Search results for "alexandra salmela"

Dinner with Marie

30 June 2008 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Marie (WSOY, 2008). Introduction by Tuomas Juntunen

For once, Marie decided to plan a dinner without the same old roast beef, boiled potatoes, peas, red wine and berry kissel. And particularly no game. The thought of rabbit reminded her of the hunting trip to Porpakka, the hounds puking up rabbit skins onto the parquet floor, the smell of singed birds, the feathers that turned up even weeks later in a corner of the kitchen, the buckshot in the goose that broke her tooth. Mind you, she had to admit that brown sauce was quite good, especially as an aspic. She had tasted a spoonful once the morning after it was made, when Martta had gone out to buy milk and Marja was cleaning the drawing room, and then Martta had come back quite suddenly, and Marie had panicked and swallowed it the wrong way and had a fit of coughing. ‘Good heavens,’ Martta had said, ‘what’s the matter? I just came back to get my purse. I forgot it on the sideboard.’

The true reason for the plan was that she wanted to show them what a real French formal dinner was like, how much better it was. She planned the menu secretly for months, first in her mind, then in writing, at her bedroom dressing table – the only place she had to herself, although the door wouldn’t lock – at first on wrapping paper, which she later burnt in the tiled stove in the dining room when no one was home. More…

Tchotchkes for the tsar

11 August 2011 | Reviews

Cornflower and ear of oats: one of the several Fabergé gemstone ornaments now owned by Queen Elizabeth of England (gold, rock crystal, diamonds, enamel, ca 18 cm)

Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm
Fabergén suomalaiset mestarit
[Fabergé’s Finnish masters]
Design: Jukka Aalto/Armadillo Graphics
Helsinki: Tammi, 2011. 271 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-31-5878-1
€57, hardback

In its online shop, the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg sells a copy of a most delicate, enchanting little nephrite-and-opal lily of the valley that perfectly imitates nature, sitting in a vase made of rock crystal that looks like a glass of water.

These small flowers made of gold and gemstones were manufactured by the jeweller Fabergé a hundred years ago. The lily of the valley was the most frequently used floral motif in the Fabergé workshops ­–  it was the favourite flower of Empress Alexandra (1872–1918), and the imperial family was the the foremost client of the world’s foremost jeweller.

The replica (13.5 centimetres high) is available at the Hermitage as a ‘luxury gift’ for the price of mere  $3,300. (N.B. Since we published this review, the ‘luxury gift’ items seem to have disappeared from the Hermitage online shop selection, so we have removed the link. Several Fabergé egg replicas are available though, ranging in price from $200 upwards – link below.)

For those who feel the price is excessive, there is  also a rather modestly-priced little bay tree (original: gold, Siberian nephrite, diamonds, amethysts, pearls, citrines, agates and rubies as well as natural feathers, about 30 centimetres tall, featuring a little bird that emerges flapping its wings and singing when a small key is turned) at just $ 219,95. Despite its form, it is classified as one of the famous imperial Easter eggs. (However, as I write, this item is unfortunately sold out…) More…

Oedipus Cleverclogs

30 September 1997 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

 A short story from Ammattimies (‘The professional’, Tammi, 1997)

I had just pounded the life out of a couple of Germans when mother appeared at the door of my room, her blonde hair in a bun, in her white nightdress, through which I could clearly see the outline of her figure. She looked at me a little pityingly and suggested that we should go out for a meal at the weekend, just the two of us. I nodded and went back to concentrating on my acts of heroism.

And mother did not break her promise. Although she did not earn much as the junior cook at the children’s home, that did not stop us eating out. She took me to a good restaurant that was right on the harbour, in the shadow of the old steamships. The night before, she had ironed my only white shirt and hung it on a hanger with my terylene trousers. My mother had dressed me in the same outfit on my first day at school. I was decidedly over-dressed that day, but I put a good face on it. Mother’s men must always look their best. More…

Sound and meaning

20 January 2012 | Essays, Non-fiction

Harri Nordell’s poem from Huuto ja syntyvä puu (‘Scream and tree being born’, 1996)

Translating poetry is natural, claims Tarja Roinila; it is a continuation of writing it, for works of poetry are not finished, self-sufficient products. But is the translator the servant of the meaning – or of the letter?

