Archive for April, 2012

Tuomas Kyrö: Mielensäpahoittaja ja ruskeakastike [Taking offence: brown sauce]

25 April 2012 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Mielensäpahoittaja ja ruskeakastike
[Taking offence: brown sauce]
Helsinki: WSOY, 2012. 130 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-0-39079-5
€23.90, hardback

The most popular book by Tuomas Kyrö (born 1974), so far, has been his sixth novel, Mielensäpahoittaja (‘Taking offence’: literally ‘He who takes offence’, 2010). It has sold nearly 65,000 copies as a book and audiobook. The protagonist is a 80-something man, a sturdy old bear who lives in the countryside, now alone, because his demented wife has been taken into care and the children have long since left home. Kyrö inserts genuine humour into the monologues of his stubborn – but by no means simple – character, defiantly critical, opposing new gadgets, fads and all sorts of silly stuff of the contemporary society. In this sequel Kyrö still manages to entertain the reader with his detailed portrait: now Mr Grumpy has to learn to cook, because the food a paid helper brings in just isn’t good enough. With the potato as the cornerstone of his diet, he finally learns how to make good, fatty and salty meals of meat and veg. ‘One must remember what’s important in life, marriage and prostate problems. Time and patience.’ Illustrations remind the reader of the old times: photographs of television programmes and printed recipes from the 1960s and 1970s.

Solzhenitsyn and Silberfeldt: Sofi Oksanen publishes a best-seller

25 April 2012 | In the news

Nobel Prize 1970: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

After falling out with her original publisher, WSOY, in 2010, author Sofi Oksanen – whose third novel, Puhdistus (Purge, 2008), has become an international best-seller – has founded a new publishing company, Silberfeldt, in 2011, with the aim of publishing paperback editions of her own books. Its first release was a paperback version of Oksanen’s second novel, Baby Jane.

Oksanen’s new novel, Kun kyyhkyset katosivat (‘When the pigeons disappeared’), again set in Estonia, will appear this autumn, published by Like (a company owned by Finnish publishing giant Otava).

However, in April Silberfeldt published a new, one-volume edition of the autobiographical novel The Gulag Archipelago by the Nobel Prize-winning author Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. This massive book was first published in the West in 1973, in the Soviet Union in 1989.

A Finnish translation was published between 1974 and 1978. Back in those days of Cold War self-censorship, Finnish publishers felt unable to take up the controversial book, and the first volume was eventually printed in Sweden. The work, finally published in three volumes, has long since been unavailable.

This time the 3,000 new copies of Solzhenitsyn’s tome sold out in a few days; a second printing is coming up soon. Oksanen regards the work as a classic that should be available to Finnish readers.


So many words

25 April 2012 | Articles, Non-fiction

Hagia Sofia, Istanbul: from basilica to cathedral to mosque to museum. Postcard, c. 1914. Photo: Wikipedia/Xenophon

Sacred spaces, repositories of free speech, places of healing? Teemu Manninen awaits the day when libraries become virtual, enabling anybody to visit them, without having to travel across land and sea

The Bodleian Library in Oxford, the Vatican Library, the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, New York Public Library, the British Museum Reading Room, the Real Gabinete Portugues De Leitura in Rio De Janeiro, the Library of Congress and the National Library of Finland.

What do all of these have in common, except the obvious fact that they are all famous libraries? To put it another way: why are these famous libraries so famous?

It is not because they have books in them, although that has become one of the main tasks of the library system in the modern world. But a library is not simply an archive. If we in the West are a culture of the book – a culture of the freedom of information and expression – then a library is the architectural incarnation of our way of life: a church built for reading. More…

Movies and mores

16 April 2012 | Authors, Interviews

Tuuve Aro. Photo: Liisa Takala

Interview with Tuuve Aro, author of Himokone (‘Desire machine’): in these short stories she borrows titles and ambiance from the silver screen

A dark theatre, the smell of popcorn, expectation quivering in the air. Since childhood, the author and film critic Tuuve Aro (born 1973) has loved that magic moment when a new, exciting story is about to begin once again on the silver screen.

The stories in her fourth short story collection Himokone (‘Desire machine’, WSOY, 2012) have taken their names from films – Vertigo, Alien, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, for example. The book’s title comes from a certain Dr Samuel L. Brimstone, member of the ‘Royal Film Academy of Suffolk’: according to him, a film projector is a desire machine: it doesn’t give anything, it only shows, and for that very reason it is hard to resist. More…

Fight Club

16 April 2012 | Fiction, Prose

A short story from Himokone (‘Lust machine’, WSOY, 2012). Interview by Anna-Leena Ekroos

Karoliina wondered whether her name was suitable for a famous poet.

Her first name was alright – four syllables, and a bit old-fashioned. But Järvi didn’t inspire any passion. Should she change her name before her first collection came out? Was there still time? She had four months until September.

