Author: Pia Ingström

The painter who wrote

6 October 2014 | Non-fiction, Reviews

tovebrev.skyddsomslag.inddBrev från Tove Jansson
Urval och kommentarer Boel Westin & Helen Svensson
[Letters from Tove Jansson, selected and commented by Boel Westin & Helen Svensson]
Helsingfors: Schildts & Söderströms, 2014. 491 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-52-3408-7
In Finnish (translated by Jaana Nikula):
Kirjeitä Tove Janssonilta
ISBN 978-951-52-3409-4

Nothing could be more mistaken than to describe Tove Jansson as ‘Moominmamma’. In her statements she was both cutting and complex – conflict-ridden and full of paradoxes. And she was nobody’s mamma.

Tove Jansson (1914–2001) became world famous (especially ‘big’ in Japan) with her Moomins – the characters of her illustrated books for children (1945–1970) – and her books for adults are a part of her work that is at least as interesting. Her training, ambition and artistic passion were, however, focused on painting.

Anyone who has read Boel Westin’s excellent biography –  now available in English, Tove Jansson: Life, Art, Words‘knows’ all this, but to experience it through Jansson’s own letters, in an alternating process of reflection and recreation, brings the problems close to the reader in quite a different way: one that is shocking, but also deeply human. More…

Mad men

5 December 2013 | Non-fiction, Reviews

lllustration from the cover of Hulluuden historia

lllustration from the cover of Hulluuden historia

Hulluuden historia
[A history of madness]
Helsinki: Gaudeamus, 2013. 456 pp.
ISBN 978-952-495-293-4
€39, hardback

The Hippocratic Oath’s principle, primum non nocere – ‘first, do no harm’ – has been particularly difficult to apply in practice for doctors who have devoted themselves to sicknesses of the soul.

The breaking with this principle is the first thing to strike the reader in Professor of Science and Ideas Petteri Pietikäinen’s book, Hulluuden historia, which is overflowing with ideas.

This could be due to the vast amount of information contained within the book, combined with its slightly chaotic structure. It skips between a chronological and thematic narratives, and the author’s own involvement in his text varies, meaning that the text itself swings between vigorously discursive, and something that is little more than a sluggish retelling. Taking in everything Pietikäinen wants to say is difficult; the reader inevitably begins to grope for exciting details, and there are of course plenty of those to be found.

The sad thing is that the development of mental health care has not advanced steadily at all from its dark and ignorant beginnings towards a brighter and more enlightened present. Setbacks, especially concerning patients’ safety, have been many. Even if we ignore centuries of exorcisms, abuse, and care in the form of incarceration, punishment, and physical punishment, the 20th century has a wealth of gruesome examples to offer. More…

On subterranean spaces

30 August 2013 | Authors, Reviews

Zinaida Lindén. Photo: Janne Aaltonen

Zinaida Lindén. Photo: Janne Aaltonen

A melancholic diplomat’s wife in Turku recalls her childhood in 1970s Leningrad. This is how one might describe the new novel by Zinaida Lindén – then one might be surprised encountering nuance after nuance that challenge our expectations.

The melancholy in Lindén’s novel isn’t soft and misty; it is sharp and metallic. The life of the protagonist Galina, a diplomat’s wife, is far from glamorous, and consists mostly of standing over the ironing board in the family’s one-bedroom flat, ironing shirts for her conscientious and overworked husband at the consulate. The 1970s Leningrad of her memories is not an arena for ideology or culture, but serves as the backdrop for an intimate familial drama, in which the child always remained on the outside and was eventually left alone after the death of her parents. More…

Bombast and the sublime

17 January 2013 | Reviews

Torsten Pettersson
Skapa den sol som inte finns. Hundra år av finsk lyrik i tolkning av Torsten Pettersson
[Create the sun that is not there. A hundred years of Finnish poetry in Swedish translations by Torsten Pettersson]
Helsinki: Schildts & Söderströms, 2012. 299 p.
ISBN 978-951-52-3034-8
€25, paperback

In the 1960s my mother sometimes used to amuse herself and us children by reciting, in Finnish, in our bilingual family, selected lines of verse from the half-forgotten poetry canon of her school years.

