Search results for "alexandra salmela"

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.

Alexandra Salmela:
 Kirahviäiti ja muita hölmöjä aikuisia
 [The giraffe mummy and other silly adults] 

9 January 2014 | Mini reviews, Reviews

salmelaKirahviäiti ja muita hölmöjä aikuisia

[The giraffe mummy and other silly adults]
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Martina Matlovicová
Helsinki: Teos, 2013. 96 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-851-466-7
€27.90, hardback

The first children’s book by Alexandra Salmela, who has previously published a novel for adults, brings some sorely needed anarchy to Finnish storybooks. The 21 brief stories encourage children to add to them, whether by drawing, writing or out loud. Salmela’s tales are populated by trolls, dragons, knights and princesses, as well as ordinary children with silly parents. A boy called Ossi has two mums: Little Mum and Big Mum. One night, Little Mum collapses under the Tree of Exhaustion, but Ossi and his little sister hug their mum better. Allu’s absent-minded dad manages to mislay his head, and two perfect parents trade in their defective son Sulo at the child repair shop. The collage images by Slovakian illustrator Martina Matlovičová will work their way straight into your subconscious and start to bubble away.

Translated by Ruth Urbom

The princess who quit

27 February 2014 | Authors, Interviews

Alexandra Salmela. Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

Alexandra Salmela. Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

Interview with Alexandra Salmela, whose second book, Kirahviäiti ja muita hölmöjä aikuisia (‘The giraffe mummy and other silly adults’, Teos, 2013), is for children – and for those adults who admit their silliness

Once upon a time there was a boy called Sulo. Just a normal lad, more a middle-of-the-road character than winner material. And not even always brave, let alone cheerful. An ordinary sprog isn’t enough for Sulo’s parents, so they take the boy to a child repair shop. There, new parts are fitted to children: virtuoso fingers, football-feet and angel-faces.

In addition to Sulo, Alexandra Salmela’s Kirahviäiti ja muita hölmöjä aikuisia (‘The giraffe mummy and other silly adults’) introduces us to the misunderstood Flabby Monster, Adalmiina, who wings through trees like an ape, and a father who absentmindedly loses his head. The work is the second book by Alexandra Salmela, who was born in Bratislava, in what was then Czechoslovakia, and now lives in Tampere.

A-L E: How did the idea of a story-book come up? More…

Profession: author

10 December 2010 | In the news

Alexandra Salmela

Alexandra Salmela, 30, won the Helsinki newspaper Helsingin Sanomat Literature Prize 2010 for best first work, worth €15,000.

Her novel 27 eli kuolema tekee taiteilijan (’27 or death makes one an artist’, Teos) depicts a young woman’s search for her own place and calling in the world. Angie leaves her city of study, Prague, for a small Finnish village, wishing to become an author. Among the narrators are also a soft piggy toy, a cat and a car.

With degrees from both the Theatre Academy of Bratislava and Charles University of Prague, the Slovak-born Salmela majored in Finnish and Finnish literature. She has lived in Tampere, Finland for the past four years. In her opinion Finns should scrap the myth about their difficult language.

The jury chose the winner from 80 debut works, finding Salmela’s novel highly original in its imaginative narrative techniques and language.

Living inside language

23 February 2010 | Essays, Non-fiction

Jyrki Kiiskinen sets out on a journey through seven collections of poetry that appeared in 2009. Exploring history, verbal imagery and the limits of language, these poems speak – ironically or in earnest – about landscapes, love and metamorphoses

The landscape of words is in constant motion, like a runner speeding through a sweep of countryside or an eye scaling the hills of Andalucia.

