Search results for "leena krohn"

In memoriam Anselm Hollo 1934–2013

1 February 2013 | In the news

Anselm Hollo. Photo: Gloria Graham; taken at the video taping of Add-Verse, 2005. (Wikipedia)

Anselm Hollo. Photo: Gloria Graham; taken during the video taping of Add-Verse, 2005. (Wikipedia)

Poet and translator Anselm Hollo died in Boulder, Colorado, on 29 January, at the age of 78. His father, Professor J.A. Hollo, translated literature from 14 languages. Anselm, born in Helsinki in 1934, worked with languages all his life, translating from Finnish, English, German, Swedish and French.

In the 1950s he lived in Germany and Austria, and then moved to England to work for the BBC. He published his first collection of poems, Sateiden välillä (‘Between rains ’), in Finnish in 1956. He once said that as a poet he ‘makes things in and out of language’.

In the late 1960s Anselm moved to the United States, where he was to write more than 30 books in English. He was a Professor of Writing and Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, where he lived with his second wife, the visual artist Jane Dalrymple-Hollo. His own poetry is influenced by the 1950s and 1960s Beat Generation, among whom he had several personal friends; he translated Allen Ginsberg and Robert Creeley into Finnish – as well as the two books of poetry by John Lennon.

His last work remains Guests of Space (Coffee House Press, 2007). Notes on the Possibilities and Attractions of Existence: New and Selected Poems 1965–2000 received the San Francisco Poetry Center’s Book Award for 2001. His collection Corvus (2002) was also published in Finland, translated by Kai Nieminen. Among the many literary prizes he received was the Finnish Government Prize for the Translation of Finnish Literature in 1996.

Among his best-known translations of Finnish poetry are poems by Pentti Saarikoski (1937–1983) and Paavo Haavikko (1931–2008), whose work he also translated into German. For many years he served as a member of the literary advisory board of Books from Finland, and translated new work by, for example, Lassi Nummi, Jarkko Laine, Rosa Liksom, Leena Krohn and Riina Katajavuori.

During Anselm and Jane’s visits to Finland it was always enjoyable to talk about literature, art, new books and translation over a glass of wine. Anselm rarely, if ever, said no to requests to translate something: he remained sincerely interested in his native language and the ways it was used for creating fiction. We miss a jovial friend and an exceptionally skilful man of letters.


i.m. Hannes Hollo, 1959–1999

by Anselm Hollo
(Hannes Hollo was his son from the first marriage with poet Josephine Clare)

Fought the hungry ghosts here on Earth
‘What is man?’ asked the King
Alcuin’s reply: ‘A guest of space.’ And time yes time:
The past lies before us, the future comes up from behind
Walking on Primrose Hill or Isle of Wight beaches
Iowa City streets scrambling up snow-covered deer track
To Doc Holliday’s grave in Glenwood Springs
His helmet now shall make a hive for bees
He fought the hungry ghosts here on Earth
Strong & resourceful on his best days,
Patient kind and presente
Returning those with him to here & now
But just as we settle in with our Pepsi and popcorn
THE END rolls up too soon always too soon



(Anselm reads the poem here)

Dear reader,

11 February 2009 | Letter from the Editors

welcome to the new Books from Finland website. After 42 years in print, we now navigate virtual worlds. However much Books from Finland may have changed in appearance, though, its essence remains the same – as always, we try to provide you with interesting, well-translated things to read. Made in Finland, or about Finland. More…

To live, to live, to live!

31 December 2001 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

From Kaukainen puutarha (‘A distant garden’, WSOY, 1924). Introductions by Vesa Mauriala and Leena Krohn

Flowering earth

The earth’s spilling out purple lilac clusters,
a rime of white rowan flowers,
constellations of red catch fly.
Crazy seas of blue, yellow and white flowers
ripple across the meadows.
And the smell!
More seductive than sacred incense!
The heathen smell of the earth’s skin –
hot and quivering, making you mad drunk!

