Author: Eeva-Liisa Manner

An evening with Mr Popotamus

Issue 1/2004 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

‘Hippopotamus’, a short story from Kävelymusiikkia pienille virtahevoille (‘Passacaglia for small hippopotami’, Tammi, 1958). Introduction by Tuula Hökkä

Someone came gasping up behind me at high speed, stopped, and thrust a bundle under my arm, whispering hoarsely and agitatedly: ‘Keep hold of this, hide it! They’re after me –’ And before I’d woken up to what was going on he’d disappeared round a corner.

I was holding a warm living creature, a hippopotamus. Presumably stolen from some zoo or some private person who loved hippopotami; perhaps the man was a sailor and had brought the animal from abroad.

However it was, the hippo needed a safe place. I decided to take it home; I’d had cats and dogs, hadn’t I? – and once a little marmot. I’d always longed for a giraffe. OK, a hippo was just as good. After all, I could put an ad in the paper later: ‘Found: a hippopotamus. Hippo returned on production of identification marks.’ More…

This journey

Issue 3/1995 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Tämä matka (‘This journey’, 1956). Introduction by Jukka Petäjä

You took a planet

For Erik Lindegren

The stars arranged themselves
round a red magnet
by request,
and shaped fugitive systems and mirror reflections,
space’s sonorous grammar.

Oh, those hatched-out faces of the apathetic! –
and the grudge of those who can no longer read
(apart from cruel bibles, containing pressed roses and corpses).

Oh, ourselves! – here in the lonely sublunar place, 
hair and eyes in the wind, in our hands
	                                                ignorance and boomerang-echoes.

Oh, these vaultings of the word! – changing skies
where the glyphs rise like distress flags.

I looked for a question
	                    whose answer is this mutabor.

I kneel
	   to gather up the shattered fragments of a glyph
scored with the brilliant wounded secret 
where I lost my wings
	               before my choosing fingers were formed.


Burnt orange

Issue 3/1992 | Archives online, Drama, Fiction

Extracts from the play Poltettu oranssi (‘Burnt orange‘): ‘a ballad in three acts concerning the snares of the world and the blood’. Introduction by Tuula Hökkä

The scene is a small town in the decade before the First World War 


an imperial,bearded middle-aged gentleman
a moustached, ageing, slightly shabby leather-manufacturer
his wife, well-preserved, forceful, angular
their daughter, shapely, withdrawn, wary
open, direct, not too ‘common’


Scene two

After a short interval the receptionist opens the door and ushers Marina Klein into the surgery. Exit the receptionist. Marina immediately goes to the end of the room and presses herself against the white wall. The white surface makes her look very isolated in her ascetic black dress. The Doctor, who now appears to be headless – an impression produced by the lighting and the yellowish background – half-turns towards her. More…

World noises

Issue 3/1992 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Poems from Fahrenheit 121 (1968) and Jos suru savuaisi (‘If grief should smoulder’, 1968). Introduction by Tuula Hökkä

For truth to tell
I like horses most
creating Those
It came off best


Morning came to the meadow;
horses were born out of mist.
How quiet they were:
one leant a head on his master’s armour,
his breath rose warm,
his moist eye gleamed in the daybreak,
his coat a casbah carpet-weaver’s hand-woven pile,
his muzzle softer than a phallus. More…

If grief smoked

Issue 1/1989 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from six collections of poetry. Introduction by Herbert Lomas

The City

How the houses have ascended in this city,
the abysses deepened, the water blackened,
soon to be creeping along the streets.

The railings are rusting through,
the water table’s rising,
the cellars are slopping.

Fear is rising, or being covered up
behind strangling discretion,
outbreaks of crime.


The Othello of Sand Alley

Issue 1/1989 | Archives online, Drama, Fiction

Eeva-Liisa Manner’s Woyzeck is an independent ending to Georg Büchner’s fragmentary play. Introduction by Riitta Pohjola


(Dawn in the market square of Leipzig. A gallows looms, dimly visible in the distance. Brisk rumble of drums.)


What’s going on here?

1st MAN

They’re getting ready for an execution. Some villain’s going to be executed in public.




Franz Woyzeck. I guess you know him, the barber. More…


Issue 4/1978 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Kuolleet vedet (‘Dead waters’). Introduction by Aarne Kinnunen


A faraway tucked-away room
Leathery harness odour
An obscure carriage house
A mighty delay

And out through a narrow gate slipped childhood
And a pony cart was coming to get us 
                     swishing on the sand

White gloves on the coachman
and ornamented with a whip, the lash sounding
We were driving through spotted leaves
Lustre, dolour, lustre,
remembrance, snow

And suddenly the driver was gone
and nothing but hands were gripping the horse
and they were leading me I don’t know where. More…

Two Poems

Issue 1/1977 | Archives online, Authors, Fiction, poetry

Eeva-Liisa Manner

Eeva-Liisa Manner, 1963. Photo: E. Lahtinen

Eeva-Liisa Manner (born 1921) has enjoyed a high reputation as a poet since the 50s. With Tämä matka (‘This journey’, Tammi 1956) she established herself as one of the leading poets of the period.

So far she has published 10 collections of poems. In addition, she has excelled as a playwright, novelist and
translator. Her three plays Uuden vuoden yö (‘New Year’s Eve ‘, Tammi 1965), Toukokuun lumi (‘Snow in May’, Tammi 1967) and Poltettu oranssi (‘A shade of burnt orange’, Tammi 1968) have acquired a permanent place in the repertory of many Finnish theatre companies. Her poetic drama Eros ja Psykhe (‘Eros and Psyche’, Tammi, 1959) has been published in German and a Swedish version of her novel Varokaa voittajat (‘Victors, beware’ Tammi 1972; Mainakes hundar, Schildt) was published in 1974. She was awarded the State Prize for Literature five times between 1952 and 1967, and has received two major prizes for her translations (the Mikael Agricola Prize in 1967 and the State Prize for Translators in 1975). Her poems reflect a deep feeling for music and a special interest in mythology. The influence of oriental philosophy is also clearly discernible. The strong intellectual content of her poetry and its disciplined technique have won her a circle of devoted readers, while her prose writings and her translations of Hermann Hesse and Oscar Parland have reached an even wider public. In a lighter vein, she has ventured into the field of detective novels. Her most recent work is one of humorous and satirical verse: the two poems below are from Kamala kissa (‘An awful cat’, Tammi 1976). While devotees of Old Possum will have no difficulty in recognizing the characters, those familiar with the present cultural scene in Finland may detect nuances never dreamed of by Eliot.

The poems have been ‘remodified’ into English by Herbert Lomas.

Jack, the Terror of the Thames

Jack was a yobbo who lived in an alley,
And his clobbering of rats could hardly be called pally.
He was one of pollution’s blackest of gems
And proud of his cognomen – the Terror of the Thames.

Big-shouldered he was, a good fifteen-pounder
And rejoiced in a furcoat that made him look rounder.
He’d an ear like an aerial, precise and pricked funny,
And only one eye, as hard as money. More…