Eino Leino (died 1926) and the great tubercular geniuses Saima Harmaja, Uuno Kailas, Katri Vala and Kaarlo Sarkia (all dead by 1945) were familiar names to me as a child. Early on, I realised that their poetry was both profoundly serious and also slightly silly, just because of its high-flown seriousness. More…

Robert Åsbacka: Samlaren [The collector]

30 November 2012 | Mini reviews, Reviews

[The collector]
Helsingfors: Schildts & Söderströms, 2012. 191 p.
ISBN 978-951-52 3001-0
€22.50, hardback

Violence and darkness have always played an important role in the novels Robert Åsbacka (born 1961) writes, but up until now they have been accompanied by mitigating factors, tenderness, and warmer tones. His new novel is a dark story which goes deeper into the wound than any of the earlier novels. Tom, lonely boy and fatherless victim of bullying in a children’s world where adults neither see nor help, gets to know the young couple next door, Bo and Viola. Bo is friendly, Viola is nice and beautiful, and their life seems, for a while, to be the picture of a better future for a boy to grow up to, a life with a car, girlfriend, breathing room. But Åsbacka mercilessly reveals the grim truth about Bo and Viola; violence exists in the adult world too. In all its horror, Samlaren is one of the autumn’s best novels; the only comfort comes in the form of Åsbacka’s style, and well balanced and meticulous depictions. Åsbacka is careful in his choice of depictions, and he knows how to make sure the image remains etched into the reader’s memory.
Translated by Claire Dickenson

Sofi Oksanen: Kun kyyhkyset katosivat [When the doves disappeared]

9 October 2012 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kun kyyhkyset katosivat
[When the doves disappeared]
Helsinki: Like, 2012. 365 p.
ISBN 978-952-01078-19
€ 27.90, hardback

Four years after the huge national and international success of her third novel Puhdistus (Purge, 2008, now translated into 38 languages), Sofi Oksanen has published a new novel to the accompaniment of trumpets and drums – a launch cruise to Tallinn, Estonia, workshops and public readings. The Finnish film version of Puhdistus received its world premiere at the same time. Oksanen has earned her star status as a writer, but Kun kyyhkyset katosivat is not as good as its predecessor. The story of Estonian freedom fighter (‘Forest Brother’) Roland and his cousin Edgar, an opportunist who manoeuvres his way through the Nazi and Soviet occupations of Estonia from 1941 until the apparent liberalisation of the 1960s, is thin and fragmentary. The language and style are uneven and diffuse, while Edgar’s chameleon-like shifts of identity from pro-German sympathies through Siberia to complicity with the KGB deserve to be more carefully explored. While the book’s themes are unquestionably authentic and relevant, they don’t really blend together into a moving novel in the way that Puhdistus does.
Translated by David McDuff

Monika Fagerholm: Lolauppochner [Lola upside down]

20 September 2012 | Mini reviews, Reviews

[Lola upside down]
Helsinki: Schildts & Söderströms, 2012. 461 p.
ISBN 978-951-52-2997-7
€ 31, hardback
Lola ylösalaisin
Suomentanut [Translated into Finnish by]: Liisa Ryömä
Helsinki: Teos, 2012. 300 p.
ISBN 978-951-851-480-3
€28.40, hardback

