Search results for "joel lehtonen"

When the viewer vanishes

26 May 2015 | Essays, Non-fiction

Empty frame. Photo: 'Playingwithbrushes' / CC BY 2.0For the author Leena Krohn, there is no philosophy of art without moral philosophy

I lightheartedly promised to explain the foundations of my aesthetics without thinking at any great length about what is my very own that could be called aesthetics. Now I am forced to think about it. The foundations of my possible aesthetics – like those of all aesthetics – lie of course somewhere quite different from aesthetics itself. They lie in human consciousnesses and language, with all the associated indefiniteness.

It is my belief that we do not live in reality, but in metareality. The first virtual world, the simulated Pretend-land is inherent in us.

It is the human consciousness, spun by our own brains, which is shared by everyone belonging to this species. Thus it can be called a shared dream, as indeed I have done. More…

Walking through a picture

30 June 2006 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

The short stories of a painter-author Joel Pettersson (1892-1937) were hardly known by his contemporaries. Juha Virkkunen introduces one of them

Finland, the ‘land of a thousand lakes’, is also the land of at least 120,000 islands. In the largest cluster of islands, Åland, between Finland and Sweden, people cherish their old Swedish-language roots.

Åland has given birth to a unique literature which transcends the bounds of regionalism. Its best-known contemporary authors include Anni Blomqvist (1909-1990) and Ulla-Leena Lundberg (born 1947). They have described not only the hard life of fishermen, but also the changing living conditions of shipowners.

Joel Pettersson was both a painter and a writer, but his stories were not made available in printed form until in the 1970s; translations into Finnish were published in the 1990s. More…

Last resorts

31 March 1999 | Authors, Interviews

Pirjo Hassinen

Photo: Irmeli Jung

The novelist Pirjo Hassinen’s subjects are men, women and death. Particularly, in her novel Viimeinen syli (‘The last embrance’, Otava, 1998), death. Interview by Leena Härkönen

The blizzard to end all blizzards is tearing Finland apart. The railway system is in a mess, and the heating system in our building has stopped working. There is no way I can leave Helsinki for Jyväskylä, the town in central Finland, 300 kilometres away, where Pirjo Hassinen lives. I am obliged to interview her on the telephone, although she says she loathes talking on the phone, and I too would prefer to meet her face to face.

The day I ring Hassinen, Lapland achieves a record low of -51 Celsius. Even on the south coast the mercury sinks well below -20°C, and a freezing wind makes the frost almost unbearable. The entire country is as white and cold as – death. It is an easy comparison, for it is death that is the theme of Pirjo Hassinen’s latest novel. The main character of Viimeinen syli is an undertaker, transporting bodies. There is a lot of death in the book: two suicides plus an accidental one. According to Hassinen, her subject matter is the conclusion of a logical development.

‘I deal with whatever concerns me most at a given moment and whatever I feel I can say something about.’ More…

Not a world language, and yet….

16 January 2015 | Articles, Non-fiction

The editors (Hildi Hawkins and Soila Lehtonen) at the screen: we begun publishing material on our website in 1998. Photo: Jorma Hinkka, 2001

The editors (Hildi Hawkins and Soila Lehtonen) at the screen: we begun publishing material on our website in 1998. Photo: Jorma Hinkka, 2001

Longevity may not generally be a virtue of literary magazines – they tend to come and go – but Books from Finland, which began publication in 1967, has stuck around for a rather impressively long time. Literary life, as well as the means of production, has changed dramatically in the almost half-century we have been in existence. So where do we stand now? And what does the future look like?
This is the farewell letter from the current Editor-in-Chief, Soila Lehtonen – who began working for the journal in 1983

‘The literature of Finland suffers the handicap of being written in a so-called “minor” language, not a “world” language…. Finland has not entirely been omitted from the world-map of culture, but a more complete and detailed picture of our literature should be made available to those interested in it.’

Thus spake the Finnish Minister of Education, R.H. Oittinen, in early 1967, in the very first little issue of Books from Finland, then published by the Publishers’ Association of Finland, financed by the Education Ministry.

Forty-seven years, almost 10,000 printed pages (1967–2008) and (from 2009) 1,400 website posts later, we might claim that the modest publication entitled Books from Finland, has accomplished the task of creating ‘a more complete and detailed picture’ of Finnish literature for anyone interested in it. More…

Inspired by winter

13 March 2013 | This 'n' that

Made by nature: ice sculptures on Lake Saimaa. Photo: Soila Lehtonen

Made by nature: ice sculptures on Lake Saimaa. Photo: Soila Lehtonen

Jo kirkkahana aaltoo avaruus,
jo päivyt paistavi, jo hohtaa hanki,
vaan kaikkialla viel’ on hiljaisuus
ja taivas valju on ja maa on vanki.

