Archive for July, 2011

A light shining

28 July 2011 | Essays, Non-fiction

Portrait of the author: Leena Krohn, watercolour by Marjatta Hanhijoki (1998, WSOY)

In many of Leena Krohn’s books metamorphosis and paradox are central. In this article she takes a look at her own history of reading and writing, which to her are ‘the most human of metamorphoses’. Her first book, Vihreä vallankumous (‘The green revolution’, 1970), was for children; what, if anything, makes writing for children different from writing for adults?

Extracts from an essay published in Luovuuden lähteillä. Lasten- ja nuortenkirjailijat kertovat (‘At the sources of creativity. Writings by authors of books for children and young people’, edited by Päivi Heikkilä-Halttunen; The Finnish Institute for Children’s Literature & BTJ Kustannus, 2010)

What is writing? What is reading? I can still remember clearly the moment when, at the age of five, I saw signs become meanings. I had just woken up and taken down a book my mother had left on top of the chest of drawers, having read to us from it the previous day. It was Pilvihepo (‘The cloud-horse’) by Edith Unnerstad. I opened the book and as my eyes travelled along the lines, I understood what I saw. It was a second awakening, a moment of sudden realisation. I count that morning as one of the most significant of my life.

Learning to read lights up books. The dumb begin to speak. The dead come to life. The black letters look the same as they did before, and yet the change is thrilling. Reading and writing are among the most human of metamorphoses. More…

Tiia Aarnipuu: Jonkun on uskallettava katsoa. Animalian puoli vuosisataa [Someone’s got to dare to look. Half a century of Animalia]

28 July 2011 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Jonkun on uskallettava katsoa. Animalian puoli vuosisataa
[Someone’s got to dare to look. Half a century of Animalia]
Helsinki: Like Kustannus, 2011. 209 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-01-0582-2
€ 33, paperback

This book has been published to mark the 50th anniversary of Animalia, the Federation for the Protection of Animals. The public image of the organisation has varied between one of a conservative club of ladies and gentlemen and that of a radical terrorist group. Animalia was founded in 1961, inspired by Johan Börtz, a Swede who gave lectures on the plight of animals used in experiments. Animalia began making visits to inspect animal testing facilities, which were completely unregulated in the early 1960s. Gradually the animal rights movement became more radicalised, somewhat later than in places such as Britain. Animal rights became a subject of wider debate in Finland in the 1980s. In the 1990s, the organisation was falsely linked with attacks made on fur farms by direct-action youth groups. Animalia’s stance has been to renounce vandalism and violence. In February 2010 Animalia launched its largest-ever information campaign, aimed at ridding Finland of fur farms by 2025.
Translated by Ruth Urbom

Johanna Ilmakunnas: Kapiot, kartanot, rykmentit. Erään aatelissuvun elämäntapa 1700-luvun Ruotsissa [Trousseaus, manors, regiments. The lifestyle of one noble house in 18th-century Sweden]

28 July 2011 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kapiot, kartanot, rykmentit. Erään aatelissuvun elämäntapa 1700-luvun Ruotsissa
[Trousseaus, manors, regiments. The lifestyle of one noble house in 18th-century Sweden]
Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2011. 524 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-222-264-0
€ 38, hardback

This book deals with the lifestyles, finances and consumption habits of the high nobility of Sweden in the 18th century (which included Finland at that time). The central figure is Count Axel von Fersen (1719–1794), a very influential statesman and soldier, and his German-Baltic lineage. This portrait broadens into a lifestyle study, providing extensive information on the customs and the world of the nobility of that era, such as the institution of marriage, child-rearing, mistresses, clothing and interior decor – as indicators of one’s social status – artistic activities, games and gastronomy. The topic of consumption is linked to social, cultural, ideological and legal perspectives. In the lives of the high nobility, money – or lack thereof – was not a defining feature; rather, choices were governed by ideals, values and obligations such as honour, reputation, faith and origin. Johanna Ilmakunnas is a historical researcher and editor. This book is based on her award-winning doctoral thesis (2009).
Translated by Ruth Urbom

Päivi Jantunen: Kaj & Franck. Esineitä ja lähikuvia / Designs & Impressions

6 July 2011 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kaj & Franck. Esineitä ja lähikuvia. / Designs & Impressions
English translations: Peter Herring and Esa Lehtinen
Helsinki: WSOY, 2011. 166 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-0-36898-5
€ 42, hardback

This dual-language book showcases the work of one of Finland’s most widely known glass and ceramic designers in his centenary year. The unaffected designs and clean geometric shapes of the tableware designed by Kaj Franck (1911–1989) are well suited to a wide range of cultures. Franck’s guiding principle was to create anonymous, self-evident objects for everyday use. In the 1940s and 1950s, Franck updated tableware to match post-war changes in society; he wanted to get away from the sets of crockery that filled up smaller kitchen cupboards. His designs that emphasised environmental principles and equality were ahead of their time with their ideology of sustainable development. This book portrays Franck’s life and career, which centred on the oldest glassworks in Finland in the community of Nuutajärvi, where he worked from the early 1950s until his death. Interviews with local residents and Franck’s colleagues create a portrait of him as a colourful personality. Ample illustrations provide a cross-section of Franck’s design output. In addition to his mass-produced items, there are photos of Franck’s one-off artistic creations.
Translated by Ruth Urbom

Vesa Puuronen: Rasistinen Suomi [Racist Finland]

6 July 2011 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Rasistinen Suomi
[Racist Finland]
Helsinki: Gaudeamus, 2011. 286 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-495-196-8
€ 36, paperback

Multiculturalism, immigration and racism have become more frequent subjects of discussion in Finland, particularly as a result of the 2008 local elections and the subsequent speeches and writings by people critical of immigration. This book aims to move the discussion forward by describing and defining racism, presenting developments in research into racism, racism perpetrated by Finns against Sámi and Russians, and the history of Finnish enmity towards Russians from the early 20th century to the present day. The author considers the use of shaming and subjugation as tools of exterminating Sámi culture, as well as linguistic discrimination and denial of land ownership rights against the Sámi. The book also examines the development of hate crimes since the 1990s, racism in Finnish politics and the politics of multiculturalism as practised in Finland, which studies have shown treat different minority groups in different ways. Vesa Puuronen is a sociologist and a researcher into racism who works at the University of Eastern Finland.
Translated by Ruth Urbom