To live, to live, to live!
Living the high moment of life with a rage,
petals wide open,
blossoming beautifully,
raving at your scent, at the sun –
living tipsily, the whole way!

So what if death’s coming!
or this wondrous multicolour’s
withering down to the earth?
Once at least there’s been a blossoming!
The sun – sky’s
mighty and burning love – has shone
straight into the flower heart,
down to the tremulous ovule of being!

Kukkiva maa

Maa kuohuu syreenien sinipunaisia terttuja.
pihlajain valkeata kukkahärmää.
tervakkojen punaisia tähtisikermiä.
Sinisiä, keltaisia, valkeita kukkia
lainehtivat niityt mielettöminä merinä.
Ja tuoksua!
Ihanampaa kuin pyhä suitsutus!
Kuumaa ja värisevää ja hulluksijuovuttavaa,
pakanallista maan ihon tuoksua!

Elää, elää, elää!
Elää raivokkaasti elämän korkea hetki,
terälehdet äärimmilleen auenneina,
elää ihanasti kukkien.
tuoksustansa, auringosta hourien –
huumaavasti, täyteläästi elää!

Mitä siitä, että kuolema tulee!
Mitä siitä, että monivärinen ihanuus
varisee kuihtuneena maahan.
Onhan kukittu kerta!
On paistanut aurinko,
taivaan suuri ja polttava rakkaus,
suoraan kukkasydämiin,
olemusten värisevään pohjaan asti!


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…

Potentially translatable

27 March 2014 | In the news

The daily paper Aamulehti, published in Tampere, and the bookshop Tulenkantajat (‘The torch-bearers’), in the same city, founded in 2013 a prize called Tulenkantajat* for a Finnish-language writer whose book, published in the previous year, is estimated to have the ‘best export potential’. The first jury selects four to six candidates, the second chooses the winner. The prize is worth €5,000.

The winner of the 2014 prize was announced on 24 March: it is the graphic novel Vain pahaa unta (‘Just a bad dream’, WSOY) by the father-daughter team Ville Tietäväinen and Aino Tietäväinen; see our feature; we have also reviewed three other finalists on the list of six.

The remaining finalists were the crime novel Niiden kirjojen mukaan teidät on tuomittava (‘You will be judged according to your books’, Atena) by Kai Ekholm, Piippuhylly (‘The pipe shelf’, WSOY), short stories by Katja Kettu, the novel Hotel Sapiens (Teos) by Leena Krohn, the novel Herodes (‘Herod’, WSOY) by Asko Sahlberg and Kirahviäiti ja muita hölmöjä aikuisia (‘The giraffe mummy and other silly adults’, Teos), a picture book for children by Alexandra Salmela and Martina Matlovičová.

Who can say whether the books on this shortlist will be ‘exported’, i.e. translated prolifically? Time will tell.

*) The mid 1920s saw the foundation of a group of writers called the Torch-Bearers; it first published intensely personal nature poetry but later began to import European influences into Finnish literature. The Torch-Bearers aimed for the experience of citizenship of the world as unity between people without denying one’s own fatherland or nationality. (See Vesa Mauriala’s article here.)

Outside the human realm

28 May 2010 | Authors, Reviews

Tiina Raevaara

Tiina Raevaara. Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

Themes enriched by the natural sciences set in a kind of naturalised literary fantasy make Tiina Raevaara an interesting young prose-writer. She is a doctor of genetics and a science writer whose collection of fourteen short stories, En tunne sinua vierelläni (‘I don’t feel you beside me’, Teos, 2010), is her second literary work.

Fantasy and a sombre dystopia combine in her debut novel, Eräänä päivänä tyhjä taivas (‘One day an empty sky’, 2008), which took its readers to the centre of ecological catastrophes and struggles for power taking the form of family relationships. The novel was seen as a morality tale examining the issue of human responsibility, and Leena Krohn, Johanna Sinisalo, Maarit Verronen and Jyrki Vainonen were identified as its literary godparents.

