Author: Mervi Kantokorpi

Outside the human realm

28 May 2010 | Authors, Reviews

Tiina Raevaara

Tiina Raevaara. Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

Themes enriched by the natural sciences set in a kind of naturalised literary fantasy make Tiina Raevaara an interesting young prose-writer. She is a doctor of genetics and a science writer whose collection of fourteen short stories, En tunne sinua vierelläni (‘I don’t feel you beside me’, Teos, 2010), is her second literary work.

Fantasy and a sombre dystopia combine in her debut novel, Eräänä päivänä tyhjä taivas (‘One day an empty sky’, 2008), which took its readers to the centre of ecological catastrophes and struggles for power taking the form of family relationships. The novel was seen as a morality tale examining the issue of human responsibility, and Leena Krohn, Johanna Sinisalo, Maarit Verronen and Jyrki Vainonen were identified as its literary godparents.

What unites these Finnish writers working at the borders of fact, fiction and fantasy? They are distinguished from realist prose by the way they pose a certain type of ethical question: the complex relationship between humankind and what is called nature, and the inexplicable fuzzy area between the two, which the hard sciences are unable to grasp. In these writers’ work, fantasy often layers into philosophical allegories which examine the limits of what can be experienced as human. More…


16 April 2010 | Authors, Reviews

Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen. Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

One of the most exciting features of Finnish poetry since 2000 has been the wealth and breadth of poetry by young women. Compared to literature written by women in earlier decades, contemporary poetry appears to have freed itself from one-track feminism and knotted brow earnestness to become a literature with a richer approach to womanhood, its forms and history.

The first collection by Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen (born 1977), Sakset kädessä ei saa juosta (‘You mustn’t run with scissors in your hand’, 2004) was a glimpse into the culturally restricted but nevertheless autonomous world of young girls. Mother’s instructions and Father’s advice will be broken down as one grows up; in spite of the genderised system, it is still possible for a young woman to make her own choices. More…

Boys Own, Girls Own? –
Gender, sex and identity

30 December 2008 | Essays, Non-fiction

Knowing good and evil: Adam and Eve (Albrecht Dürer, 1507)

Knowing good and evil: Adam and Eve (Albrecht Dürer, 1507)

In Finnish fiction of the present decade, both in poetry and in prose, there seems to be at least one principle that cuts across all genres: an overt expression of gender, writes the critic Mervi Kantokorpi in her essay

Relationships and family have always been central concerns of literature; questions about gender and individual identity have received a new emphasis in Finnish literature from one season to the next. The gender roles represented in contemporary literature appear to become ever more stereotypical. The question is no longer only of the author consciously setting his or her gender up as the starting point for expression, as has already long been the case with modern literature written by women. More…

Happiness is a warm gun?

30 September 2008 | Authors, Reviews

Petri Tamminen

Petri Tamminen. Photo: Ville Juurikkala

‘As a group, we’re prone to getting pissed-off’ sums up one interviewee in Petri Tamminen’s new book — his seventh — Mitä onni on (‘What happiness is’, Otava, 2008). And that is exactly what this story is about — an analysis of the causes and consequences of the blues inherent to true Finnishness.

What’s wrong with the Finns? A shared national penchant for playing in a minor key, difficult weather conditions, an excess amount of the protestant work ethic, or what? Two friends — an author and an artist — initiate a field research project with the intent of publishing a book. The episodic narrative takes them on a cruise ship to Sweden, through a university and an eco-commune and all the way to Denmark to interview people with one question: What is happiness? More…

Playing games

30 March 2007 | Authors, Reviews

Aki Salmela

Photo: Lauri Mannermaa / Tammi

‘The world’s complete but we’ll make new ones,’ says the poet, and fulfils his project with whatever speech is to hand.

Aki Salmela (born 1976) is among the most promising of the young Finnish poets who are searching for new ways of expression. One of the most encouraging literary features of the start of the new century was the young generation making its poetic début, including Salmela. They showed a wide-ranging interest in the poetry and tradition of Finland and abroad and were well-versed in foreign languages as well as various experimental poetic techniques. More…

Reading the world

30 December 2004 | Authors, Reviews

Helena Sinervo

Photo: Marja-Leena Hukkanen

Helena Sinervo’s intention was to write a biography of the poet, prose-writer and translator Eeva-Liisa Manner (1921–1995). But even during the early research the task looked daunting: the interviewees spoke about a luminary, the greatest genius of the modernistic Finnish poetry.

Helena Sinervo (born 1961) is a poet and a critic. She herself had recognised grief, suffering and loneliness in Manner’s works. Things went as they do with a writer; the material she had collected fictionalised itself in Sinervo’s mind. The novel-character Eeva-Liisa came to life, and Sinervo began writing about the persona’s life from within. The result was the novel Runoilijan talossa (‘In the house of the poet’, Tammi, 2004). More…

Daddy’s girls

Issue 4/2000 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Aura is the twelfth novel in the twenty-year writing career of Anja Snellman (born 1954; until 1997 Kauranen). It clearly recalls Snell man’s first book. Sonja O. kävi täällä (‘Sonja O. was here’, 1981) in its depiction of the difficulty of becoming, and the desire to become a writer. The novels are also linked by a confessional narrator; by varying her voice, the writer has deliberately dramatised a personally experienced and already written-about world.

Reading Aura, it feels increasingly as if Kauranen-Snellman is telling her best stories, depicting intimate relationships that are important to the identity of the individual. Ihon aika (‘The time of the skin’, 1993) was memorable as a moving depiction of a woman’s body painfully delineated between a mother and daughter. The writer has dedicated her new novel to her father, and it is built on the tension between father and daughter. More…