Archive for May, 2012

In the same boat

29 May 2012 | Authors, Interviews, Reviews

Pauliina Haasjoki. Photo: Tommi Tuomi

For the poet Pauliina Haasjoki, a writing process can begin in many ways, but particular periods – residencies, for example – are dedicated to writing. She attempts to create a cross-swell of influences in which she may read, watch movies, listen to music, have conversations and wander, collecting memories.

In the end, beginning to write becomes easy. Haasjoki may put music on to play, for example, for a certain time and use it to write ‘the poetry that belongs to that time, which sort of jostles there, waiting, because I have put it there.’

Haasjoki’s writing career began in Turku in the 1990s: she was studying literary theory at the university and was a witness to the birth of the poetic movement that developed there. Haasjoki has published five volumes of poetry, of which the latest,  Aallonmurtaja (‘Breakwater’), was published in 2011. More…

Taken by surprise

29 May 2012 | Fiction, poetry

In her fifth collection of poems, Pauliina Haasjoki explores night flights, water, islands, sandy beaches where time is found stratified in stones and fossils. Interview by Teemu Manninen

Poems from Aallonmurtaja (‘Breakwater’, Otava, 2011)

Night flight

Man cannot hide in the night, his desire will betray him.
Man turns toward the lights, light sparkles as though it were close at hand
even if it is far away.

Lights, which offer themselves like jewels to the one who sits in the plane above them, are already
                                                                                                                                 in their viewers’
eyes even if they have only just begun to stream from their source. A city-jewel swaying
in the black night air.
A solitary light on the surface of an island. Seen close up it is a soft-lit lamp
which casts light only on the table and the faces around it,
but from above, at a distance of kilometres, it is an immediate spot, a straight line that
                                                                                                                                aims at the viewer
and pierces her. A fierce light-beam.


Markku Kuisma: Saha. Tarina Suomen modernisaatiosta ja ihmisistä jotka sen tekivät [The sawmill. A story about Finnish modernisation and the people who realised it]

29 May 2012 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Saha. Tarina Suomen modernisaatiosta ja ihmisistä jotka sen tekivät
[The sawmill. A story about Finnish modernisation and the people who realised it]
Helsinki: Siltala, 2011. 235 p.
ISBN 978-952-234-069-6
€ 34.90, hardback

In his new book Professor Markku Kuisma, a specialist in economic history, approaches the modernisation of Finland in the 19th century from the perspective of the sawmill industry. In the mid 19th century, Finland’s forest reserves were, in relation to its population, among the greatest in Europe. The rise of the sawmill industry was made possible by Britain’s removal of taxation on industrial imports, the development of Finland’s railways and other means of transport, the removal of Finnish restrictions on the timber industry, the spread of steam saws and changes in society. The foundations of the breakthrough of the sawmill industry were laid in the 1860s, but it began to flourish gradually. Between the two world wars Finland became Europe’s biggest exporter of timber, and for a long time the country derived most of its export income from timber products. Kuisma also draws interesting portraits of the men who made the change possible both in government administration and economic life and laid the basis for industrial dynasties. Saha is a concise but illuminating and engrossing introduction to an important phase in the development of Finnish economic life.
Translated by Hildi Hawkins

Getting by

18 May 2012 | Non-fiction, Reviews

To school: children on the march – no buses or taxis in the Finnish countryside after the war. Photo: the cover of Kauaksi kotoa

Kauaksi kotoa. Muutoksen sukupolvi kertoo
[Far from home. Stories of the change generation]
Toim. [Ed. by] Anja Salokannel & Kaija Valkonen
Helsinki: Kirjapaja, 2012. 320 p.
ISBN 978-952-247-291-5
€32.90, hardback

The post-war period in Finland was a time of hope and reconstruction, of procreation and tough, grey heroism. Finland picked itself up by the bootstraps, as fathers who had been ‘driven mad in the war’, who took to drink or spat blood because they had shrapnel in their lungs, built veterans’ houses around the small towns and cleared fields in the backwoods. More than 83,000 men were killed in the wars (Winter War 1939–1940, Continuation War 1941–1944).