What unites these Finnish writers working at the borders of fact, fiction and fantasy? They are distinguished from realist prose by the way they pose a certain type of ethical question: the complex relationship between humankind and what is called nature, and the inexplicable fuzzy area between the two, which the hard sciences are unable to grasp. In these writers’ work, fantasy often layers into philosophical allegories which examine the limits of what can be experienced as human. More…

Invisible cities

31 December 1992 | Archives online, Essays

Extracts from Leena Krohn’s collection of essays, Rapina ja muita papereita (‘Rustle, and other papers’, WSOY, 1989).

Past me hurries a man in a rustling anorak. He pushes a card into a crack in the wall. There is a whirring noise, a door opens and, shoulder first, he pushes his way into a cramped room. At eye-level is a black screen, and under it a group of buttons. On the buttons is printed: Cash. Statement. Balance. On an empty button someone has written: Holdup. A question appears on the screen, and deserves our undivided attention: Do you wish to continue with another transaction?

We do! We certainly do. The mild warmth that suffuses the automatic bank pleases me, too. Why shouldn’t it? The warmth of the machine, the heat of money, is itself one of the forms of human energy secreted by the city, however stunted and primitive it may seem as it oozes from the depths of the metal cabinet. More…

Growing together. New Finnish children’s books

28 January 2011 | Articles

Hulda knows what she wants! From the cover of a new picture book by Markus Majaluoma (see mini reviews*)

What to choose? A mum or dad buys a book hoping it will be an enjoyable read at bedtime – adults presume a book is a ‘good’ one if they themselves genuinely enjoy it, but children’s opinions may differ. Päivi Heikkilä-Halttunen reviews the trends in children’s literature published in Finland in 2010, and in the review section we’ve picked out a handful of the best on offer

Judging by the sheer number and variety of titles published, Finnish children’s and young people’s fiction is alive and well. If I had to describe the selection of books published in 2010 in just a few words, I would have to point to the abundance of titles and subject matters, and the awareness of international trends.

Since 2000 the number of books for children and young people published in Finland each year – including both translated and Finnish titles – has been well in excess of 1,500, and increasing, and this growth shows no signs of slowing down.

Little boys, ten-year-olds who don’t read very much and teenage boys, however, were paid very little attention last year. Although gender-specificity has never been a requirement of children’s fiction, boys are notably pickier when it comes to long, wordy books, especially those that might be considered ‘girly’. More…

Food for thought

31 March 2006 | Archives online, Articles, Authors, Non-fiction

Are thrillers the junk food of literature – or is there any haute cuisine in the genre of crime? And who cares anyway, if the books make you tum the page? Pia Ingström takes a look at some Finnish whodunits

Finnish crime fiction has kept itself largely free of the illusions of grandeur which have made the same genre in neighbouring Sweden begin to seem ever more pretentious and ridiculous. In the recent past, Sweden has exported blockbusters by Henning Mankell, Liza Marklund and Åke Edwardson to the international crime Fiction market, followed by a great flood of successors totally lacking in originality but presented as important literary contributions to some vaguely defined ‘contemporary debate’.

In Finland, detective stories and thrillers are sensibly treated simply as detective stories and thrillers crafted according to a recognisable formula, avoiding the sort of monstrosities characteristic of Sweden which mix scenes of brutal violence clearly intended as entertainment with claims to social relevance. Finnish crime novels tend to be less pretentious, and can sometimes happily surprise the reader by their high quality.

Take for example the flashy new doorstopper by Ilkka Remes, or a rather clumsily executed but at times bizarrely original private-eye story by Anja Angel, or a bittersweet tale of Russian-Karelian blood-and-crime-brotherhood by Matti Rönkä, or a feminist offering from Leena Lehtolainen. None of these makes any great claim to the status of art – they are honestly, at times brilliantly, crafted products of the genre that here and there reveal a glimpse of one or another of the true signs of real literature – originality, pain, and individuality – even if this is not necessarily presented with consummate technical skill.