Even if The flower of my secret was the name of some old movie, Karoliina clung to the title she’d chosen. It described the book’s multifaceted, erotically-tinged sensory world and the essential place of nature in the poems. Karoliina loved to take long walks in the woods. Sometimes she talked to the trees.

She had been meeting new people. At the writer’s evening organised by her publisher, she’d been seated next to Märta Fagerlund, in the flesh. Karoliina had read Fagerlund’s poems since her teens, and seen her charisma light up the stage on cultural television shows.

At first Karoliina couldn’t get a word out of her mouth. She just blushed and dripped gravy on her lap. But the longer the evening went on, the more ordinary Märta seemed. She was even calling her Märta, and telling her about a new friend on Facebook who said how ‘awfully funny’ Märta was. In fact, the squeaky-voiced Märta, with her enthusiasm for Greece, was a bit dry, and, after three glasses of white wine, tedious. But Karoliina never mentioned it to anyone, because she wasn’t a spiteful person. More…

What Finland read in March

13 April 2012 | In the news

Tuomas Kyrö: ‘Taking offense’, part two

The top of the March list of best-selling fiction titles in Finland, compiled by the Finnish Booksellers’ Association, was Katja Kettu’s love story set in 1940s Finland at war, Kätilö (‘The midwife’, WSOY; see our feature).

Tuomas Kyrö (born 1974) featured twice on the list: Mielensäpahoittaja (‘Taking offense’,  WSOY, 2010) was number two and the newly-published sequel, Mielensäpahoittaja ja ruskeakastike (‘Taking offense: the brown sauce’, 2012) had shot up to sixth place.

The title is actually a noun:  ‘He who takes offence’: this person is an 80-something man who lives in the countryside and opposes most of what a contemporary lifestyle has to offer.

In the sequel, as his wife has to stay in a nursing home, ‘He who takes offence’ decides to learn how to cook for himself. He dismisses the ‘no-good’ girl who bring him food dailysent by a local agency. A firm believer in the potato, this no-nonsense character continues to fascinate lots of readers.

Rosa Liksom’s Finlandia Prize -winning novel set in the Soviet Union in the 1980s, Hytti nro 6 (‘Compartment number 6’, WSOY) occupied fourth place, a new novel about family life by Eve Hietamies, Tarhapäivä (‘Kindergarten day’, Otava) was number three.

The non-fiction list was topped by a new cookbook by Sikke Sumari, Sikke – ruokaa rakkaudella Toskanassa (‘Sikke – food with love in Tuscany’, Paasilinna). As books about birds featured on the list, one might assume spring is on the way, at last.

Age before beauty?

5 April 2012 | This 'n' that

Buranovskiye Babushki: Udmurt originality. Photo: Wikipedia/Larisa Gorbunowa, 2011

We can’t be the only ones to have a secret fondness for the Eurovision Song Contest– however cheesy the offerings, however rigged or outright political the voting, however bored or drunken the presenters (or maybe that’s only in the UK). Camp, innocent, calculating, so ugly it’s beautiful (or vice versa). In fact, we suspect that’s why we like it so much.

In the 57th Contest, to be held in Azerbaijan in May, Russia is to be represented by the song ‘Party for everybody’ by a group of eight old ladies, the Buranovskiye Babushki, from the republic of Udmurtia, deep in the heartland of the Russian Federation, some 1400 kilometres from Moscow. More…

Kidult culture

4 April 2012 | Non-fiction, Tales of a journalist

Illustration: Joonas Väänänen

Life is hard, and then you grow up. Except that you don’t really, at least if you keep watching television. Jyrki Lehtola takes a look at entertainment for the Peter Pan generation – which, he argues, is pretty much all of us

When did we start making television for children? I mean, in theory for adults (believe me, advertises, believe me: for adults!) but in practice for children?

Theoretically television is a wonderful, flexible medium less dependent on big money than the film business. Why did we let it slip out of our hands as a form of expression?

Why did we start making adult programmes for children and children’s programmes for adults? In other words, why do we make exactly the same TV programmes for everyone? More…

Katja Hagelstam & Piëtke Visser: 20+12 design stories from Helsinki

4 April 2012 | Mini reviews, Reviews

20+12 design stories from Helsinki
Helsinki: WSOY, 2011. 191 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-0-38120-5
€35, hardback
In Finnish:
20+12 muotoilutarinaa Helsingistä
ISBN 978-951-0-38136-6

In celebration of Helsinki’s status as World Design Capital 2012 comes this volume of vignettes of the city’s designers. Twenty Helsinki designers and artists – from textile designers and animators to illustrators and industrial designers – are interviewed by Eva Lamppu about their work and the inspiration they find in their city. The result, handsomely illustrated with atmospheric photographs by Katja Hagelstam, is a fascinating composite portrait, a colourful patchwork of creative lives lived out against the compact and interconnected fabric of this small northerly capital, which – not unexpectedly – is revealed as both sympathetic and conducive to good design. The book is rounded off by suggestions from 12 people active in creative fields on the city’s future. A fascinating and heartwarming study.