Now bright swells in the heavens abound,
the days are sunny, snowdrifts gleam,
and yet silence still dwells all around,
the sky is pallid, a prisoner yet the soil.

We were so impressed by this astonishing ice sculpture, created by the artist Winter, that we wanted to share it with you – before, as the spring equinox has just been reached, it disappears for ever.

These hooded characters were created by the storm that sent waves up the trees growing on the waterfront of an islet, just before the lake Saimaa froze up late last year. They have been standing there for months, observed – and photographed – by hundreds of surprised skaters who pass them by on the 22-kilometre skating route.

Bye-bye.... Photo: Soila Lehtonen

Bye-bye now…. Photo: Soila Lehtonen

Earlier these almost Biblical-looking figures seemed to be heading for south (the big photo), but as the changing temperatures and the March sun has now made their own adaptations in the marble-looking ice, the group now seems to be waving goodbye – until next winter, then?

The stanza is from the poem Maaliskuulla (‘In March‘, from the collection Maaliskuun lauluja, ‘Songs of March’, 1896) by Eino Leino (translation by yours truly).

Self-made life

2 April 2011 | This 'n' that

Art & nature: one of Veijo Rönkkönen's sculptures. Photo: Soila Lehtonen

You may perhaps remember an article entitled Self-made man, published on these pages in 2009: the sculptor Veijo Rönkkönen lived on a small, isolated farm in Parikkala, eastern Finland, where he spent his spare time building a garden of five hundred figures of concrete.

He lived in a cottage in the middle of his garden. Rönkkönen died a year ago, at the age of 66, and the future of his park, open and free to all, was unsolved for a while, as the Parikkala authorities were not willing to foot the bill for the upkeep the place –  despite the fact that more than 25,000 people visit the park each year.

Now, the problem of the upkeep of the statue park, a ‘total work of art’, has been solved, as a businessman has bought the garden from Rönkkönen’s estate. and a number of  institutions and individuals, among them friends of art and voluntary workers, have pledged keep the park open to visitors.

Yoga bare: Veijo Rönkkönen himself practised yoga. Photo: Soila Lehtonen

Photographer and writer Veli Granö introduced the life and works of this self-made artist in his book Veijo Rönkkösen todellinen elämä / The real life of Veijo Rönkkönen (Maahenki, 2007). Contemporary folk art goes by the acronym ITE, from the words itse tehty elämä, ‘self-made life’. The English-language term is ‘outsider art’.

The future of Rönkkönen’s cottage is undecided: it may become a park-keeper’s residence, or be used as an artist’s residence. Around it, the extraordinary legacy of this self-made artist – hundreds of statues, human and animal figures – will keep growing lichen and moss, ageing naturally.

Poetic excercises by the sea: Herbert Lomas (re)visited

21 November 2009 | Authors, Interviews

Down by the sea: Herbert Lomas in Aldeburgh. - Photo: Soila Lehtonen

Poet ahoy: Herbert Lomas in Aldeburgh. Photo: Soila Lehtonen

The prize-winning British poet Herbert Lomas has been translating Finnish poetry – much of it for Books from Finland – for more than thirty years. Soila Lehtonen, our Editor-in-Chief and his long-time collaborator, interviews him on the occasion of the publication of his collected poems, A Casual Knack of Living

The shoreline and the seaside promenade stretch out along the windy East Suffolk coast in Aldeburgh, where Herbert Lomas lives in a pink house called North Gable.

In summer thousands of tourists frequent the picturesque village, particularly during the music festival in June, founded in 1948 by the local composer Benjamin Britten. A poetry festival, too, takes place every autumn, this year for the 21st time.

