Author: Kristina Carlson

Crème de la crème

31 January 2013 | Fiction, Prose

Such straining and pasteurising is going on in the city that Arabs and other Muslims, the unemployed, drunkards, poor people and lunatics have been eliminated. By chance I became a cultural figure, and I was invited to a cultural evening whose invitation had been personally written by the Anarchist. At the restaurant table sat the Anarchist, the Psychoanalyst and the Psychologist’s boyfriend, 20 years younger, the Journalist, the Gift-Shop Owner, a Librarian and the Deputy Rector of a community college. Accompanying me to the restaurant, too, were the Wolf and the Deer, who hadn’t been invited. Sparse white fur grew on the Wolf’s narrow muzzle and there were teeth missing from his mouth. The Deer was beautiful, with huge eyes. And of course both of them were drunk. I asked them to come along because I believed that intellectuals are warm-hearted and open-minded. A really dumb idea. More…

Notes for an unwritten autobiography

15 September 2011 | Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel William N. Päiväkirja (‘William N. Diary’, Otava, 2011). Interview by Soila Lehtonen

Paris, 15 November 1897

Constance probably bought this notebook for housekeeping purposes, but forgot it when she left, so I shall take it for my use, and I am not going to tear a single page, because the paper is of good quality and the covers are made of calico. When I write in a small hand there is plenty of room for the text, and when I write in Swedish Constance will not understand, if she chances to see the notebook. She has promised to visit once or twice a week and continue to bring food and do the cleaning (we cleared up the differences of opinion that were related to her departure), even though she has now moved and married a retired officer, having been my housekeeper for nearly 30 years. The laundry she has delegated to Madame L., who lives in this house, although that lady is intolerably nosy and talkative, and she has six smutty children. I have decided to write my autobiography, so that posterity shall receive a full and proper impression of my work. (Let Prof. Schwendener from Berlin and Dr Louis Pasteur be content with minor roles!) I shall not begin until tomorrow, for today I intend to study the specimens of South American lichens Prof. D. has sent if there is enough daylight. More…

Slowly does it – or not?

9 April 2010 | Authors, Essays, Non-fiction, On writing and not writing

Writer's block

In this series, Finnish authors ponder their profession. One day Kristina Carlson – a self-confessed slow writer – found her imagination so strongly inhabited by one of her own, as yet non-existent, characters that she was finally impelled to complete her novel

‘The answer grows like the spring light. / In my desk drawer there’s something, important. / I slowly remember it.’ I wrote these words in my first published work, my collection of poetry Hämärän valo (‘Light of dusk’) from 1986. I was born in 1949, so I was something of a late bloomer.

Still I had been writing ever since I was a child. After a ten-year break, I published my first children’s book under a pseudonym. In the space of three years after that, a total of twelve books appeared in the Anni series. In 1999 I published my first novel, Maan ääreen (‘To the end of the earth’). Another ten years passed; my second novel, Herra Darwinin puutarhuri (‘Mr Darwin’s gardener’), was published last autumn.

I’ve often been asked – more often than I have asked myself – why I publish so rarely. I don’t find writing difficult, but it is difficult to write well. For me, writing well involves clarity, precision, brightness, finding just the right mood and rhythm. If it were simply a case of the classic ‘murder your darlings’ problem, it could easily be resolved through a process of sufficiently pruning the text, but such pruning would leave us with nothing but a bare tree.

Writing is such a synthetic process that it is hard to describe, as it is inherently bound up with one’s own language and mind. More…

What God said

3 September 2009 | Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Herra Darwinin puutarhuri (Otava, 2009; Mr Darwin’s Gardener, Peirene Press, 2013). Interview by Soila Lehtonen

The congregation sits in the church pews and the jackdaws caw in the belfry.
We smell of wet dog, the rain made us wet and it is cold but the singing warms us, the hymn rises to the roof and above the roof dwells God, Amen.
We saw Thomas Davies on the hill, he is working in Mr Darwin’s garden,
the atheist and lunatic, he stood in the field alone and the water lashed his face
an irreligious pit pony wandering in the darkness he is from Wales
does the godless man think he can stand in the rain without getting wet did he get an umbrella or bat wings from the devil
perhaps Thomas imagines that he can hold back the rain and the rain not hold him back, he thinks he is more exalted than God with his head in the clouds
The church’s hard pews press into posteriors, the poor man will not grow fatter, for there are no fat and lean years but only lean ones, and thin are the poor man’s sheep and cows and children too, but the rich man cultivates weeds for his amusement as Mr Darwin did and earns money and fame! More…

Language and tongue

Issue 4/2008 | Archives online, Authors

Kristina Carlson on Maritta Lintunen’s short stories

‘What does he think I’ve told him? And how? Shell fragments took my tongue and half my jaw.’ These are the thoughts of a war veteran on hearing his sons speech of exaggerated praise for the heroic deeds of the war.

Maritta Lintunen is a music teacher by education. She has published novels, collections of short stories and poetry. Many of the characters in Lintunen’s short stories are bystanders in their own lives, and the situation in the title story ofthe collection Tapaus Sidoroff (‘The Sidoroff case’, WSOY, 2008) is particularly ironic. Lintunen turns the typical Finnish situation on its head: veterans want to reminisce, but the young cant be bothered to listen. The father sits at the festive hall like a crippled monument to heroism, and wonders why his son didn’t become a hippie like his peers and oppose the Vietnam War. But no: the son becomes an army officer and a public speaker, and the father is made a reluctant human model. The father’s ruminations run parallel with his son’s fiery speech. His war experiences are made into a common heroic interpretation of history – and they are false. But how can a man with half a mouth dispute it? More…

Walking on ice

Issue 3/2005 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Valon reunalla (‘At the edge of light’, Teos 2005), the second novel by Maria Peura (born 1970), is an evocation of a small village in Lapland in the mid-1970s. The novel tells the story of the young Ristiina; it is divided into chapters each with its own title, thus underscoring the non-linearity of the narration and giving space to different people, events and environments.

The villagers, the highly respected and the strange, and the borders of the village, concrete and imaginary, surround Ristiina completely; eventually she manages to wriggle free of their grip. The novel begins with the words: ‘Don’t walk on the ice, they used to say, always. Ice can give way, crack open, you’ll fall in and drown. So they always said, that’s why we had to go. There was nowhere else to go.’ More…

Woman and myth

Issue 4/2002 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Anu Kaipainen (1933-200) was a prolific writers; she published more than twenty novels, numerous stage, television and radio plays.

Kaipainen’s work has not been translated very widely. ‘The language of my books has often proved too difficult,’ the writer herself has said. Kaipainen’s language rings with the rhythms of the Karelian dialect, even the songs of the Kalevala, although in earlier novels it is linked with social reportage.

Typical of the writer’s work is diversity of material and style. Before post-modernism, this was called a collage technique. In her novels, Kaipainen has interleaved myths, folk stories and contemporary themes, as she also does in  Granaattiomena (‘Pomegranate’, WSOY) which is entwined around the Oedipus story from the point of view of Oedipus’s mother. More…

Quiet strength

Issue 3/2002 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Eeva Tikka (born 1939) is an explorer of what lies under the surface, the secret strata of the human mind, who reveals the whirlpools that are generally hidden between the ordinary and the conventional. The themes of her collection of short stories, Haapaperhonen (‘The butterfly’, 2002) are death and relinquishment.

Tikka originally trained as a biology teacher and worked in teaching for a couple of decades before becoming a full-time writer in 1982. She has published more than 20 volumes, comprising novels, collections of short stories, poems and children’s stories. The children’s stories are illustrated by her sister, Saara Tikka. More…

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…