I am sitting in a cafe in Mexico City, trying to explain in Spanish what valokupolikiihko, ‘light-cupola-ecstasy’, means. And silmän valokupolikiihko, ‘the light-cupola-ecstasy of the eye’.

I take to praising the boundless ability of the Finnish language to form compound words, to weld pieces together without finalising the relationships between them, never mind establishing a hierarchy: the eye is a light-cupola, the eye is ecstatic about light-cupolas, light creates cupolas, the cupola lets out the light, the eye, in its ecstasy, creates a light-cupola. More…


19 September 2013 | Fiction, Prose

A short story from Novelli palaa! Matkanovelleja (‘The short story returns! Travel stories’, edited by Katja Kettu and Aki Salmela; WSOY, 2013)

Mum didn’t want to travel abroad. Mum wanted to tend her rose garden and her pea beds, which sloped down the hill towards the lake. In mum’s opinion, the view from the porch was the best view in the world.

Dad wanted to travel. He never got very far, because Mum wouldn’t go. Dad got as far as the neighbouring forest. In Mum’s opinion, there was no better long-haul destination than the lake at the bottom of the slope and the grove around the house, which was full of blueberries and raspberries and, in the spring, morel mushrooms.

In Dad’s opinion, the forest was full of mosquitoes and flies and ants and mites.

On the lake, the loons dived and called on late summer evenings, Mum thought it was the best sound in the world. Beautiful and harrowing, at the same time. The lamentations of the loon demonstrated that a living creature can be so completely happy that its cry is full of grief. Her children’s crying and whingeing and desire to go to the Linnanmäki funfair in Helsinki were, to Mum, a sign that they are ecstatically happy at home.

Little loons, Mum said to us. More…

In the mirror

30 September 2003 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Helene (WSOY, 2003). Introduction by Leena Ahtola-Moorhouse

It was raining that day, and I was leafing through art books, as I often do, in the bookshop. Then I happened to pick up a work in which there was a picture; a bowl of apples, one of which was black.

Stories often begin like this, inexplicable as deep waters, secret as an unborn child which moves its mouth in the womb as if it wished to speak. For people do not seek mere understanding… people seek the sulphurous, tumultuous shapes of clouds; people seek bowls of apples of which one is black.

I bought the book and made an enlargement of the still life; on the wall, it was even more remarkable, for its correct position was standing up, tête à tête, looking straight at you, unblinking.
The apples seemed to move, to speak. I began to ponder them more and more. In the end I had to read everything I could lay my hands on about the still life’s painter. I had to visit Hyvinkää, where she lived for a long time, and touch her tree in Tammisaari with my hand. I had to travel as far as Brittany to see the rugged landscape that meant so much to her. More…

For the love of a city

31 December 2004 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel I väntan på en jordbävning (‘Waiting for an earthquake’, Söderströms, 2004). Introduction by Petter Lindberg

Nonna Rozenberg lived quite near the special school where I was a boarder, in a block nine stories high with a bas-relief to the right of the door. This bas-relief featured a fairy-tale figure – the Firebird or the Bird Sirin.

I often saw Nonna stepping out of a tram carrying a large brown case. She moved carefully, as if afraid of falling.

She played the cello, and resembled that bulky, melodious instrument herself. Women’s figures are often compared to guitars. But Nonna’s appearance never hinted at parties at home with parents away or singsongs around the camp-fire.

She was no beauty. Her slow, precociously mature body was neither graceful nor girlishly delicate. If I’d met her later, when I was working at a gym, I’d have said she was overweight and lacking in self-discipline. More…

Shards from the empire

5 February 2010 | Fiction, Prose

‘Imperiets skärvor’, ‘Shards from the empire’, is from the collection of short stories, Lindanserskan (‘The tightrope-walker’, Söderströms, 2009; Finnish translation Nuorallatanssija, Gummerus, 2009)

Gustav’s greatest passion is for genealogy. He dedicates his free time to sketching coats of arms; masses of colourful, noble crests.

Gustav asked me to do a translation. I sat for ten days trying to decipher a couple of pages from a Russian archive dating from the 1830s. Sentences like, With this letter, we hereby give notice of our gracious decision.‘

The intricate handwriting belonged to some collegiate registrar or other. Perhaps Gogol’s Khlestakov. More…