The proportions of the panorama start to shift so that sharp-edged leaves suddenly form small lakeside scenes; a harbour dissolves into a sheet of white paper or another era entirely. Holes and different layers of events begin to appear in the poems. Within each image, another image is already taking shape; sensory experiences develop into concepts, and the text progresses in a series of metamorphoses. More…

Laura Lähteenmäki: Aleksandra Suuri [Alexandra the Great]

1 February 2011 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Aleksandra Suuri
[Alexandra the Great]
Helsinki: Tammi, 2010. 180 p.
ISBN 978-951-0-36522-9
€18, hardback

Laura Lähteenmäki’s novel for young people is a rare, rollicking tale of independence whose treatment of even heavy topics is guaranteed to make readers laugh, sometimes through their tears. Tim, a Dutch exchange student, shakes things up in 16-year-old Alexandra’s family when he comes to stay. She is used to being the centre of attention in her family and circle of friends, but self-confident Tim brings Alexandra’s status into question. As in her previous novels for young people, Laura Lähteenmäki presents a briskly paced drama of interpersonal relationships. Events are filtered through Alexandra’s eyes as the first-person narrator. Readers can easily get behind her point of view: Tim is truly a jerk. The portrayal of complex family relationships following a traumatic divorce makes this book worthwhile reading for adults as well, even if Lähteenmäki does resort to somewhat clichéd solutions in her portrayal of minor adult characters.
Translated by Ruth Urbom

Tiger in the grass

31 March 2001 | Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Maan ääreen (‘To the end of the earth’, Otava, 1999)

I left Kronstadt at the end of October in the year 1868, when I was 22 years old.

The Mozart was a three-hundred-ton barque. Even on the journey to Tvedestrand in Norway I vomited yellow bile and my toes and fingers froze. We lingered in Tvedestrand for three months while the vessel was repaired in dock. To amuse myself, I drew and wrote an accurate description of the ship. That work ended up in the sea. From the harbour captain’s library I borrowed German books which dealt with geology and topology. Their reality was different from that of the law and the interpretation of its letter and spirit. When a topologist draws a map, it has to be true. Otherwise travellers will get lost, I thought childishly, as if it were possible to draw a line between true and true. More…

Playing games

30 March 2007 | Authors, Reviews

Aki Salmela

Photo: Lauri Mannermaa / Tammi

‘The world’s complete but we’ll make new ones,’ says the poet, and fulfils his project with whatever speech is to hand.

Aki Salmela (born 1976) is among the most promising of the young Finnish poets who are searching for new ways of expression. One of the most encouraging literary features of the start of the new century was the young generation making its poetic début, including Salmela. They showed a wide-ranging interest in the poetry and tradition of Finland and abroad and were well-versed in foreign languages as well as various experimental poetic techniques. More…

Book-giving time!

12 November 2010 | In the news

The few weeks before Christmas are when most books are bought in Finland, so shortlists of literary prizes start popping up in November.

All the juries of the three biggest prizes – worth €30,000 each, awarded by the Finnish Book Foundation – have now published their shortlists: the Finlandia Prize for Non-Fiction, the Finlandia Junior Prize and the Finlandia Prize for Fiction.

The winners, each chosen by one person, will be announced in December. This FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange newsletter link will take you to the jury members’ assessments of the shortlisted non-fiction and Junior Prize works.

The following six novels ended up on the Finlandia Prize for Fiction list:
Joel Haahtela: Katoamispiste (‘Vanishing point’, Otava), Markus Nummi: Karkkipäivä (‘Candy day’, Otava), Riikka Pulkkinen: Totta (‘True’, Teos), Mikko Rimminen: Nenäpäivä (‘Nose day’, Teos), Alexandra Salmela: 27 eli kuolema tekee taiteilijan (’27 or death makes an artist’, Teos) and Erik Wahlström: Flugtämjaren (in Finnish translation, Kärpäsenkesyttäjä, ‘The fly tamer’, Schildts). Here’s the FILI link to the jury’s comments.

Seekers and givers of meaning: what the writer said

2 October 2014 | This 'n' that

kirjaimet‘All our tales, stories, and creative endeavours are stories about ourselves. We repeat the same tale throughout our lives, from the cradle to the grave.’ CA

‘Throughout a work’s journey, the writer filters meanings from the fog of symbols and connects things to one another in new ways. Thus, the writer is both a seeker of meaning and a giver of meaning.’ OJ

‘Words are behind locks and the key is lost. No one can seek out another uncritically except in poetry and love. When this happens the doors have opened by themselves.’ EK

‘I realised that I had to have the courage to write my kind of books, not books excessively quoting postmodern French philosophers, even if that meant laying myself open to accusations of nostalgia and sentimentality.’ KW

