Katri Lipson: Kosmonautti [The cosmonaut]

30 December 2008 | Mini reviews

Katri Lipson: KosmonauttiKosmonautti
[The cosmonaut]
Helsinki: Tammi, 2008. 199 p.
ISBN 978-9513-142940
€ 22.50, hardback

Kosmonautti is a reflective first novel by a mature author; Lipson (born 1965), a medical doctor, has succeeded in weeding out the non-essential. In a cold, dark Murmansk during the final decade of the Soviet Union, three people live out their dreams. Seryozha is the good boy who adores space travel and his beautiful music teacher, Svetlana Kovalevna. She is harassed both in the classroom and in the staffroom, and by her snooping neighbours in the communal apartment. Sasha is Seryozha’s cheeky and precocious friend. This triangle, completed by Seryozha’s mother, contains a world of longing and loss which may make the reader’s heart almost burst with sympathy. Death gets in the way of the dreams, cruelty gets in the way of love – and yet the characters know that it’s important to dream and love. For Lipson – who has never visited Murmansk – the city is a state of mind, not a geographic or sociological location. She succeeds in creating romance and passion – not as they look in popular entertainment, but as they feel in a suffering heart. The novel won the Helsingin Sanomat Literature Prize for the best first novel, and was one of the six runners-up for the Finlandia Literature Prize.

(First published in Books from Finland 4/2008.)

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