Ilkka Remes’ thirteenth book Nimessä ja veressä (‘In the name and the blood’, WSOY, 2005) is strictly speaking the product of neither art nor craft so much as of a kind of industrial design. The writer’s name is a pseudonym and he makes very few public appearances, which perfectly matches the polished anonymity of his books. His themes are international terrorism, chemical warfare and political conspiracy. His plots teem with extra-powerful secret agents from a variety of security services, and he seasons the mix with a dose of competently researched local colour. In his latest offering, Nimessä ja veressä, the story moves be­tween fundamentalist Christians in the Bible belt of northern Finland, entrepreneurs in the tourist business, and the deserts of Iraq. Its action scenes are more convincing than those in some of his earlier novels in which a surfeit of heavy artillery, explosives and scrap metal sometimes confused the picture and made it difficult to understand which of the characters survived (not that knowing this was necessarily of vital importance). Reviewers have not praised Remes for creating interesting characters. But since his latest offering has sold 119,000 copies – an astonishing number and the highest figure among last year’s bestselling books in Finland – who cares if his books don’t exactly lead the field in psychological insight?

The success of the Da Vinci Code has proved that God, Jesus and all that is hot stuff these days, and Remes surfs the trend skilfully. His main character, a Bible scholar from the dark winters of the far north, is on the trail of something unique that has cast new light on the Dead Sea Scrolls, St Thomas’s Gospel and some discoveries in Qumran and attracted the attention not only of her old schoolmates and sisters-in-belief in the northern village of Pudasjoki but of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, too. The discoveries are then lost.

Now that he has a religious subject safely under his belt, Remes is already no doubt well advanced with his research into the avian flu pandemic that is now on its way to us.

The novels of Leena Lehtolainen are as easy to classify as the thrillers of Remes: socially-and gender-sensitive detective stories with wholesome human interest. Her plot construction is a little uneven – sometimes her motives and characters are believable, at others they seem forced. There is not much to say about her literary style – but for whatever reason, like many other people (her most recent book sold 50,000 copies in 2005). I have read all her crime novels with profit. In recent years she has alternated between a series built round the police officer Maria Kallio, and other novels in which violent crime within intimate family relationships is seen from a grassroots perspective. Possibly her family novels – Tappava Säde (‘Lethal Ray’), Kun luulit unohtaneesi (‘When you thought you’d forgotten’) and Jonakin onnellisena päivänä (‘One happy day’; Tammi) are her best, with their interesting prickly characters and greater feeling for sorrow and suffering.

However, Inspector Maria Kallio brings to the novels in which she appears a pleasant stability and fullness. Her children have now been born and her career is firmly established, but marriage complications remain and a little whiff of predictability is beginning to creep into the domestic scenes, something the reader can often identify with. Lehtolainen is quick to react to topical subjects. In her thirteenth novel Rivo Satakieli (‘Naughty Nightingale’, 2005), a prosperous prostitute is murdered as she is about to enter a television studio to take part in a live talk show. Just before this one of her associates, a young Ukrainian woman, is found on a forest path wearing nothing but a fur coat and boots with stiletto heels with her genitals brutally slashed. And one of Kallio’s female underlings, who has problems with female solidarity, becomes involved in shady business while planning her career.

If Lehtolainen is perhaps excessively politically correct from a feminist point of view, Anja Angel leans firmly in a trendier direction. Laitinen, Angel’s fat and ferocious female private detective and Laitinen’s assistant Marco in Marokkolainen makeinen (‘A Moroccan sweetmeat’, Otava, 2oo4) are both in their way queer and the relationship between them is described with warmth and sympathy, even playfully. Marco becomes rather lice besotted with a young Moroccan he’s supposed to be shadowing; their interaction is much more interesting than the strained plot. Angel is pleasantly different.