‘If we look at the writing process as consisting of three C:s – Craft, Creativity and Chaos – each one of them is in its way indispensable, but I would definitely go for chaos, for in chaos lies vision.’ MF

‘In the historical novel the line between the real and the imagined wavers like torchlight on a wall. The merging of fantasy and reality is one of the essential features of the historical novel.’ KU

‘The writer’s block isn’t emptiness. It’s more like a din inside your head, the screams of shame and fear and self-hatred echoing against one another. What right have I to have written anything in the first place? I have nothing to say!’ PT

‘…sometimes stanzas have to / assume the torch-bearer’s role – one / often avoided like the plague. / Resilient and infrangible, the lines have to / get on with their work, like a termite queen / laying an egg every three seconds / for twenty years, / leaving a human to notice / their integrity. ’ JI

In 2007 when  Books from Finland was a printed journal, we began a series entitled On writing and not writing; in it, Finnish authors ponder the complexities, pros and cons of their profession. Now our digitised archives make these writings available to our online readers: how do Claes Andersson, Olli Jalonen, Eeva Kilpi, Kjell Westö, Monika Fagerholm, Kaari Utrio, Petri Tamminen and Jouni Inkala describe the process? Pain must coexist with pleasure…

 From 2009 – when Books from Finland became an online journal – more writers have made their contributions: Alexandra Salmela, Susanne Ringell, Jyrki Kiiskinen, Johanna Sinisalo, Markku Pääskynen, Ilpo Tiihonen, Kristina Carlson, Tuomas Kyrö, Sirpa Kähkönen – the next, shortly, will be Jari Järvelä.

Potentially translatable

27 March 2014 | In the news

The daily paper Aamulehti, published in Tampere, and the bookshop Tulenkantajat (‘The torch-bearers’), in the same city, founded in 2013 a prize called Tulenkantajat* for a Finnish-language writer whose book, published in the previous year, is estimated to have the ‘best export potential’. The first jury selects four to six candidates, the second chooses the winner. The prize is worth €5,000.

The winner of the 2014 prize was announced on 24 March: it is the graphic novel Vain pahaa unta (‘Just a bad dream’, WSOY) by the father-daughter team Ville Tietäväinen and Aino Tietäväinen; see our feature; we have also reviewed three other finalists on the list of six.

The remaining finalists were the crime novel Niiden kirjojen mukaan teidät on tuomittava (‘You will be judged according to your books’, Atena) by Kai Ekholm, Piippuhylly (‘The pipe shelf’, WSOY), short stories by Katja Kettu, the novel Hotel Sapiens (Teos) by Leena Krohn, the novel Herodes (‘Herod’, WSOY) by Asko Sahlberg and Kirahviäiti ja muita hölmöjä aikuisia (‘The giraffe mummy and other silly adults’, Teos), a picture book for children by Alexandra Salmela and Martina Matlovičová.

Who can say whether the books on this shortlist will be ‘exported’, i.e. translated prolifically? Time will tell.

*) The mid 1920s saw the foundation of a group of writers called the Torch-Bearers; it first published intensely personal nature poetry but later began to import European influences into Finnish literature. The Torch-Bearers aimed for the experience of citizenship of the world as unity between people without denying one’s own fatherland or nationality. (See Vesa Mauriala’s article here.)

Breadcrumbs and elephants

27 March 2014 | Essays, On writing and not writing

In this series, Finnish authors ponder the pros and cons of their profession. Alexandra Salmela operates in two languages, her native Slovakian and Finnish, which has become her literary language. Adventure and torture alternate as she attempts to shape reality into writing

I had started to write before I knew how. With fat wax crayons, in big stick-letters, I scratched my stories in old diaries. There were lots of pictures. From the very beginning, I wrote both poetry and prose. At 11 I didn’t finish my great sea-adventure novel, but at 12 I was already writing my memoirs. They, too, somehow remained unfinished.

Writing is… I wanted to write fun, but in the end I’m not quite sure about that. Writing is adventure and liberation and terribly hard work. Torture of the imagination and the pale copying of real events. Reading is a way to escape reality and at the same time a route to the sources of reality. By writing, you can shape reality in your own image: it’s your own character fault if the result is ugly and depressing.