Lolauppochner (‘Lola upside down’) is a more authentic crime novel than the same author’s Den amerikanska flickan (English translation: The American Girl, 2004) and Glitterscenen (The Glitter Scene, 2009), though they too wove their dense fiction around an old crime. Readers who are at ease in Fagerholm’s luxuriant wordscapes with their tragic teens, country bumpkins and summer visitors will still be able to find their way around the small community where Jana Marton, a teenage girl on the way to her job at the local store, discovers the corpse of a boy, a key player among the local gilded youth. The novel’s opening, and many sections that follow, are extremely effective, with sharp and lightning-swift characterisations and a fine intuition for both the fear and the excitement in the social circle where the murder turns up hidden connections like worms from the soil. But the novel is too long for its own good – somewhere towards the end it ceases to gain depth, and the gallery of characters starts to feel too big. All the same, this book is a must for Fagerholm’s readership at home and abroad. A bonus for locals – and attentive outsiders – is present in the outlines of the small seaside town of Ekenäs that can be glimpsed behind the text. They supply a kind of physical magic that rubs off on much else besides – characters, moods and sense of place.
Translated by David McDuff

Getting by

18 May 2012 | Non-fiction, Reviews

To school: children on the march – no buses or taxis in the Finnish countryside after the war. Photo: the cover of Kauaksi kotoa

Kauaksi kotoa. Muutoksen sukupolvi kertoo
[Far from home. Stories of the change generation]
Toim. [Ed. by] Anja Salokannel & Kaija Valkonen
Helsinki: Kirjapaja, 2012. 320 p.
ISBN 978-952-247-291-5
€32.90, hardback

The post-war period in Finland was a time of hope and reconstruction, of procreation and tough, grey heroism. Finland picked itself up by the bootstraps, as fathers who had been ‘driven mad in the war’, who took to drink or spat blood because they had shrapnel in their lungs, built veterans’ houses around the small towns and cleared fields in the backwoods. More than 83,000 men were killed in the wars (Winter War 1939–1940, Continuation War 1941–1944).

Mothers worked like men. The baby boomers – the demographic peak which consists of those born between the war years and 1950 (in 1946–1949 more than 100,000 babies were born each year, compared to some 60,000 in 2011) – had to be fed and clothed and educated for a better and more prosperous future.

Now the baby boomers have started to retire. Editors Anja Salokannel and Kaija Valkonen (baby boomers themselves) have compiled the book Kauaksi kotoa. Muutoksen sukupolvi kertoo (‘A long way from home. Stories of the change generation’), in which 21 men and women talk about their lives during the decades of change. More…


2 December 2010 | Reviews

Ulla-Lena Lundberg

‘Knowledge enhances feeling’ is a motto that runs through the whole of Ulla-Lena Lundberg’s oeuvre – both her novels and her travel-writing, covering Åland, Siberia and Africa.

In her trilogy of maritime novels (Leo, Stora världen [‘The wide world’], Allt man kan önska sig [‘All you could wish for’], 1989–1995) she used the form of a family chronicle to depict the development of sea-faring on Åland over the course of a century or so. She gathered her material with historical and anthropological methodology and love of detail. The result was entirely a work of quality fiction, from the consciously old-fashioned rural realism of the first volume to the contradictory postmodern multiplicity of voices in the last – all of it in harmony with the times being depicted.

When Lundberg (born 1947) takes us underground or up onto cliff-faces in her new documentary book, Jägarens leende. Resor i hällkonstens rymd (‘Smile of the hunter. Travels in the space of rock art’), in order to consider cave- and rock-paintings in various parts of the world, she also reveals a little of the background to this attitude towards life that takes such delight in acquiring knowledge – an attitude that is familiar from many of the protagonists of her novels. More…

So close to me

19 August 2010 | Reviews

Please try this first, before we enter the chamber of horrors. It’s a poem by Timo Harju:

… The old people’s home is the strange hand of God with which he strokes
his thinning hair,
a sudden shower of cackling in the dry linen closet, slightly
sad and lonely
God looks out, stirring his cup of tea as if it were on fire.
If Jesus had lived to grow old and gone into an old people’s home,
he would have been like these.