Herbert – Bertie to those, like us at Books from Finland, who know him well – has just published a handsome tome of poetry, A Casual Knack of Living, containing poems from nine earlier collections plus a selection of previously unpublished poems, entitled Nightlights. The home of his publisher, Arc Publications, is in the village where he was born, 85 years ago, Todmorden in the Pennines. More…

Leena Lander: Liekin lapset [Children of the flames]

23 June 2010 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Liekin lapset
[Children of the flames]
Helsinki: Siltala, 2010. 419 p.
ISBN 978-952-231-022-1
€ 27.30, hardback

Novels by Leena Lander (born 1959) have been translated into more than 20 languages. Liekin lapset is a family saga, told in two parallel timelines. One is a portrait of a small coastal community in south-western Finland from the turn of the 20th century up to the end of the Finnish civil war in 1918 and the years following it. Life in the area is governed by a sawmill and a manor, socially dividing the community in two. Saida, Joel, Anders and Arvi grow up together, the future workers dreaming of socialism and the sons of the manor playing warlords. In the contemporary strand of the story, Sakari Salin, Saida’s grandson, begins researching his grandmother’s life. The documents reveal some rather remarkable events: here, the author defends the rights of those who were on the losing side in the civil war and creates a lively – as well as historically grounded – portrait of the times. The dialogues and characters in this novel work well, and the structure supports a complex system of psychosocial interconnections, in which the present finds an explanation in the past.

Finland(ia) of the present day

2 December 2010 | In the news

Mikko Rimminen. Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

The Finlandia Prize for Fiction 2010, worth €30,000, was awarded on 2 December to Mikko Rimminen (born 1975) ; his novel Nenäpäivä (‘Nose day’, Teos) was selected by the cultural journalist and editor Minna Joenniemi from a shortlist of six.

Appointed by the Finnish Book Foundation, the prize jury (Marianne Bargum, former publishing director of Söderströms, researcher and writer Lari Kotilainen and communications consultant Kirsi Piha) shortlisted the following novels:

Joel Haahtela: Katoamispiste (‘Vanishing point’, Otava), Markus Nummi: Karkkipäivä (‘Candy day’, Otava), Riikka Pulkkinen: Totta (‘True’, Teos), Mikko Rimminen: Nenäpäivä (‘Nose day’, Teos), Alexandra Salmela: 27 eli kuolema tekee taiteilijan (’27 or death makes an artist’, Teos) and Erik Wahlström: Flugtämjaren (in Finnish translation, Kärpäsenkesyttäjä, ‘The fly tamer’, Schildts). Here’s the FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange link to the jury’s comments.

Joenniemi noted the shortlisted books all involve problems experienced by people of different ages. How to be a consenting adult? How do adults listen to children? Contemporary society has been pushing the age limits of ‘youth’ upwards so that, for example, what used to be known as middle age now feels quite young. And, for example, in Erik Wahlström’s Flugtämjaren (now also on the shortlist for the Nordic Literature Prize 2011) the aged, paralysed 19th-century author J.L. Runeberg appears full of hatred: being revered as Finland’s national poet didn’t make him particularly noble-minded.

According to Joenniemi, Rimminen’s novel ‘takes a stand gently’ in its portrayal of contemporary life – in a city where a lonely person’s longing for human contacts takes on tragicomical proportions. Joenniemi finds Rimminen’s language ‘uniquely overflowing’. Its humour poses itself against the prevailing negative attitude, turning black into something lighter.

Rimminen has earlier published two collections of poems and two novels (Pussikaljaromaani, ‘Sixpack novel’, 2004, and Pölkky, ‘The log’, 2007) . Pussikaljaromaani has been translated into  Dutch, German, Latvian, Russian and Swedish.

Book-giving time!

12 November 2010 | In the news

The few weeks before Christmas are when most books are bought in Finland, so shortlists of literary prizes start popping up in November.

All the juries of the three biggest prizes – worth €30,000 each, awarded by the Finnish Book Foundation – have now published their shortlists: the Finlandia Prize for Non-Fiction, the Finlandia Junior Prize and the Finlandia Prize for Fiction.

The winners, each chosen by one person, will be announced in December. This FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange newsletter link will take you to the jury members’ assessments of the shortlisted non-fiction and Junior Prize works.

The following six novels ended up on the Finlandia Prize for Fiction list:
Joel Haahtela: Katoamispiste (‘Vanishing point’, Otava), Markus Nummi: Karkkipäivä (‘Candy day’, Otava), Riikka Pulkkinen: Totta (‘True’, Teos), Mikko Rimminen: Nenäpäivä (‘Nose day’, Teos), Alexandra Salmela: 27 eli kuolema tekee taiteilijan (’27 or death makes an artist’, Teos) and Erik Wahlström: Flugtämjaren (in Finnish translation, Kärpäsenkesyttäjä, ‘The fly tamer’, Schildts). Here’s the FILI link to the jury’s comments.

Daddy dear

30 June 2004 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Vanikan palat (‘Pieces of crispbread’, Otava, 2004). Interview by Soila Lehtonen

Dad’s at the mess again. Comes back some time in the early hours. Clattering, blubbing, clinging to some poem, he collapses in the hall.

