Author: Tuva Korsström

The colour of sadness

30 September 2005 | Authors, Reviews

Kreetta Onkeli

Photo: Pertti Nisonen

In her first novel in 1996, Kreetta Onkeli (born 1970) brought the municipality of Luhanka in central Finland – which had not hitherto attracted much attention – to readers’ awareness and the Finnish literary tradition. When Ilonen talo (‘The cheerful house’, WSOY) appeared, it became a prize-winning success and a bestseller.

The book will probably remain a minor classic among narratives of Finnish childhood. The ironic title is indicative of Onkeli’s naïvistic style and her multi-layered play with language. The house where the book’s pair of siblings grow up is anything but happy: the mother’s alcoholism and bad living habits make it more like a house of ill repute. (The title also contains a note of sarcasm: in Finnish, ilotalo is a euphemism for a brothel.) More…

From Bosnia with love

31 March 2002 | Authors, Reviews

Daniel Katz

Photo: Pertti Nisonen

Daniel Katz’s new novel Laituri matkalla mereen (‘A jetty to the sea’, WSOY, 2001), tells the story of the impossible romance between the Bosnian wife of a blind Finnish colonel and a history teacher. Introduction by Tuva Korsström

At some point 250 years ago, a Swedish monarch decided to grant town status to some villages in the estuary of Kuhnusjoki (‘Sluggish river’) on the south-west coast of Finland.

There the little town lies today and is, with its environs, the setting for Daniel Katz’s novel Laituri matkalla mereen (‘A jetty to the sea’). It’s the late 1990s, early autumn, and this year the autumn gales come early. The history teacher Henry Loimu goes down to the bank of the river to repair his jetty in the gusts of wind. More…

Unique moments

Issue 1/1997 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

‘There is no everyday reality. There is not a moment that is not unique, manyfaceted, full of what has happened, of expectations and apprehensions, of hidden connections with the surrounding world, not a moment that is not hard to penetrate and worthy of attention,’ wrote Solveig von Schoultz (1907–1996) in her short autobiographical book Längs vattenbrynet (‘Along the water’s edge’, 1992). More…

The living
 and the dead

Issue 1/1995 | Archives online, Authors

The idea of the primacy of matter has taken on increasingly sombre resonances in
 Tiina Kaila’s work: in her third novel, Koe (‘The experiment’),
 an eccentric doctor seeks to reduce his human guinea-pigs to their primary,
 material, factors – and himself becomes the subject of his cruel experiment.

Tiina Kaila (born 1951) first came to the attention of the wider reading public in 1990 
with Bruno, a novel about the scientist and philosopher Giordano Bruno, whom the
 Inquisition burned at the stake in 1600; Bruno reached the final list for the Finlandia
 Prize. In creating her fictive Bruno, Kaila wished to
 portray how ‘terrifying, absurd and crazy a struggle the perception of the world is’.

Both Bruno and Koe combine acts of extreme violence with esoteric thought. But Kaila
 began as a children’s writer and a poet: her first book, a collection of poems entitled 
Keskustelu hämärässä (‘Conversation at dusk’), appeared in 1975, and was followed by
 children’s books and more poetry. More…

Take, eat

Issue 3/1994 | Archives online, Authors, Extracts, Interviews, Non-fiction

Annika Idström interviewed by Tuva Korsström; from Berättelsernas återkomst (The return of the narratives, Söderströms, 1994), a series of interviews, by Tuva Korsström, with contemporary European writers

Tuva Korsström: If one looks at what you have written, it’s had to do with things that no one talks about: mother-hatred, father-fixation, incest-fantasies; child-abuse and maltreatment of women… In general it’s always the unpleasant and depressing things that are made taboo: all our effort goes into normalising life according to a norm of niceness. Yet all these terrible things are there in our subconscious. You bring them out into the light, and it just can’t be very nice. You talk about what we’ve kept secret. Your method can perhaps be compared to psychoanalysis.

Annika Idström: My most recent book is about love, or rather about the possibility of love. It takes its origin not in an image but in my intensive reading of the Swedish psychoanalyst Jurgen Reeder’s book Begär och etik (‘Desire and ethics’).

It’s surprising that psychoanalysis wants to stubbornly cling to the simple idea that love is something the subject in a teleological sense ‘matures’ into unless its path of development has been hedged around by too many difficulties and disappointments. It’s surprising that people go in search of a discourse about love’s fundamental or innate harmony, when instead it ought to be obvious that what we call love is in the best case a ‘symptom’, behind which the individual finds himself torn apart by disparate forces.