Timo Harju was awarded the 2009 Kritiikin kannukset prize (‘the spurs of criticism’, 2009) of the Finnish Critics' Association, SARV. Photo: Pia Pettersson

This spring a young Finnish female nurse was sentenced to life imprisonment for using insulin to murder a 79-year-old mentally retarded patient. Not long after, sentence was passed on another nurse – this time a meek and submissive-looking middle-aged woman who had murdered a whole series of elderly patients with overdoses of medication.

These are the terms – those of ordinary crime journalism –  in which our recent public discussion of long-stay care of the elderly here in Finland was conducted. The discussion was followed by the usual misery of cuts, unchanged diapers, dehydration, over-medication, poor wages for hard work… No wonder that the concept of  ‘healthcare wills’ and ‘living wills’, in which people are supposed to say how they want to be cared for in the last stage of their lives – is acquiring a disturbing undertone of ‘better jump before you’re pushed.’ More…

In a class of one’s own

18 December 2009 | Reviews

Obs! Klass
Red. [Ed. by] Charlotte Sundström & Trygve Söderling
Helsingfors: Schildts, 2009. 288 p.
ISBN 978-951-50-1891-5
€27, paperback
De andra. En bok om klass
Red. [Ed. by] Silja Hiidenheimo, Fredrik Lång, Tapani Ritamäki, Anna Rotkirch
Helsingfors: Söderströms, 2009. 288 p.
ISBN 978-951-522-665-5
€26.90, paperback
Me muut. Kirjoituksia yhteiskuntaluokista
Helsinki: Teos, 2009. 267 p.
ISBN 978-951-851-259-5
€27.90, paperback

At some time in their lives, all members of the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland have been confronted with the phrase ‘Swedish-speaking better people’ [Svenska talande bättre folk], uttered in tones of contempt. Encouraged by news and entertainment media with little regard for the consequences, Finland’s Finnish-speaking majority is hopelessly fascinated by the image of us Finland-Swedes as a uniform and monolithic haute bourgeoisie that resides in the coveted Helsinki neighbourhoods of Eira and Brunnsparken. More…

Monika Fagerholm: Glitterscenen [The Glitter Scene]

17 November 2009 | Mini reviews, Reviews

[The Glitter Scene]
Helsingfors: Söderströms, 2009. 407p.
ISBN 978-951-522-467-5
Finnish translation by Liisa Ryömä
Helsinki: Teos, 2009. 455 p.
ISBN 978-951-851-127-7
€29.90, hardback

In Glitterscenen Fagerholm reveals the shabby details of the murder mystery that was the essence of her celebrated Den amerikanska flickan, The American Girl (2006). In a sense, the two books are psychological thrillers, but they are also much more than that: the American girl’s death is a myth about destruction and creation – a narrative about love, death and glamour that attracts and seduces cohort after cohort of young women in the District, a place somewhere in Finland that is in the process of being transformed from the rural to the suburban. Like no other author, Fagerholm combines the advantages of plot-based realism with the deep psychological excavation of collective dreams and the secret layers of the unconscious. In the centre of the District there is a kiosk where the local priest’s daughter, fat May-Gun, presides over dirty magazines, sickly candy and magnificent dreams. Across the square, eyed by horny small-town greasers, walks young and blonde Suzette. The result is a deadly drama, propelled by grief and narcissism.  The Glitter Scene is the goal of our dreams, but also a dangerous place of instant gratification and sudden death.