If I were to write a pink world, it would be so sugary that it would make everyone sick, me and other people. More…

Finland(ia) of the present day

2 December 2010 | In the news

Mikko Rimminen. Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

The Finlandia Prize for Fiction 2010, worth €30,000, was awarded on 2 December to Mikko Rimminen (born 1975) ; his novel Nenäpäivä (‘Nose day’, Teos) was selected by the cultural journalist and editor Minna Joenniemi from a shortlist of six.

Appointed by the Finnish Book Foundation, the prize jury (Marianne Bargum, former publishing director of Söderströms, researcher and writer Lari Kotilainen and communications consultant Kirsi Piha) shortlisted the following novels:

Joel Haahtela: Katoamispiste (‘Vanishing point’, Otava), Markus Nummi: Karkkipäivä (‘Candy day’, Otava), Riikka Pulkkinen: Totta (‘True’, Teos), Mikko Rimminen: Nenäpäivä (‘Nose day’, Teos), Alexandra Salmela: 27 eli kuolema tekee taiteilijan (’27 or death makes an artist’, Teos) and Erik Wahlström: Flugtämjaren (in Finnish translation, Kärpäsenkesyttäjä, ‘The fly tamer’, Schildts). Here’s the FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange link to the jury’s comments.

Joenniemi noted the shortlisted books all involve problems experienced by people of different ages. How to be a consenting adult? How do adults listen to children? Contemporary society has been pushing the age limits of ‘youth’ upwards so that, for example, what used to be known as middle age now feels quite young. And, for example, in Erik Wahlström’s Flugtämjaren (now also on the shortlist for the Nordic Literature Prize 2011) the aged, paralysed 19th-century author J.L. Runeberg appears full of hatred: being revered as Finland’s national poet didn’t make him particularly noble-minded.

According to Joenniemi, Rimminen’s novel ‘takes a stand gently’ in its portrayal of contemporary life – in a city where a lonely person’s longing for human contacts takes on tragicomical proportions. Joenniemi finds Rimminen’s language ‘uniquely overflowing’. Its humour poses itself against the prevailing negative attitude, turning black into something lighter.

Rimminen has earlier published two collections of poems and two novels (Pussikaljaromaani, ‘Sixpack novel’, 2004, and Pölkky, ‘The log’, 2007) . Pussikaljaromaani has been translated into  Dutch, German, Latvian, Russian and Swedish.

Reading matters? On new books for young readers

9 January 2014 | Articles, Children's books, Non-fiction

Pixon brothers: a story book by Malin Kivelä and Linda Bondestam

The Pixon brothers don’t read books, they love the telly: story by Malin Kivelä, illustrations by Linda Bondestam (Bröderna Pixon och TV:ns hemtrevliga sken, ‘The Pixon brothers and the homely shimmer of the telly’)

Finnish picture books for children have long been reliable export goods around the world. In the last few years, a number of novels for children have come along in their wake: works by authors such as Timo Parvela and Siri Kolu have been translated into a good many languages.

Now young adult literature has also blazed a trail on to the international market – in what also seems to be almost a matter of precision timing with regard to the Frankfurt Book Fair 2014. Finnish publishers have been investing in their home-grown lists of children’s and young adult books ever since the turn of the millennium, and now the time has come to harvest the fruits of their long-term efforts.


Once upon a time

27 February 2014 | Children's books, Fiction

apinaStories from Kirahviäiti ja muita hölmöjä aikuisia (‘The giraffe mummy and other silly adults’, Teos, 2013), illustrated by Martina Matlovičová. Interview of Alexandra Salmela by Anna-Leena Ekroos

The monkey princess

Adalmiina’s life was not an easy one. Her parents decided to prepare her for her career as a princess when she was a little girl: when Adalmiina was three she was sent to ballet school, at four she started taking lute lessons and at five she went on a course in magic-mirror gazing.

When Adalmiina turned six, she received a giant suitcase full of princess clothes and shoes.

‘Put them on, darling, we want to see you in all your lovely beauty!’ her mother sparkled, waving a muslin veil.

‘I want to go to the jungle!’ Adalmiina demanded. ‘Without any clothes!’

‘Will we have to force you to dress in all your glory?’ her parents snapped.

‘You’ll have to catch me first!’ Adalmiina announced, running into the garden. More…