Begär och etik


Full circle

Issue 2/1993 | Archives online, Authors

The characteristic genres of Daniel Katz (born 1938) are the picaresque novel, the tall story, and the burlesque. He is unusual in Finnish literature in being a humorist and a cosmopolitan. Ever since his first novel Kun isoisä Suomeen hiihti (‘When Grandfather skied to Finland’, 1969) he has drawn on his Jewish family’s rich supply of stories from eastern and central Europe. Katz transforms a dark and tragic background of cruelty, pogroms and alienation into piquant, warm-hearted narratives about survival.

Daniel Katz is one of the few male Finnish authors who does not write from a wounded, introverted ego. He is cheerful, open, alert and full of healthy scepticism towards both Jewishness and Finnishness. One of his tours de force is to portray the encounter between Nordic introversion and central European extroversion. This was one of the triumphantly successful achievements of his first novel, the story of his grandfather, a cavalry officer in the tsar’s army who came to Finland in order to get married.

Katz has novels and collections of short stories. He has settled in Finland-Swedish Liljendal in eastern Nyland (Uusimaa), and at the same time broadened the thematic scope of his writing to include the Middle East, both in his prose and as scriptwriter for a film about the Finnish orientalist Georg August Wallin. It has been said of Daniel Katz’s writing that his exuberant imagination is both a strength and a weakness. The episodes and the ideas sometimes have a way of devouring one another. But Katz can also produce taut and profound psychological compositions, particularly in his short stories. More…

Against the grain

Issue 3/1992 | Archives online, Authors

Carl-Gustaf Lilius is an artist, sculptor, painter, poet, essayist, political journalist and polemicist whose willingness to speak about subjects on which others prefer to remain silent – immigration, abuse of power, self-censorship, the mentally ill – has earned him the label of trouble-maker. He lives with his wife, the Finland-Swedish writer Irmelin Sandman-Lilius, in the small coastal town of Hangö. Tuva Korsström interviews

TK: You are an artist, a writer and a social commentator. You are the originator of thousands of pictures and sculptures, you write love poetry, you have written a novel on thought and essays on art, literature and music. You are the author of controversial articles and books in which you appear as the leading political dissident in Finland at a time of self-censorship. How do you maintain such versatility?

C-GL: I have always felt that the world is full of important things which interest me. They have alternated, depending on what is most topical to myself personally or what is happening in the world. I find newspaper articles just as demanding as a drawing or a sculpture. Poems appear in another way. My only complete collection of poems, Burgundiska sviten (‘Burgundian suite’), was written in a few weeks. More…

Dark gods: on the prose and poetry of Mirjam Tuominen

Issue 4/1991 | Archives online, Authors

‘With her collection of short stories, Mirjam Tuominen, hitherto an unknown name, has won a place among the very elite of our literature; it is a long time since we have witnessed such an important debut. What is so strange is that the author who is now making her appearance is a truly original talent. She is an artist in soul and spirit, and not merely a more or less gifted writer… There is no doubt that she touches the nerve of our time very intimately, and that her short stories are not products of literature, but really do contain within their form the living word.’

With this enthusiastic review, in 1938, the leading Finland-Swedish critic Hagar Olsson, who had also been the friend and active supporter of Edith Södergran, introduced the young Mirjam Tuominen’s first collection of short stories, Tidig tvekan (‘Early hesitation’). More…

On a magic carpet

Issue 3/1990 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

‘Tulavall is not large, but it is old and on the coast, just where the River Tatel runs into the sea.’ That is how the Finland-Swedish writer, Irmelin Sandman Lilius, starts her first book on the town of Tulavall, a place which has become her own universe in which she combines saga and realism with fantasy and history.

Tulavall and its inhabitants have become known and loved in ten languages. Last year, for instance the fourth edition of Bonadea, the book quoted above, was brought out in Spanish. The founder of Tulavall, King Tulle, can be read about in English, German, Danish, Finnish and, of course, Swedish. The three books about the magical Mistress Sola are to be published in Japanese.

Irmelin Sandman Lilius herself lives, just as do the girl Bonadea, King Tulle and Mistress Sola, in a small coastal town called Hangö [Hanko], where Irmelin and her husband Carl-Gustaf paint pictures and write books in a heavenly stone house by the sea. More…