Archive for October, 2009

Kari Hotakainen: Ihmisen osa [The human lot]

9 October 2009 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kari HotakainenIhmisen osa
[The human lot]
Helsinki: Siltala,  2009. 276 p.
ISBN 978-952-234-021-4
30 €, hardback

Kari Hotakainen (born 1957) is one of Finland’s most internationally successful contemporary authors, and is widely known for his children’s books, plays and television screenplays. Like many of Hotakainen’s other works, Ihmisen osa is a contemporary novel, but it is one that sees the author being angrier and more ferocious than before; this is a story that will move readers and make them laugh. Its plot gets off to a slightly ungainly start: an impatient writer wants to ‘buy someone’s life’ for the purpose of turning it into material for a novel and is prepared to pay an elderly widow €7,000 for hers. A former yarn-seller tells him all about her life as she remembers it, and the writer writes it up into his own book – the husband’s wilful silence, a serious accident suffered by one of the three children, gradually being revealed. Having got the beginning out of the way, Hotakainen then puts his foot on the gas: in his laconic style he throws light on the conditions at the edges of contemporary working life: the business of selling images, selfishness and greed, the power of words. The yarn-seller writes to one of her children: ‘Don’t rise above your station. There’s no air up there, and you’ll get dizzy.’ Hotakainen’s novel Juoksuhaudantie (‘Trench Road’) was awarded the Finlandia Prize for Fiction in 2002. It has been translated into 17 languages and was awarded the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize in 2004.

Armas Järnefelt. Kahden maan mestari [Armas Järnefelt. Maestro of two countries]

2 October 2009 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Armas Järnefelt. Kahden maan mestari
[Armas Järnefelt. Maestro of two countries]
Toim. [Ed. by] Hannu Salmi
Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2009. 438 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-222-057-8
€ 35, hardback

The conductor and composer Armas Järnefelt (1868–1959) was a member of one of Finland’s most prominent cultural families. His sister Aino was married to the composer Jean Sibelius. From 1905 he was the conductor of the Royal Opera in Stockholm and became a Swedish citizen. In the 1930s Järnefelt served as the artistic director and conductor of the Finnish Opera, forerunner of today’s Finnish National Opera. This book covers the various stages of his life and surveys the background to his compositions, with input from a number of Finnish music experts. Järnefelt, as a composer of beautiful melodies, was a part of the National Romantic tradition; his best-known piece, Berceuse (1904), is familiar to listeners around the world in many adaptations. Influences from Richard Wagner and Jean Sibelius are often seen in Järnefelt’s works. This book provides a more complete artistic portrait of Järnefelt than the rather superficial coverage previously available. Prior to the publication of this book, the committee responsible for the editorial work was incorporated as a society dedicated to Armas Järnefelt and has released musical scores, recordings and performances of Järnefelt’s works.