Author: Janna Kantola

Between three cultures

5 February 2010 | Authors, Reviews

Zinaida Lindén. Photo: Johan Lindén

A new collection of short stories by the Leningrad-born author Zinaida Lindén explores the ambiguities of life between three cultures: her native Russia, her adopted Finland, and Japan, where she has also lived. In this introduction to Lindén’s short story Shards from the empire, Janna Kantola appreciates Lindén’s capricious, recalcitrant prose, and the positive, generous spirit that lies behind her work

Seen from a distance, Finns and Russians seem very like one another.

Zinaida Lindén has written her books from a cultural no-man’s-land in which she may have been forced to ponder the central questions of national identity. After studying Swedish in her native Russia, Lindén (born 1963) settled in Finland with her Finland-Swedish husband, and has written all of her works in Swedish. A recurring theme is that of encounters with the foreign, the other. More…

For the love of fables

1 February 2009 | Authors, Reviews

Daniel Katz What do Jesus, Aesop and the writer Daniel Katz all have in common? The key to the mystery lies in the second of the three names: fables are a part of all their works. Jesus spoke famously in (animal) metaphors, and the Greek writer Aesop is regarded as the father of the genre.

Daniel Katz’s 13th book, Berberileijonan rakkaus (‘The love of the Berber lion’, WSOY, 2008), is playfully aware of its ancient roots. In fact, his (post)modern collection of stories is, on every level, a conscious non-Finnish meta-fiction depicting the very process of writing.

On life and death

Issue 3/2007 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Jouni Inkala’s selected poems are subtitled Minuutin ja sen puolikkaan laajenevassa universumissa, meaning ‘In a minute and its half’s expanding universe’ (WSOY, 2007). It blends the poems’ studious precision with a dash of poetic freedom, open wonder before ultimate questions. Inkala’s eternal themes are in fact existential: the passage of time and the question of death preoccupy the persona.

But let’s be clear about this: Inkala’s poems are not without mischief and dark humour. ‘Tail references’ is a trope of humanity and mice. ‘In two things they’re [mice] more experienced than we. / They understand they’re in constant mortal danger. / That the trap is swift and silent.’ The current condition humana, with all its peculiarities, has generated much of his poetry. Sometimes a mythical reading is implied, a comtemporary, less ‘poetical’ occasion given a mythical dimension. ‘Only several thousands years after her friend / did a woman leap down from a fourth-floor balcony.’ (‘Ikaros in Helsinki’) More…