Matti Rönkä works as a news editor for Finnish television and has written three books centred on businessman and fixer called Viktor Kärppä. In Ystävät kaukana (‘Friends far away’, Gummerus, 2005), Rönkä’s fantasies of conspiracy have an altogether different and more intimate international flavour than those of Remes. Rönkä’s subject is what is popularly known in Finland as ‘eastern crime’, which includes everything from shady everyday business deals involving fake icons and old fridges to prostitution, drugs and contract murder.

Rönkä’s hero Viktor Kärppä belongs to the category ‘returning emigrant by grace of Koivisto’, i.e. he’s one of those former Soviet citizens of more or less Finnish stock who after the fall of the Soviet Union were granted Finnish citizenship and the right to ‘return’ to a homeland where they had never lived and whose language they couldn’t speak, by the President of the time, Mauno Koivisto (in office 1982­–94). Kärppä has built up a respectable building business in Finland. The sources of his original capital may not bear close inspection, but he no longer has links with drugs and prostitution, lives with a steady partner in a house of their own, and is determined to keep any unpleasant tastes or smells well away from his middle-class Finnish suburb. One day he gets an unwelcome visit from two well-dressed Russian gangsters who scare the wits out of his confused secretary and burn down his house. Someone is about to take over his firm, and it’s high time to find out who.

Rönkä’s two earlier Kärppä books, Tappajan näköinen mies (‘The man who looked like a killer’) and Hyvä veli, paha veli (‘Good brother, bad brother’) are somewhat hampered by tangled plots and a confusing cast of characters. Ystävät kaukana has a better balance between narrator and action, and the course of events is easier to grasp. Rönkä likes his principal characters. He manages to give them personality and individual dialogue, even feelings. The story is a sort of combination of melancholy road movie and picaresque novel, though normal human affections find a place in it too. The evil is not metaphysical but everyday, and the base human motives that lead to crime and deceit sit extremely well within the greater framework.

The border between Finland and Russia is one of the sharpest frontiers between prosperity and poverty in Europe, even in the whole world, and has long been a setting for undercover transactions. Rönkä presents this world with imagination and ingenuity through the story of this small-scale criminal, and the background is thoroughly researched and presented without fuss. Ystävät kaukana is a much smarter, warmer and more truthful book than it claims to be.

But no brief overview of Finnish crime fiction would be complete, however, without a mention of Matti Yrjänä Joensuu. After a career as a policeman spanning three decades and 11 novels, he is still writing though he publishes infrequently and is periodically afflicted by writer’s block. His more recent books have increasingly slipped into a kind of muffled, melancholy prose not normally associated with detective stories and thrillers. In fact, Harjunpää ja rakkauden nälkä (Harjunpää and the hunger for love’, Otava 1993) and Harjunpää ja pahan pappi (Harjunpää and the priest of evil’, 2003) are really meditations over various kinds of major deprivation, whether specifically within the family or the wider society, or more generally and existentially.

Concrete features – parts of dead bodies, crime scenes, victims and wrongdoers alike – have a marked tendency to blend into heavy metaphors for evil, want and suffering, though simultaneously preserving their original concrete quality. No one who has read Harjunpää ja pahan pappi will ever again be able to travel on the Helsinki Metro without being aware of the mysterious potential menace of the underground tunnel system and the shabby lives of those who live in it and never really belong to the daylight world.

Two of Joensuu’s book have been shortlisted for the Finlandia Prize. His concern with the requirements of the crime genre has diminished in inverse proportion to the growth of his obsession with affliction and deprivation. His innovative method of using trivial criminal material as a basis for heavily loaded symbols is literary in an individual and unpredictable way. None of the other books discussed here is unashamedly literary to the same extent.

If we were to arrange these samples of Finnish crime writing on a scale from the most formulaic to the most individual we should get: Remes – Lehtolainen – Angel – Rönkä, with Joensuu a few steps behind Rönkä, the most individual of all.