Katri Lipson: Kosmonautti [The cosmonaut]

30 December 2008 | Mini reviews

Katri Lipson: KosmonauttiKosmonautti
[The cosmonaut]
Helsinki: Tammi, 2008. 199 p.
ISBN 978-9513-142940
€ 22.50, hardback

Kosmonautti is a reflective first novel by a mature author; Lipson (born 1965), a medical doctor, has succeeded in weeding out the non-essential. In a cold, dark Murmansk during the final decade of the Soviet Union, three people live out their dreams. Seryozha is the good boy who adores space travel and his beautiful music teacher, Svetlana Kovalevna. She is harassed both in the classroom and in the staffroom, and by her snooping neighbours in the communal apartment. More…

Food for thought

Issue 1/2006 | Archives online, Articles, Authors, Non-fiction

Are thrillers the junk food of literature – or is there any haute cuisine in the genre of crime? And who cares anyway, if the books make you tum the page? Pia Ingström takes a look at some Finnish whodunits

Finnish crime fiction has kept itself largely free of the illusions of grandeur which have made the same genre in neighbouring Sweden begin to seem ever more pretentious and ridiculous. In the recent past, Sweden has exported blockbusters by Henning Mankell, Liza Marklund and Åke Edwardson to the international crime Fiction market, followed by a great flood of successors totally lacking in originality but presented as important literary contributions to some vaguely defined ‘contemporary debate’.

In Finland, detective stories and thrillers are sensibly treated simply as detective stories and thrillers crafted according to a recognisable formula, avoiding the sort of monstrosities characteristic of Sweden which mix scenes of brutal violence clearly intended as entertainment with claims to social relevance. Finnish crime novels tend to be less pretentious, and can sometimes happily surprise the reader by their high quality.

Take for example the flashy new doorstopper by Ilkka Remes, or a rather clumsily executed but at times bizarrely original private-eye story by Anja Angel, or a bittersweet tale of Russian-Karelian blood-and-crime-brotherhood by Matti Rönkä, or a feminist offering from Leena Lehtolainen. None of these makes any great claim to the status of art – they are honestly, at times brilliantly, crafted products of the genre that here and there reveal a glimpse of one or another of the true signs of real literature – originality, pain, and individuality – even if this is not necessarily presented with consummate technical skill.

Ilkka Remes’ thirteenth book Nimessä ja veressä (‘In the name and the blood’, WSOY, 2005) is strictly speaking the product of neither art nor craft so much as of a kind of industrial design. The writer’s name is a pseudonym and he makes very few public appearances, which perfectly matches the polished anonymity of his books. His themes are international terrorism, chemical warfare and political conspiracy. His plots teem with extra-powerful secret agents from a variety of security services, and he seasons the mix with a dose of competently researched local colour. In his latest offering, Nimessä ja veressä, the story moves be­tween fundamentalist Christians in the Bible belt of northern Finland, entrepreneurs in the tourist business, and the deserts of Iraq. Its action scenes are more convincing than those in some of his earlier novels in which a surfeit of heavy artillery, explosives and scrap metal sometimes confused the picture and made it difficult to understand which of the characters survived (not that knowing this was necessarily of vital importance). Reviewers have not praised Remes for creating interesting characters. But since his latest offering has sold 119,000 copies – an astonishing number and the highest figure among last year’s bestselling books in Finland – who cares if his books don’t exactly lead the field in psychological insight?

The success of the Da Vinci Code has proved that God, Jesus and all that is hot stuff these days, and Remes surfs the trend skilfully. His main character, a Bible scholar from the dark winters of the far north, is on the trail of something unique that has cast new light on the Dead Sea Scrolls, St Thomas’s Gospel and some discoveries in Qumran and attracted the attention not only of her old schoolmates and sisters-in-belief in the northern village of Pudasjoki but of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, too. The discoveries are then lost.

Now that he has a religious subject safely under his belt, Remes is already no doubt well advanced with his research into the avian flu pandemic that is now on its way to us.

The novels of Leena Lehtolainen are as easy to classify as the thrillers of Remes: socially-and gender-sensitive detective stories with wholesome human interest. Her plot construction is a little uneven – sometimes her motives and characters are believable, at others they seem forced. There is not much to say about her literary style – but for whatever reason, like many other people (her most recent book sold 50,000 copies in 2005). I have read all her crime novels with profit. In recent years she has alternated between a series built round the police officer Maria Kallio, and other novels in which violent crime within intimate family relationships is seen from a grassroots perspective. Possibly her family novels – Tappava Säde (‘Lethal Ray’), Kun luulit unohtaneesi (‘When you thought you’d forgotten’) and Jonakin onnellisena päivänä (‘One happy day’; Tammi) are her best, with their interesting prickly characters and greater feeling for sorrow and suffering.