We pretend to sleep. It’s not a bad idea to take a little nap. After a quarter of an hour Dad wakes up. Comes to drag us from our beds. Crushes us four sobbing boys against his chest as if he were afraid that a creeping foe intended to steal us. We cry too, of course, but from pain. Four boys belted around a non-commissioned officer is too much. It hurts. And the grip only tightens. Dad whines:

‘Boys, I will never leave you. Dad will never give his boys away. There will be no one who can take you from me.’ More…

Lipstick memories

30 June 2004 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews

Hannu Väisänen has always used images from his childhood in his work as an artist, but now he has also recorded the life of his family in an autobiographical novel entitled Vanikan palat (‘Pieces of crispbread’), in which colours, smells and sounds paint a word-picture of 1950s Finland. Interview by Soila Lehtonen

Hannu Väisänen (born 1951) is a graphic artist and painter. His major projects have included illustrations for the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, for an edition published in celebration of its 150th anniversary in 1999. He now lives in France, and his work has been shown in numerous European countries.

Mixing his colours himself, Väisänen aims for a state in which ‘even black would be a colour’. Characteristic of his art are two-dimensionality, the absence of perspective, ‘the sanctity of surface’, and a subject recurrent in his image, a seriality associated with numbers. He has also used literary subjects, including a serigraphy sequence on Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies and a sequence of paintings about the Kaspar Hauser story. Väisänen has made art for churches, a television series about art classics, opera sets, and has written articles about art as well as a collection of poetry. More…


31 March 1993 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

From Matemaattisia olioita tai jaettuja unia (‘Mathematical creatures, or shared dreams’, WSOY, 1992). Introduction by Soila Lehtonen

The egg of the gorgonoid is, of course, not smooth. Unlike a hen’s egg, its surface texture is noticeably uneven. Under its reddish, leather skin bulge what look like thick cords, distantly reminiscent of fingers. Flexible, multiply jointed fingers, entwined – or, rather, squeezed into a fist.

But what can those ‘fingers’ be?

None other than embryo of the gorgonoid itself.

For the gorgonoid is made up of two ‘cables’. One forms itself into a ring; the other wraps round it in a spiral, as if combining with itself. Young gorgonoids that have just broken out of their shells are pale and striped with red. Their colouring is like the peppermint candies you can buy at any city kiosk. More…

‘Joy and peace prevail…’

25 December 2010 | Fiction, Prose

Dear readers,

to celebrate the change of the year we publish an extract from Aleksis Kivi’s 1870 classic novel, Seitsemän veljestä (Seven Brothers), translated by David Barrett, and a bit of a classic of our own too: it’s a nostalgic glimpse of a Finnish Christmas spent in a humble cottage inhabited, in addition to the eponymous seven brothers, a horse, cat, cockerel and two dogs (at least). Enjoy!

Soila Lehtonen & Hildi Hawkins & Leena Lahti

On a festive night

It is Christmas Eve. The weather has been mild, grey clouds fill the sky, hills and valleys are covered with the snow that has only recently begun to fall. The forest gives out a gentle murmur, the grouse goes to roost in the catkined birch, a flock of waxwings descends on the reddening rowan, while the magpie, daughter of the pine-wood, carries twigs for her future nest. More…

Temporarily out of order

10 May 2012 | Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Hullu (‘The lunatic’, Teos, 2012). Introduction by Soila Lehtonen

I found myself standing in front of the noticeboard. The rules were on a sheet of paper:

Ward 15 5-C

Breakfast 8:00 AM
Lunch 11:45 AM
Dinner 4:30 PM
Evening Snack 7:30 PM
After lunch
We recommend leaving money, valuables, and bankbooks for storage in the ward valuables locker. We take no responsibility for items not left in the locker! Money may be retrieved 1–3 times per day. Use of mobile phones on the ward by arrangement.
M–F 2–7 PM
Sa–Su 12–7 PM
Use of one’s own clothing by individual arrangement. Clothing care individual. Washer and dryer available for use in the evenings after 6 PM.
Arranged individually according to health condition. Outdoor pass does not include the right to leave the area.
Vacations arranged during morning report, according to health condition.
Smoking is only allowed on the smoking balcony! Smoking prohibited from 11 PM to 6 AM.
Pastor Karvonen available by appointment.

These were impossibly difficult rules. I read them through three times and simply did not understand. ‘Clothing care individual.’ ‘Outdoor pass does not include the right to leave the area.’

What did these sentences mean? With whom did you schedule the pastor and how? And why? More…