Author: Leena Härkönen

Last resorts

31 March 1999 | Authors, Interviews

Pirjo Hassinen

Photo: Irmeli Jung

The novelist Pirjo Hassinen’s subjects are men, women and death. Particularly, in her novel Viimeinen syli (‘The last embrance’, Otava, 1998), death. Interview by Leena Härkönen

The blizzard to end all blizzards is tearing Finland apart. The railway system is in a mess, and the heating system in our building has stopped working. There is no way I can leave Helsinki for Jyväskylä, the town in central Finland, 300 kilometres away, where Pirjo Hassinen lives. I am obliged to interview her on the telephone, although she says she loathes talking on the phone, and I too would prefer to meet her face to face.

The day I ring Hassinen, Lapland achieves a record low of -51 Celsius. Even on the south coast the mercury sinks well below -20°C, and a freezing wind makes the frost almost unbearable. The entire country is as white and cold as – death. It is an easy comparison, for it is death that is the theme of Pirjo Hassinen’s latest novel. The main character of Viimeinen syli is an undertaker, transporting bodies. There is a lot of death in the book: two suicides plus an accidental one. According to Hassinen, her subject matter is the conclusion of a logical development.

‘I deal with whatever concerns me most at a given moment and whatever I feel I can say something about.’ More…