Remes’s writing is about as memorable as fish fingers, and one may well ask why any of us should be satisfied with such grub in a world that has oysters, goose liver and fresh aparagus to offer. For myself, I’m sure I could do without Remes for the rest of my life, and without fish fingers too.

But the safe comfort food of the intellect can sometimes contain surprises, so it would be rash to consider myself too fine for writers in this genre. Sometimes they have the courage to deviate from the standard recipe, and, losing themselves in some strange byway that really interests them, they may come up with something highly original.

Translated by Silvester Mazzarella

Eight novels by Matti Yrjänä Joensuu have been translated into 13 languages; his Harjunpää ja pahan pappi (‘Harjunpää and the priest of evil’, 2004) was published in England in 2006 by Arcadia Books, translated by David Hackston. Crime novels by Leena Lehtolainen have been translated into ten languages .The first translation of a thriller by Ilkka Remes, Ikiyö (‘Eternal night’, 2004), was published in Germany by dtv in 2005 under the title Ewige Nacht, translated by Stefan Moster.

Circus days

20 November 2009 | In the news

Leena Parkkinen. Photo: Heidi Lehväslaiho

Leena Parkkinen. Photo: Heidi Lehväslaiho

On 19 November the Helsingin Sanomat Literature Prize, the Helsinki newspaper’s prize for the best first work of the year, worth €15,000, was awarded to Leena Parkkinen (born 1979).

Parkkinen’s first novel, entitled Sinun jälkeesi, Max (‘After you, Max’, Teos) depicts life in the circus and Siamese twins in Helsinki after the First World War. The jury made their choice out of more than 70 works.

Drama queen: on writing, and not writing, plays

14 June 2010 | Articles, Authors

The queen who chose not to rule: Christina of Sweden in the play Queen C (first produced at the Finnish National Theatre in 2003, directed by the author, Laura Ruohonen, with Wanda Dubiel in the role of the Queen). Photo: Leena Klemelä

Extracts from ‘Postscript’, published in Kuningatar K ja muita näytelmiä (‘Queen C and other plays’, Otava, 2004)

It’s hard to read plays. I was bitterly disappointed at the age of eight, when I hid in my grandmother’s attic and opened up Romeo and Juliet, a book that seemed to promise lust and appalling acts. But it wasn’t even a real book; it was just talking from beginning to end! Where was the plot, the action, the much talked-about love story?

It’s also hard to write plays. Novels and works of poetry are closed miniature worlds that invite the reader in. A play always serves two masters. It has to be open and porous to allow the actor and the performance to penetrate into it. More…

Avartuva maailma. Kartta-aarteita A. E. Nordenskiöldin kokoelmasta [The expanding world. Treasures of the A.E. Nordenskiöld Map Collection]

27 February 2014 | Mini reviews, Reviews

avartuvamaailmaAvartuva maailma. Kartta-aarteita A. E. Nordenskiöldin kokoelmasta
[The expanding world. Treasures of the A.E. Nordenskiöld Map Collection]
Tapio Markkanen, Leena Miekkavaara , Anna-Maija Pietilä-Ventelä
Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2013. 175 pp., ill .
ISBN 978-952-222-431-6
€47, paperback

In the late 19th century the Finnish-born scientist and explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld (1832–1901) assembled an extensive collection of historical maps which gained international recognition. The collection is housed in the Finnish National Library and in 1997 was included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World register. In 2013 an exhibition featuring part of the collection was held in Helsinki. Avartuva maailma is a beautifully illustrated book, with large pages containing plenty of text (in Swedish and English). Professor Tapio Markkanen examines the changing picture of the world from antiquity to modern times, as well as the development of maps and cartography. In some ancient maps the continents were portrayed in the likeness of people or animals, or with the south being placed at the top. An essay by map historian Leena Miekkavaara traces Nordenskiöld’s biography, showing how he acquired world fame after making the first complete crossing of the Northeast Passage in 1878. The Collection is presented and introduced by the researcher Anna-Maija Pietilä-Ventelä, with illustrations that also cover the history of cartography.