Mothers worked like men. The baby boomers – the demographic peak which consists of those born between the war years and 1950 (in 1946–1949 more than 100,000 babies were born each year, compared to some 60,000 in 2011) – had to be fed and clothed and educated for a better and more prosperous future.

Now the baby boomers have started to retire. Editors Anja Salokannel and Kaija Valkonen (baby boomers themselves) have compiled the book Kauaksi kotoa. Muutoksen sukupolvi kertoo (‘A long way from home. Stories of the change generation’), in which 21 men and women talk about their lives during the decades of change. More…

Christer Lindgren: Stadin klassikot. Maukkainta retroruokaa [City classics. The tastiest retro fare]

18 May 2012 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Stadin klassikot. Maukkainta retroruokaa
[City classics. The tastiest retro fare]
Helsinki: Teos, 2012. 135 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-851-433-9
€32.90, hardback

Even a small metropolis like Helsinki has a few restaurants that have survived the changes of time by sticking to traditional dishes. This book features Sea Horse, Elite, Kosmos and Kolme Kruunua (‘The Three Crowns’), established in 1934, 1932, 1924 and 1928 respectively. Their interiors – stylish art deco and functionalism – date from the 1920s and 1930s. A Sea Horse specialty, fried Baltic herrings, 16 per portion, delighted trumpetist Dizzy Gillespie so much that he ate his, his Finnish host’s and half of a fellow guest’s. The most popular recipes have been influenced by food cooked to the east, north and west (Russia, Lapland, Sweden) and mainly feature meat, fish, poultry and potatoes – cooked with plenty of butter and cream. These restaurants were – and are – frequented by politicians and artists of various fields, so the recipes include ‘Tauno Palo’s cream onion steaks’ or ‘Cod Mannerheim’. It is unfortunate that only the recipes have been translated, not the little  stories about the restaurants, so an English reader has no idea who Tauno Palo was (1908–1982; the Finnish equivalent of Cary Grant). The translations sometimes go amiss:  a recipe entitled ‘Sautéed reindeer’ first lists a kilo of ‘sautéed reindeer’, when it should of course list ‘a kilo of sliced reindeer meat’. The photos have been shot in situ, so the dishes look nicely authentic.

What Finland read in April…

18 May 2012 | In the news

…was Tuomas Kyrö mostly, it seems: at the top of the April list of best-selling fiction titles in Finland, compiled by the Finnish Booksellers’ Association, was his novel  Mielensäpahoittaja ja ruskeakastike (‘Taking offense: the brown sauce’, WSOY).

In March, Kyrö (born 1974) already featured twice on the list: his first novel about a 80-something man, Mielensäpahoittaja (‘Taking offense’,  WSOY, 2010) was number two, and the newly-published sequel, Mielensäpahoittaja ja ruskeakastike had shot up to sixth place. In April they changed places  – with the audio book version of the brown sauce book at number five.

This mielensäpahoittaja, ‘he who takes offence’, lives in the countryside and opposes most of what a contemporary lifestyle has to offer. Finns are evidently highly amused by the opinions of this obstinate, grumpy old man. But the popularity of Kyrö’s literary creation may also be boosted by the fact that he currently takes part in a television talk show every week, entertaining the audience and his fellow guests with his often acerbic remarks.

A crime novel by Seppo Jokinen, Hervantalainen (‘The person from Hervanta’, Crime Time), occupied third place, Tarhapäivä (‘Kindergarten day’, Otava) by Eve Hietamies fourth.

On the non-fiction list Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, republished by Silberfeldt in April, was already in third place; we published a news piece about it  on 25 April.

The non-fiction list was topped by a new, controversial book by banker – and one of the richest men in Finland – Björn Wahlroos, Markkinat ja demokratia. Loppu enemmistön tyrannialle (‘Market and democracy. The end of the tyranny of the majority’, Otava). He favours the methods of Margaret Thatcher’s economic policy and opposes social benefits for the poor; according to him, the market economy is superior to democracy any time.