However, Inspector Maria Kallio brings to the novels in which she appears a pleasant stability and fullness. Her children have now been born and her career is firmly established, but marriage complications remain and a little whiff of predictability is beginning to creep into the domestic scenes, something the reader can often identify with. Lehtolainen is quick to react to topical subjects. In her thirteenth novel Rivo Satakieli (‘Naughty Nightingale’, 2005), a prosperous prostitute is murdered as she is about to enter a television studio to take part in a live talk show. Just before this one of her associates, a young Ukrainian woman, is found on a forest path wearing nothing but a fur coat and boots with stiletto heels with her genitals brutally slashed. And one of Kallio’s female underlings, who has problems with female solidarity, becomes involved in shady business while planning her career.

If Lehtolainen is perhaps excessively politically correct from a feminist point of view, Anja Angel leans firmly in a trendier direction. Laitinen, Angel’s fat and ferocious female private detective and Laitinen’s assistant Marco in Marokkolainen makeinen (‘A Moroccan sweetmeat’, Otava, 2oo4) are both in their way queer and the relationship between them is described with warmth and sympathy, even playfully. Marco becomes rather lice besotted with a young Moroccan he’s supposed to be shadowing; their interaction is much more interesting than the strained plot. Angel is pleasantly different.

Matti Rönkä works as a news editor for Finnish television and has written three books centred on businessman and fixer called Viktor Kärppä. In Ystävät kaukana (‘Friends far away’, Gummerus, 2005), Rönkä’s fantasies of conspiracy have an altogether different and more intimate international flavour than those of Remes. Rönkä’s subject is what is popularly known in Finland as ‘eastern crime’, which includes everything from shady everyday business deals involving fake icons and old fridges to prostitution, drugs and contract murder.

Rönkä’s hero Viktor Kärppä belongs to the category ‘returning emigrant by grace of Koivisto’, i.e. he’s one of those former Soviet citizens of more or less Finnish stock who after the fall of the Soviet Union were granted Finnish citizenship and the right to ‘return’ to a homeland where they had never lived and whose language they couldn’t speak, by the President of the time, Mauno Koivisto (in office 1982­–94). Kärppä has built up a respectable building business in Finland. The sources of his original capital may not bear close inspection, but he no longer has links with drugs and prostitution, lives with a steady partner in a house of their own, and is determined to keep any unpleasant tastes or smells well away from his middle-class Finnish suburb. One day he gets an unwelcome visit from two well-dressed Russian gangsters who scare the wits out of his confused secretary and burn down his house. Someone is about to take over his firm, and it’s high time to find out who.

Rönkä’s two earlier Kärppä books, Tappajan näköinen mies (‘The man who looked like a killer’) and Hyvä veli, paha veli (‘Good brother, bad brother’) are somewhat hampered by tangled plots and a confusing cast of characters. Ystävät kaukana has a better balance between narrator and action, and the course of events is easier to grasp. Rönkä likes his principal characters. He manages to give them personality and individual dialogue, even feelings. The story is a sort of combination of melancholy road movie and picaresque novel, though normal human affections find a place in it too. The evil is not metaphysical but everyday, and the base human motives that lead to crime and deceit sit extremely well within the greater framework.

The border between Finland and Russia is one of the sharpest frontiers between prosperity and poverty in Europe, even in the whole world, and has long been a setting for undercover transactions. Rönkä presents this world with imagination and ingenuity through the story of this small-scale criminal, and the background is thoroughly researched and presented without fuss. Ystävät kaukana is a much smarter, warmer and more truthful book than it claims to be.

