Author: Veijo Meri


Issue 2/1999 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Leiri (‘Camp’, Otava 1972). Interview by Maija Alftan

In the dark and wet the tram seemed like a stale-smelling and badly-lit waiting room at a country station, its Post Office Savings Bank advertisement set out of reach of vandalising underage hands. The conductress was two-thirds out of sight behind her desk: a small person. I glanced at the time stamped on my ticket. My only timepiece.

It was the time of day when you can see your own face in the window and through to the outside as well. I stood in the doorway, hanging onto the bar. As the tram turned into the narrow canyon of Aleksanterinkatu, the street seemed like some kind of cellar. Fantastic, how the world darkens at the end of the year. And then, when it’s at its darkest, everything goes totally white. The low-slung cars seemed to be slinking round the tram’s feet. More…


Issue 2/1999 | Archives online, Essays, Non-fiction

From Novellit (‘The Short stories’, Otava 1985). Interview by Maija Alftan

The short story is a matter of expectancy and reception. So it has to offer surprises. It has to reward the waiting.

The surprises are caused by the known and the familiar. Often some mis­hap is needed; the most crucial can be some social fix. The story’s limited space provides three states, brought about by a change in the environment: the past, the future and the passing moment. They create a special, unique phase of life for one of the characters. A return to the past leads to the new – not to the previous, situation – and this isn’t in anyone’s control. Short stories often contain arbitrariness. More…

The Knife

Issue 4/1989 | Archives online, Drama, Fiction

First performed in 1989 at the Savonlinna Opera Festival. Veitsi (‘The knife’, 1984) is set in Helsinki. The opera is composed by Paavo Heininen and the libretto is by the novelist, poet, playwright Veijo Meri. Veitsi is not a traditional opera, but ‘music-drama’. Introduction by Austin Flint


(Pamppu takes Havinen and the Poet to the Publisher’s office)

Hello there, you great novelist!
This is really a surprise,
as though you’d blown the door off its hinges.

These pages are terrific. Take a look at them. More…

Choosing a play

Issue 3/1981 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Leiri (‘The camp’). Introduction by Vesa Karonen

The local amateurs were having their theatre club meeting on a Friday evening in the main part of the parish hall. It was late August, the light was beginning to fade and no one had remembered to put the lights on. First the stage grew dark, then the floor, then the ceiling. The light lingered on the inside wall for the longest. There were creaks and groans from the rooms at the back and from the attic. The caretaker had been moving around in there about three in the afternoon, and his traces lingered, as they do in old buildings.

“Something of that sort but short, and it’s got to be bloody funny,” said the chairman, a carpenter called Ranta.

In the store cupboard there were 108 old scripts. Tammilehto, the secretary, hauled out about 30 scripts onto the table. His job was running a kiosk down the road.

“Nothing out of date,” said Ranta.

“There’s got to be a bit of love in it, I say,” said Mrs Ranta.

She had a taxi-driver’s cap on her head and was wearing a man’s grey summer jacket, a white shirt and a blue tie. Her car could be seen from the window. It was in the yard. She always parked her car so it could be seen from inside. More…

The Comb

Issue 3/1981 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Tilanteita (‘Situations’, 1962). Introduction by Vesa Karonen

The young man’s comb dropped behind the radiator under the window. The young man crouched down to look and felt with his fingers in between the pipes and along the floor. No trace of the comb.

Lose something on a train and it eludes you. A train ticket I left once – just placed it long enough on the window ledge for it, too, to fall behind the radiator. Couldn’t find it. The conductor came along, said “Any new fares! Tickets please.” I just sat still, totally unconcerned, until he’d gone. I’m sure there are little details which give the game away to conductors, they know who’s just got on.

New passengers are always somehow fresher, more alert. In winter, I hear, they look at the passengers’ feet. If there’s snow round the edges of the shoes, no need to hesitate. A lot of people are done for by looking straight in their eyes. Offenders always look straight back and then in the middle try to look somewhere else entirely. I was careful not to look steadily into the conductor’s eyes. It was easy when I concentrated on the way the long ventilator cords swung back and forth from the ceiling. They all swung in the same direction but some cords were a bit behind the others. Perhaps it was because the cords were all slightly different in weight and length. Now I remember – it’s not the weight that counts, just as it’s not weight that affects the way a pendulum swings. When the conductor had gone I began to look for my ticket again. I went on looking for it all the way to Tampere. The young man, too, would obviously go on looking for his comb until he got where he was going, without finding it. More…