Archive news!

11 May 2012 | This 'n' that

Books from Finland covers

We’re delighted to be able to announce that the selection of the material published on the web pages of  Books from Finland in the last phase of its existence as a printed journal, 1998–2008, is now available on this website.

The monthly archive selection has been extended back to 1998, and more than two dozen new contributor details have been added. Plus, any term you enter in the search box at the top right of the webpage will now look through everything we have online – not just what has been published since we went digital in 2009. So if you vaguely remember a piece about xx, or just want to play games by seeing how often we’ve featured yy, just enter your term in the search box and away you go.

This is just the first step in our bigger project of digitising a broad selection of pieces from Books from Finland‘s history, from 1976 (when it began to appear as a quarterly journal) onwards. The Books from Finland archive – 132 printed issues were published from 1976 to 2008, featuring hundreds of authors – represents an unparalleled treasure trove of Finnish literature and literary debate in English, and we can’t wait to get as much as we can online.

It is a long, slow process, so don’t hold your breath… But as we add new pieces we’ll be flagging them up and drawing them to your attention, from classics to some real period pieces, sometimes with new introductions by contemporary writers.

Watch this space – please remember, good things are worth waiting for!

Madness and method

10 May 2012 | Authors, Reviews

Juha Hurme. Photo: Stefan Bremer

One day during Advent in Helsinki the narrator in the novel Hullu (‘The lunatic’, Teos, 2012), a middle-aged man, goes mad.

Complete confusion fills his mind. He thinks he must be dead, but nevertheless manages to knock on the door of the mental hospital. To his amazement, he is admitted to the yellow building.

Because the boundaries between reality and self are, for him, completely blurred, he believes that the people in the hospital know absolutely everything about his unsuccessful life, and that he must expect humiliations and punishments. The people in white coats are aliens, or perhaps holograms. More…

Temporarily out of order

10 May 2012 | Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Hullu (‘The lunatic’, Teos, 2012). Introduction by Soila Lehtonen

I found myself standing in front of the noticeboard. The rules were on a sheet of paper:

Ward 15 5-C

Breakfast 8:00 AM
Lunch 11:45 AM
Dinner 4:30 PM
Evening Snack 7:30 PM
After lunch
We recommend leaving money, valuables, and bankbooks for storage in the ward valuables locker. We take no responsibility for items not left in the locker! Money may be retrieved 1–3 times per day. Use of mobile phones on the ward by arrangement.
M–F 2–7 PM
Sa–Su 12–7 PM
Use of one’s own clothing by individual arrangement. Clothing care individual. Washer and dryer available for use in the evenings after 6 PM.
Arranged individually according to health condition. Outdoor pass does not include the right to leave the area.
Vacations arranged during morning report, according to health condition.
Smoking is only allowed on the smoking balcony! Smoking prohibited from 11 PM to 6 AM.
Pastor Karvonen available by appointment.

These were impossibly difficult rules. I read them through three times and simply did not understand. ‘Clothing care individual.’ ‘Outdoor pass does not include the right to leave the area.’

What did these sentences mean? With whom did you schedule the pastor and how? And why? More…

Panem et circenses, Part II

10 May 2012 | This 'n' that

The Guggenheim Foundation's global network of museums

Helsinki has said no thanks to a new Guggenheim art museum in the city – for the time being, at least.

On 2 May the City Council voted 8-7 against the mayor’s motion to build such a gallery in Helsinki. Politically, the move was supported by the National Coalition Party and the Swedish People’s Party, while the Greens and the left-wing parties opposed it.

What happens after the upcoming national elections – in autumn this year – is another matter. The director of the Guggenheim Foundation, Richard Armstrong, is persistent: he says he wants Helsinki.  Well, if the Foundation offers a better deal in the future, the proposal may be considered again.

