironic, as well as tragic parallels between the eras and the cultures that it describes.

With her marriage, Marie’s life as a Frenchwoman under the authority of the Germans changes to that of an outsider in the narrow social circles of the Finland-Swedish gentry, which her outsider’s eyes see in an ironic light. More…

Dinner with Marie

Issue 2/2008 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Marie (WSOY, 2008). Introduction by Tuomas Juntunen

For once, Marie decided to plan a dinner without the same old roast beef, boiled potatoes, peas, red wine and berry kissel. And particularly no game. The thought of rabbit reminded her of the hunting trip to Porpakka, the hounds puking up rabbit skins onto the parquet floor, the smell of singed birds, the feathers that turned up even weeks later in a corner of the kitchen, the buckshot in the goose that broke her tooth. Mind you, she had to admit that brown sauce was quite good, especially as an aspic. She had tasted a spoonful once the morning after it was made, when Martta had gone out to buy milk and Marja was cleaning the drawing room, and then Martta had come back quite suddenly, and Marie had panicked and swallowed it the wrong way and had a fit of coughing. ‘Good heavens,’ Martta had said, ‘what’s the matter? I just came back to get my purse. I forgot it on the sideboard.’

The true reason for the plan was that she wanted to show them what a real French formal dinner was like, how much better it was. She planned the menu secretly for months, first in her mind, then in writing, at her bedroom dressing table – the only place she had to herself, although the door wouldn’t lock – at first on wrapping paper, which she later burnt in the tiled stove in the dining room when no one was home. More…