Archive for January, 2011

A spot of transmigration

13 January 2011 | Fiction, Prose

A short story, ‘Sielunvaellusta’, from the collection Rasvamaksa (‘Fatty liver’, WSOY, 1973)

‘Where will you be spending Eternity?’ a roadside poster demanded as Leevi Sytky sped by in his car.

‘Hadn’t really thought about it,’ Leevi muttered , as if in reply, and lit a cigarette.

But at the next level crossing, a kilometre or so further on, he was run down by a train, whose approach he had failed to notice. His attention had been distracted by the sight of a young woman who was picking black currants by the side of the track, and who happened to be bending forward in his direction. Intent on obtaining a better view of her ample bosom by peering over the top of her blouse, Leevi neglected to look both ways, and death ensued. Damned annoying, to say the least.

In due course he secured an interview with God, who turned out to be a biggish chap, about a hundred metres tall, wearing thigh-boots and sitting behind a large desk.

‘Well, and how’s Leevi Sytky getting along?’ God asked, lighting his pipe.

‘Mustn’t grumble,’ said Leevi politely.

‘And how are you thinking of spending Eternity?’ God inquired, sucking at his pipe and puffing out his cheeks. More…

Alexandra Salmela: 27 eli kuolema tekee taiteilijan [27, or death makes the artist]

13 January 2011 | Mini reviews, Reviews

27 eli kuolema tekee taiteilijan
[27, or death makes the artist]
Helsinki: Teos, 312 p.
ISBN 978-951-851-302-8
€ 25.90, hardback

Alexandra Salmela (born 1980) is a Slovakian-born dramaturge and literature graduate who has settled in Finland. The book’s main character, Angie, lives in Prague and suffers from an idée fixe: all her idols, such as Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Janis Joplin, died, already famous, before their 28th birthdays, but her own literary career has yet to take wing. The frustrated Angie’s literature lecturer has a lake cottage in Finland where Angie meets an eco-minded family in the middle of the sparsely populated Finnish countryside. The clash between the chaotic family life and Angie’s wannabee artistic temperament are skilfully handled by Salmela, who has a secure grasp of literary means and a playful use of the Finnish language. Among the narrative voices employed by Salmela are the family’s cat and a piggy toy. Situational comedy, farce and a tragic Entführungsroman combine in the narratives, and the result is a malicious, funny work that pokes fun at everyone. The novel was awarded the Helsigin Sanomat newspaper’s prize for the best first novel, and appeared on the shortlist for the Finlandia Prize for Literature.

Science book of the year

13 January 2011 | In the news

A book on Islamic cuisine and food culture by Helena Hallenberg and Irmeli Perho has won the prize for the Finnish science book of the year (Vuoden tiedekirja), worth €10,000. The prize is awarded by the Suomen Tiedekustantajien Seura, Finnish Science Publishers’ Association, and Tieteellisten seurain valtuuskunta, Federation of Finnish Learned Societies.

Ruokakulttuuri islamin maissa (‘Food culture in Islamic countries’, Gaudeamus) explores both cultural and culinary history in the Near East and other Islamic countries since the sixth century, from the Prophet Muhammad to this day – and yes, the book also contains recipes. Both the authors are academics: Hallenberg is a scholar of Islamic saints and Chinese Muslims’ ideas of health, while Perho specialises in Islamic history of ideas and society.

Cimex lectularius: the bedbug. Photo: Wikipedia

And a honorary mention, worth €2,500, was awarded to a large work, with excellent illustrations, on Heteroptera, an extensive family of bugs, one of which is the bedbug – luckily unknown to most of us. The vast majority of people have no idea, either, of the fact that there are 22 endangered species of these bugs in Finland, the home of 507 different representatives of the Heteroptera family. So, Suomen luteet – johdatus luteiden mielenkiintoiseen maailmaan by Teemu Rintala and Veikko Rinne (‘The bugs of Finland  – an introduction to the interesting world of the Heteroptera’, Tibiale) is a lively proof of the amazing biodiversity of Finland.