Three months ago we wondered – see Panem et circenses – whether ‘the people of Helsinki wish to begin to pay additional taxes for the revival, yet again, of the age-old dream of guaranteeing Finland “a place on the world map”, in a situation where economic difficulties are a matter of everyday life for increasing numbers of them? (We believe, incidentally, that Finland already has an appropriate place on the world map.) Will their opinion be asked, or heard?’ More…

Graphic success

10 May 2012 | In the news

Finnish Comics Annual: picture by Katja Tukiainen

The 2012 Finnish Comics Annual, edited by Reija Sann, was published in May by HuudaHuuda and the Finnish Comics Association. The book focuses on everyday realism, featuring eleven artists: Terhi Ekebom, Grönroos & Rantio, Matti Hagelberg, Pauli Kallio, Tarmo Koivisto, Mika Lietzen, Petteri Tikkanen, Tiitu Takalo, Katja Tukiainen and Riitta Uusitalo. In their work the limits of the individual and the collective, the local and the universally human are explored by means of fantasy.

The first Finnish Comics Annual, featuring Finnish comics and graphic novels in English, was published last year. The editor was Ville Hänninen.

This year’s Finlandia Comics Prize, worth €5,000, awarded by the association Tampere Kuplii (‘Tampere bubbles’) at a comics festival of the same name in Tampere on 4 May, went to graphic designer and illustrator Ville Tietäväinen for his voluminous graphic novel Näkymättömät kädet (‘Invisible hands’, WSOY, 2011). Ten finalists were chosen by a jury out of 68 candidates, and the final choice was made by actor Armi Toivanen.

Näkymättömät kädet is the story of a Moroccan tailor, Rashid, who loses his job and has to leave his family to look for work in Europe. For an illegal alien life in Spain is unbearably difficult. Introducing the work in the article ‘Funny peculiar’ (there is also a sample from Tietäväinen’s work) Heikki Jokinen comments: ‘Through the story of one person, Tietäväinen speaks of important matters: poverty, human value and what keeps us going, hope.’

Nationalism in war and peace

3 May 2012 | Reviews

House of words: the Finnish Literature Society building in Helsinki. Architect Sebastian Gripenberg, 1890. Watercolour by an unknown Russian artist, 1890s

Kai Häggman
Sanojen talossa. Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura 1890-luvulta talvisotaan
[In the house of words. The Finnish Literature Society from the 1890s to the Winter War]
Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2012. 582 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-222-328-9
€54, hardback

The Finnish Literature Society has, throughout its history, played a multiplicity of roles: fiction publisher, research institute specialising in folklore studies, organiser of mass campaigns in support of national projects, literary gatekeeper, learned society, controller of language development.

The priorities of these areas of interest have changed from decade to decade, so Kai Häggman has taken on an exceptionally difficult subject to describe. He has, however, succeeded brilliantly in gathering the different threads together, using as as lowest common denominator the ideas of nationalism and nation whose role in global modernisation and European history have been studied, among others, by the British historians Ernest Gellner and Eric Hobsbawm. More…

The book and the rose

3 May 2012 | In the news

The twenty-third of April – Shakespeare’s birthday – is the international day of the book and the rose. The tradition derives, however, not from England but from Barcelona, where the tradition was for men to give women roses while women gave men books.

This year Finnish booksellers decided to celebrate the occasion by publishing a new novel which was given for free to all customers who made a purchase worth €10. This was the only way to get hold of a copy; the print run was 3,000 copies.

The chosen work was a new novel by Tuomas Kyrö, entitled Miniä (‘Daughter-in-law’). The narrator is the daughter-in-law of the main character of Kyrö’s two popular novels, Mielensäpahoittaja (‘Taking offence’) and Mielensäpahoittaja ja ruskeakastike (‘Taking offence: the brown sauce’). The grumpy old man from the country comes to stay with his son and his daughter-in-law in the capital –  which inevitably results in practical (and mainly comical) discordance of various sorts.