But no brief overview of Finnish crime fiction would be complete, however, without a mention of Matti Yrjänä Joensuu. After a career as a policeman spanning three decades and 11 novels, he is still writing though he publishes infrequently and is periodically afflicted by writer’s block. His more recent books have increasingly slipped into a kind of muffled, melancholy prose not normally associated with detective stories and thrillers. In fact, Harjunpää ja rakkauden nälkä (Harjunpää and the hunger for love’, Otava 1993) and Harjunpää ja pahan pappi (Harjunpää and the priest of evil’, 2003) are really meditations over various kinds of major deprivation, whether specifically within the family or the wider society, or more generally and existentially.

Concrete features – parts of dead bodies, crime scenes, victims and wrongdoers alike – have a marked tendency to blend into heavy metaphors for evil, want and suffering, though simultaneously preserving their original concrete quality. No one who has read Harjunpää ja pahan pappi will ever again be able to travel on the Helsinki Metro without being aware of the mysterious potential menace of the underground tunnel system and the shabby lives of those who live in it and never really belong to the daylight world.

Two of Joensuu’s book have been shortlisted for the Finlandia Prize. His concern with the requirements of the crime genre has diminished in inverse proportion to the growth of his obsession with affliction and deprivation. His innovative method of using trivial criminal material as a basis for heavily loaded symbols is literary in an individual and unpredictable way. None of the other books discussed here is unashamedly literary to the same extent.

If we were to arrange these samples of Finnish crime writing on a scale from the most formulaic to the most individual we should get: Remes – Lehtolainen – Angel – Rönkä, with Joensuu a few steps behind Rönkä, the most individual of all.

Remes’s writing is about as memorable as fish fingers, and one may well ask why any of us should be satisfied with such grub in a world that has oysters, goose liver and fresh aparagus to offer. For myself, I’m sure I could do without Remes for the rest of my life, and without fish fingers too.

But the safe comfort food of the intellect can sometimes contain surprises, so it would be rash to consider myself too fine for writers in this genre. Sometimes they have the courage to deviate from the standard recipe, and, losing themselves in some strange byway that really interests them, they may come up with something highly original.

Translated by Silvester Mazzarella

Eight novels by Matti Yrjänä Joensuu have been translated into 13 languages; his Harjunpää ja pahan pappi (‘Harjunpää and the priest of evil’, 2004) was published in England in 2006 by Arcadia Books, translated by David Hackston. Crime novels by Leena Lehtolainen have been translated into ten languages .The first translation of a thriller by Ilkka Remes, Ikiyö (‘Eternal night’, 2004), was published in Germany by dtv in 2005 under the title Ewige Nacht, translated by Stefan Moster.

A world of make-belief

Issue 1/2005 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews

Learning to be a grown-up, finding out what being happy can mean, working out what makes us different from each other: Monika Fagerholm (born 1961) talks to Pia Ingström about what lies behind her latest novel, Den amerikanska flickan (‘The American girl’)

A wood with muddy parts, a fen where someone drowned, an impossible house that broods on a dark secret, a gun – Monika Fagerholm’s new novel Den amerikanska flickan (‘The American girl’ Söderströms, 2004) is a thriller and a melodrama. It contains elements of humour, but it would be truer to call it creepy, tragic and irritating, all at the same time.

As in her previous novels, Underbara kvinnor vid vatten (1994, published in English as Wonderful Women by the Sea in 1997), and in Diva (‘The Diva’, 1998), Monika Fagerholm (born 1961) looks for unusual aspects of her characters’ emotions and relationships, with a focus on forces other than the cohesion that holds nuclear families together. The sense of place is also strong; in Underbara kvinnor vid vatten it was the archipelago, in Diva the suburb and the school – here it is the country, woods and fen, and local residents in an encounter with newcomers and summer visitors. More…