Author: Lauri Sihvonen

No country for young men

Issue 1/2008 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

When men go off to war, women must do their best to take their place at home. Lauri Sihvonen examines two fictional accounts – written in 1950 and 2007 – of women in the Second World War and its aftermath

When the Continuation War broke out in June 1941, Finland was in dire need of strength to fight the Soviet Union. Field Marshal and commanderin-chief of the armed forces Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim wrote to the Finns in an order of the day as follows:

‘I call upon you to embark with me upon a holy war against the enemy of our nation. The fallen heroes [of the Winter War, 1939–1940] will rise again from beneath the summer hillocks to stand beside us this day, as we set out on this crusade against our enemies, firm in our purpose to ensure the future of Finland, with the glorious military might of Germany at our side and as our brothers in arms.’

Sirpa Kähkönen (born in Kuopio in 1964) has taken this wild bit of zombie fiction as the basis for her new novel; Mannerheim gets exactly what he ordered.

Lakanasiivet (‘Linen wings’, Otava), the fourth independent instalment in Kähkönen’s novel series, tells of Kuopio on 1 July 1941. This was the only day on which this largest city in northern Savo, 400 kilometres northeast of Helsinki, was bombed during the Continuation War (1941–1944). More…

The price of success

31 December 2007 | Authors, Reviews

Tuomas Kyrö. Photo: Veikko Somerpuro/WSOY

Tuomas Kyrö. Photo: Veikko Somerpuro/WSOY

A Finnish novel – or any fictitious work – that contains inaccurate historical facts can evoke bafflement in its readers, and public disapproval can follow from these ‘errors’. Finnish readers are unaccustomed to postmodernist stylistic devices. The details connected with Finnish wars, in particular, are examined under a magnifying lens.

The fourth novel by Tuomas Kyrö (born 1974), Benjamin Kivi (WSOY, 2007), stretches the boundaries of realism with its tale of a 100-year-old adventurer, written in the style of a memoir. It encompasses changing identities, periods of societal crisis, and war, which protagonist Benjamin Kivi calls simply ‘the killing’. In Finland we’re accustomed to regarding the Winter War (1939–40) and the Continuation War (1941–44) as honourable efforts to defend the country from the Soviet Union. More…