Author: David McDuff

Finlands svenska litteratur 1900–2012 [Finland’s Swedish literature 1900–2012]

6 November 2014 | Mini reviews, Reviews

ekmanFinlands svenska litteratur 1900–2012
[Finland’s Swedish literature 1900–2012]
Red. [Edited by] Michel Ekman
Helsingfors: Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland / Stockholm: Atlantis, 2014. 376 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-583-272-6
€35.90, paperback

This history of Finland-Swedish literature is an updated version of the second volume of Finlands svenska litteraturhistoria (eds. Johan Wrede and Clas Zilliacus, 1999–2000), and it concentrates on the period from 1900 to 2012, with much new critical material relating to the years after 1975. Some 20 contributors under the editorship of Michel Ekman provide a diverse and inclusive overview of a literature that embraces poetry, prose fiction, children’s writing, essays and drama. The book traces the story of Finland-Swedish literature from the ‘fresh start’ of the turn of the 19th century, through the experiments of modernists like the poets Edith Södergran and Elmer Diktonius, to the work of present-day novelists like Monika Fagerholm and Kjell Westö. However, the emphasis throughout is on general lines of development rather than on individual authors’ careers. The authors discuss the relationship between the work of Finland’s Swedish-language writers and their Finnish-language counterparts in a perspective that not only views the minority literature as a part of the Finnish whole, but also considers it as a bridge between the literatures of Sweden and Finland – the subject of a concluding essay by Clas Zilliacus. The material is presented in essays subdivided in a readable way that combines factual information with critical and historical analysis.

Between life and death

23 September 2011 | Authors, Reviews

Gösta Ågren. Photo: Studio Paschinsky

The latest poems by Gösta Ågren, in the collection I det stora hela (‘On the whole’, Söderströms, 2011), are a continuation of the poet’s lifelong striving to unite the realm of private and personal experience with the domain of the shared, the social and the universal.

Ågren, born in 1936 in Ostrobothnia, on the west coast of Finland, has published twenty-eight collections of poetry. I det stora hela is the latest in an apparently inexhaustible series of books that reflect upon life and death, mostly in terse, aphoristic blocks that are hewn out of the poet’s own existence.

In the background of nearly all his poems is an Ostrobothnian childhood which, in its remoteness and solidarity with his close relatives, sets him apart in the same way as the Swedish language in which he writes sets him apart within a Finnish cultural context, though perhaps not in a Finland-Swedish one – for he shares not only its linguistic heritage, but also its traditional concern with the polarity and ultimate reconciliation of the individual and the community. More…

Facing catastrophe

Issue 4/1995 | Archives online, Authors

Mirjam Tuominen (1914–1967) was 
one of the stronger, yet relatively
 neglected voices of European modern
ism. Had she lived in France or Germany and had belonged to the literary
 traditions of either of those countries 
(traditions which she admired and 
knew well), one imagines that her fame
 might have spread more widely.

As it was, belonging to the Swedish-
speaking minority in Finland, Mirjam
 Tuominen wrote her works, both 
poetry and prose, in Swedish (and, very occasionally, in Finnish). Though they 
show the influence of the Finland-
Swedish literary tradition, in particular
 that of Edith Södergran, they also
 demonstrate that Mirjam Tuominen
 had read very widely outside that
 tradition – the influence of other 
Nordic writers such as Karin Boye and
 Cora Sandel is evident, but so also is
t hat of Friedrich Hölderlin, Marcel
 Proust, Rainer Maria Rilke, Franz Kafka,
 Simone Weil and Sigmund Freud. More…

Eye of the storm

Issue 4/1993 | Archives online, Authors

In Urwind (Schildts; Finnish translation Otava, 1993), Bo Carpelan has written a poetic novel of strange depth and self-revelatory intensity. In this – on the surface – extremely simple story of a Helsinki secondhand bookseller whose wife leaves him for a year in order to do research at Harvard, there is a complex layering and criss-crossing of experience, past and present, that makes the narrative a matter more of inner than of outer experience: the fabric of the narrators life, his childhood, youth and earlier years is the subject of most of the 240 pages.

In his name, Daniel Urwind, a host of associations is contained, and this is also the generating point for a great deal of the novel’s thematic material. In the ‘ur-vind’, or ‘primordial attic’, are stored not only inanimate relics of the narrator’s past, but also memories of the people, the neighbours, friends and relatives who inhabited the apartment house in which he was brought up. Some of this material is already familiar from Carpelan’s Gården (‘The courtyard’) and his collection of prose poems Jag minns att jag drömde (‘I remember I dreamt’), but here it is linked to an intense and at times Ingmar Bergman-like meditation on the entire span of a man’s life, brought on by a crisis of loneliness and ultimate desertion. More…

Out of Ostrobothnia

Issue 4/1992 | Archives online, Authors

This summer saw the publication of Hid (‘Coming here’), the third part of Gösta Ågren’s verse trilogy, which studies and describes the poets roots in Finland-Swedish Ostrobothnia. For Jär (‘Standing Here’), the trilogy’s first part, Ågren was given the 1989 Finlandia Prize, his country’s most prestigious literary award. The second part, Städren (‘The cities’), appeared in 1990.

In a letter to his English publisher, Ågren himself recently commented: ‘I have been working on the three collections for nine years, since 1984. They are, in a way, autobiographical. That is why the titles are formed according to the dialect of my home region. Normally they should be “Här”, “Städerna” and “Hit”.’ More…