Translated by David McDuff

Memory in my hands

19 August 2010 | Fiction, poetry

A couple of years ago Timo Harju chose the non-military alternative to national service and was detailed to work at an old people’s home. Its director warned him that its inhabitants were ‘no sweet old grannies and grandpas’. Harju thought this might be a joke. In his first collection of poems, entitled Kastelimme heitä runsaasti kahvilla (‘We watered them abundantly with coffee’, Ntamo, 2009), he patiently gathers fragments of dreams and fears, memories and forgotten songs in the house of oblivion, treating them with gentle empathy. Commentary by Pia Ingström

Ward A5, Thursday

The clouds in the nursing home corridors, sky-open springlike after a bathe
and forgotten, in a frayed blue dressing-gown beside an osiery.
The grannies in the nursing home corridors, the last beautiful pride
you keep in a small wooden box behind your forehead:
if the lid opens by accident all the things may drop to the floor
topsy-turvy you won’t be able to find them, your back won’t let you
you won’t recognise them any more even if you do,
the springtime tears your insides to pieces.
Here they come, the grannies.
Better to stay here indoors, the journey to the dining room is a rough one
exposed like this
a long way and all by sleigh.
You stare at the keyhole: the clouds are coming. More…

The party’s not yet over

14 November 2013 | Authors, Interviews

Minna Lindgren. Photo: XX

Minna Lindgren. Photo: Ville Palonen

Ordinary, boring, controlled life in an old folks’ home takes an interesting turn as crimes are committed. But daily tramrides in Helsinki, the virtues of friendship and general joie de vivre are enjoyed by 90-year-plus-old ladies who refuse to act as expected – as Bette Davis put it, old age is no place for sissies. Minna Lindgren is interviewed by Anna- Leena Ekroos

Welcome to Twilight Grove, a Helsinki home for the elderly – the bright, institutional lighting in its parlour creating an atmosphere like a dentist’s office, the odd resident dozing on the sofas, waiting for the next meal. The menu often includes mashed potatoes, easy for those with bad teeth. Residents seeking recreation are offered chair aerobics, accordion recitals, and crafts. A very ordinary assisted living centre, or is it? In Minna Lindgren’s novel, Kuolema Ehtoolehdossa (‘Death at Twilight Grove’, Teos), the everyday life of a home for the elderly is the setting for absurd and even criminal happenings, suspicious deaths and medical mix-ups.

Anna-Leena Ekroos: You’re a journalist and writer. Formerly you worked for the Finnish Broadcasting Company. In 2009 you won the Bonnier journalism prize for an article of yours about the last phases of your father’s life, and his death. Kuolema Ehtoolehdossa is your first novel. How did it come into being?

Minna Lindgren: I’ve always known I was a writer but the mere urge to write isn’t enough for a novel – you have to have a meaningful story. The more absorbed I became in the life of the old, the more important it felt to me to write this story. Writing a novel turned out to be carefree compared to working as a journalist. Many of the stories I heard would have become bad social porn in the media, dissolved into banality, but in a novel they become genuinely tragic, or tragicomic, as the case may be. More…

The guest book

30 June 1997 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

An extract rom the novel Kenen kuvasta kerrot (‘Whose picture are you talking about’, Otava, 1996). Introduction by Pia Ingström

Late at night before going to bed An Lee had turned off all the lights, opened the large bedroom window, breathed the cool air. She had done this often. It made it easier to fall asleep. It was enough to look outside for a moment and to breathe in slowly, and at the same time the bedroom air freshened and changed for the night.

Then she had closed and locked the window, drawn the curtains, and switched on the dim wall light. It might be nice to decorate the space between the double windowpanes with wooden animals, she had thought, not for the first time. They had had some at home, her mother had been a collector of such things. Almost all of them pink and lemon yellow, a whole zoo between the windows, only the panther had been pitch-black, and on one of the elephants the pretty grey color had been scratched and splotchy on one side. More…