Author: Alpo Ruuth

Among the ice floes

Issue 3/1985 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Alpo Ruuth

Alpo Ruuth. Photo: Sakari Majantie / Tammi

Alpo Ruuth came across the diary of a member of the Finnish crew of ten men in the Whitbread Round-the-World sailboat race of 1981-1982, and Ruuth, a sailor himself, used that diary as the basis for his novel, 158 vuorokautta (‘158 days’, 1983). It is the story of a great adventure which takes place with the help of ultra-modern equipment and yet involves confrontation with elemental nature, the dangerous power of the southern seas. Ruuth does not use the actual names of the crew, but has taken the view of the fictional crew member who is able to offer ironic comments on what he observes. The book portrays the relationships among the crew under the cramped and difficult conditions of the long voyage. As the extract begins the yacht is in the Southern Ocean, close to the Antarctic coast, making its way towards Auckland, New Zealand.

An extract from 158 vuorokautta (‘158 days’)

Around noon we run into a blizzard. On deck they shout down that a wind has got up. Below, we wake hurriedly from our afternoon naps and start pulling on clothes against the tough weather outside. It’s quite a business in our cramped quarters, and every now and then someone loses his footing and falls as the boat pitches. Cursing is the only medicine for bruises. One by one the boys go up to help change sails; at the bottom of the steps there are excesses of politeness: after you, sir; no no, after you. Up they go, all the same. More…

The Onlookers

Issue 3/1978 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Naisten vuonna (‘In women’s year’, 1975). Introduction by Pekka Tarkka

The two elks came out on to the road through a gap between timber sheds. They began to cross the road, and the larger one was very nearly run into by a car. Cars stopped and horns tooted, till the elks turned and made off towards the harbour. Several cars swung round and drove along the cinder track in pursuit of the animals.

The elks headed across the rubble towards the power station; after circling some stacks of railway sleepers, they ended up on the flank of a coal­heap sixty feet high. The cars pulled up and their occupants poured out, shouting that the elks wouldn’t go that way, it was a dead end. The elder of the two elks had indeed sensed this, and they moved off to the right, skirting the coal-heap and emerging among the timber-stacks. By this time the first cyclists and pedestrians had arrived on the scene.

“They’ll break their legs,” said a pedestrian to a motorist. “There’s all kinds of junk lying about.” More…