Author: Pirkko Saisio

In pursuit of a conscience

19 March 2012 | Drama, Fiction

‘An unflinching opera and a hot-blooded cantata about a time when the church was torn apart, Finland was divided and gays stopped being biddable’: this is how Pirkko Saisio’s new play HOMO! (music composed by Jussi Tuurna) is described by the Finnish National Theatre, where it is currently playing to full houses. This tragicomical-farcical satire takes up serious issues with gusto. In this extract we meet Veijo Teräs, troubled by his dreams of Snow White, who resembles his steely MP wife Hellevi – and seven dwarves. Introduction by Soila Lehtonen

Dictators and bishops: Scene 15, ‘A small international gay opera’. Photographs: The Finnish National Theatre / Laura Malmivaara, 2011

Veijo Teräs
Hellevi, Veijo’s wife and a Member of Parliament
Hellevi’s Conscience
Rebekka, Hellevi and Veijo’s daughter
Moritz, Hellevi and Veijo’s godson
Agnes af Starck-Hare, Doctor of Psychiatry
Seven Dwarves
Tom of Finland
The Bishop of Mikkeli
Adolf Hitler
Albert Speer
Josef Stalin
Old gays: Kale, Jorma, Rekku, Risto
Olli, Uffe,Tiina, Jorma: people from SETA [the Finnish LGBT association]
Second Lieutenant, Private Teräs, the men in the company
A Policeman
Big Gay, Little Gay, Middle Gay
William Shakespeare
Hermann Göring
Hans-Christian Andersen
Teemu & Oskari, a gay couple
The Apostle Paul
Father Nitro
Winston Churchill


On the stage, a narrow closet.

Veijo Teräs appears, struggling to get out of the closet.

Veijo Teräs is dressed as a prince. He is surprised and embarrassed to see that the audience is already there. He seems to be waiting for something.

He speaks, but continues to look out over the audience expectantly.

Snow White's spouse, Veijo (Juha Muje), and the dwarves. Photo: Laura Malmivaara, 2011

This outfit isn’t specifically for me, because… I mean, it’s part of this whole thing. This Snow White thing. I’m waiting for the play to start. Just like you are. My name is Veijo Teräs and I’m playing the point of view role in this story. Writers put point of view roles like this in their plays nowadays. They didn’t use to.

Just to be clear – this isn’t a ballet costume. I’m not going to do any ballet dancing, but I won’t mind if someone dances, even if it’s a man. Particularly if it’s a man. But I don’t watch. Ballet, I mean. Not at the opera house, or on television, or anywhere, and I have no idea why we had to bring up ballet – or I had to bring it up – because this is a historical costume, so it’s appropriate. This is what men used to wear, real men like Romeo and Hamlet, or Cyrano de Bergerac. But we in the theatre these days have a hell of a job getting an audience to listen to what a man has to say when he’s standing there saying what he has to say in an outfit like this. People get the idea that it’s a humorous thing, but this isn’t, this Snow White thing, where I play the prince. Snow White is waiting in her glass casket, she died from an apple, which seems to have become the Apple logo, Lord knows why, the one on the laptops you see on the tables of every café in town. More…

Midsummer madness

Issue 4/2005 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

An extract from the novel Voimattomuus (‘Powerlessness’, WSOY, 2005). Introduction by Maila-Katriina Tuominen

a man
a woman
a boy

Midsummer Eve. A cabin.Outside it’s raining a little, but the blanket of clouds is already breaking up.
It’s bright in the cabin, like daylight. The table is set.
A bunch of wild violets, torn from its means of support, droops in the middle of the table, surrounded by stemmed glasses and paper napkins folded into the shape of swans. The champagne, aquavit and white wine are still chilling.
A man and a woman walk into the cabin wearing bathrobes. She has a terrycloth towel wound around her head like a turban. They’re coming from the sauna. He looks at the table with surprise. The table is set for three.
She notices the man’s gaze and hurries into the bedroom to get dressed.
He takes a beer out of the refrigerator and sits down at the table in his bathrobe.
A long silence. More…

Inventing reality

30 June 2001 | Authors

Pirkko SaisioChanges of self and perspective – and even of gender – fascinate the chameleon-like writer, dramatist and actress Pirkko Saisio. Set in Helsinki in the 1950s and 1960s, her autobiographical novel Pienin yhteinen jaettava (‘Lowest common multiple’, 1998) was on the shortlist for the Finlandia Prize. ‘We look into the mirror,’ she says in this introduction to her writing, ‘to wonder at the fact that we have the ability to divide in two, into she who looks and she who is looked at’.

Extracts from Miten kirjani ovat syntyneet (‘How my books have been born’, edited by Ritva Haavikko, WSOY, 2000)

On the top shelf of the bookshelf in my childhood home were about thirty volumes of the collected works of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. On the bottom shelf were the same number of the collected Stalin. Between them were A Young Woman’s Cookbook and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, which my father had had to study in order to graduate from correspondence school as a commercial technician. More…

It’s only me

30 June 2001 | Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the autobiographical novel Pienin yhteinen jaettava (‘Lowest common multiple’, WSOY, 1998)

The weather had not yet broken, although it was September; I had been away for two weeks.
The linden trees of the North Shore drooped their dusty leaves in a tired and melancholy way. Even the new windows were already sticky and dusty. The flat was covered in thick, stiff plastic sheeting. The chairs, the books, the Tibetan tankas and the negro orchestra I had bought in Stockholm glimmered beneath the plastic ice like salvage from the Titanic.
The windows had been replaced while I had been in Korea.
I unpacked the gifts from my suitcase. Lost in the sea of plastic, the little Korean objects looked shipwrecked and ridiculous.
My temperature was rising; it had been troubling me for more than a week.
I smiled and said something, not mentioning my temperature.
It was time to be a mother again, and a life-companion.
And a daughter…. More…

Daughter of Cain

Issue 2/1985 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

An extract from the novel Kainin tytär (‘Daughter of Cain’, 1984). In the following extract Anna and Risku spend a single night recalling the early days of their relationship; Anna is in the country, Risku is in the city. Introduction by Soila Lehtonen


The moon hangs before the bosom of the sky, a slender crescent, but giving light all the same.

On the horizon a black, glimmering line emerges from the water. It is the skerry, a low, lone rock.

I shut off the motor. The sea laps minutely against the side of the boat. This far out there are no longer any birds.

The silence here is deeper than even that of an empty room.

The skerry is as black and glistening as the back of a pike.

Light is matter, it’s never steady.

Whatever is understood in life is understood in a sudden blue illumination, like lightning cleaving the night to expose the landscape – shadows, hollows and all. More…