Tag: cultural history

Art Deco / ja taiteet / i konsten / and the arts

6 June 2013 | Mini reviews, Reviews

art.decoScientific editor: Laura Gutman
Editor: Susanna Luojus
Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura (the Finnish Literature Society), 2013. 179 p., ill.
Texts in Finnish and Swedish, summaries in English
ISBN 978-952-222-430-9
€38, hardback

This work was published simultaneously with the opening of the exhibition ‘Art Déco and the Arts. France–Finlande 1905–1935’, running at the Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki from March to 21 July. Antiquity was the primary source of inspiration for this broad artistic movement in France, after the breakthrough of Fauvism in 1905. In Finland this antimodern – and yet at the same very modern – movement manifested itself most clearly in industrial art, in the 1920s in classicism and 1930s in functionalism. But from early on, Finnish painters and sculptors also kept an eye on the French art and artists – among them Maurice Denis, the spokesman of the antimodernists. The dialogue between the visual and the performative arts (theatre and dance) in Finland is also examined. Samples of Art Deco architecture are mostly absent, as the emphasis is on painting and sculpture. Some less well-known artists of the period (painter Nikolai Kaario, sculptor and engraver Eva Gyldén) are introduced. The exhibition and the richly illustrated book introduce both Finnish and French works – from many museums and collections in France – of both industrial and fine arts, in pictures and in words by nine specialists, offering the reader fresh and interesting comparisons.

Becoming Finland

23 May 2013 | Reviews

Imaginary heroes: the title page of En resa i Finland

Imaginary heroes: the title page of En resa i Finland. Illustration by C.E. Sjöstrand (1828–1906)

Zacharias Topelius
En resa i Finland
[A journey in Finland (1873)]
Helsinki: Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland, 2013. 173 p., ill.
Utgivare [Editor]: Katarina Pihlflyckt
ISBN 978-951-583-260-3
€38, hardback
(Stockholm: Atlantis förlag, 2013. ISBN 978-91-7353-616-5)

The birth of Finland as a country came as a surprise to those who lived there.

It was created by Napoleon and Alexander I, becoming a reality following Russia’s victory over Sweden in the so called Finnish War. In 1809 Alexander exalted Finland as ‘a nation among nations’, however the new nation still needed to feel like a nation. The Russian rulers supported gentle and non-political nationalism in Finland, in the hope that it would mentally distance the country from Sweden. In this tranquillity, the sense of community they had envisioned grew in Finland.

For this, there were three key factors, all of which stemmed from the 1830s. Elias Lönnrot published the Kalevala, the national epic, proving that Finnish mythology and culture did indeed exist. The poet J.L. Runeberg (who would later become known as the national poet) gave Finland an appearance that was an ideology. He depicted a poor, pious and simple people, a harsh and beautiful wilderness, and with his poems he described the Finnish War, that Finland had lost, as a heroic battle of the people, fought for Finnish values. More…

Findians, Finglish, Finntowns

16 May 2013 | Extracts, Non-fiction

Workers, miners, loggers, idealists, communists, utopians: early last century numerous Finns left for North America to find their fortune, settling down in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ontario. Some 800,000 of their descendants now live around the continent, but the old Finntowns have disappeared, and Finglish is fading away – that amusing language cocktail: äpylipai, apple pie.
The 375th anniversary of the arrival of the first Finnish and Swedish settlers, in Delaware, was celebrated on 11 May. Photographer Vesa Oja has met hundreds of American Finns over eight years; the photos and stories are from his new book, Finglish. Finns in North America

Drinking with the workmen: The Työmies Bar. Superior, Wisconsin, USA (2007)

Drinking with the workmen: The Työmies Bar. Superior, Wisconsin, USA (2007)

The Työmies Bar is located in the former printing house of the Finnish leftist newspaper, Työmies (‘The workman’). The owners, however, don’t know what this Finnish word means, or how to pronounce it.

The Työmies Society, which published the newspaper of the same name, Työmies, was founded in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1903 as a socialist organ. It moved to Hancock, Michigan the following year. More…

Anna-Leena Siikala: Itämerensuomalaisten mytologia [Baltic Finnic mythology]

12 April 2013 | Mini reviews, Reviews

mytologiaItämerensuomalaisten mytologia
[Baltic Finnic mythology]
Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2013. 536 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-222-393-7
€ 45, hardback

Academician and Professor Emeritus of Folklore Anna-Leena Siikala presents a overview of her research. The book also makes use of the latest research in other fields in order to chart Baltic Finnic folk poetry, shamanism and folk beliefs. The Kalevala, Elias Lönnrot’s epic poem based on Finnish folklore, forms only a part of the poetry written in Kalevala metre. Although the poem is often perceived to be Finno-Karelian in origin, around half of its material is also known in Estonia: many of the poems and myths have links to Uralic and Germanic tradition. By means of numerous examples Siikala illustrates the different styles of folk poetry, its manifestations of vernacular religion and its rich mythology. In Finland the poems became modified over the centuries, influenced by the Christian faith, among other things. In different areas the figure of the divine hero Väinämöinen has acquired different emphases: it is less a question of mythology than of mythologies. The book’s illustrations are rich and informative, and the work is a unique treasure trove in its field.
Translated by David McDuff

Maailman paras maa [The best country in the world]

14 March 2013 | Mini reviews, Reviews

maailmanparas_kansi.inddMaailman paras maa
[The best country in the world]
Toim. [Ed. by] Anu Koivunen
Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2012. 255 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-222-347-0
€ 37, paperback

In this book twelve writers, representing various fields of research, ponder Finland and Finnishness from the viewpoint of history, ethnology, society, culture and economics. Finland-Swedishness and the relationship between Finns and Russians, the need of Finns to defend their participation in the Second World War in alliance with Germany as a ‘separate war’, and the nostalgia related to lost Karelia. The articles deal with Finland facing economic challenges, attitudes towards foreign beggars and self-critical Finnish opinion pieces. They also take a look at Finnish man as portrayed in the classic novel Seitsemän veljestä (‘The seven brothers’, 1870, by Aleksis Kivi) and in a recent prize-winning film about men talking in the sauna about their feelings, and discuss the relationship of the two national languages, Finnish and Swedish. Well-written and original articles question truisms and challenge the reader contemplate his or her own relationship with Finnishness.

Matti Klinge: Kadonnutta aikaa löytämässä. Muistelmia 1936–1960 [Finding lost time. Memoirs 1936–1960]

10 January 2013 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kadonnutta aikaa löytämässä. Muistelmia 1936–1960
[Finding lost time. Memoirs 1936–1960]
Helsinki: Siltala, 2012. 557 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-234-136-5
€31.95, hardback

Professor (Emeritus) Matti Klinge (born 1936) is a prolific historian who has specialised in the history of culture and ideas as well as in the debate on contemporary culture; he has also published 12 volumes of his diaries. In this fascinating volume of memoirs, inspired by writer Marcel Proust, he gives a detailed account of his childhood, schooldays and military service as well as his years of active study, shedding light on the cultural and social life of his time, from the point of view of Helsinki’s educated bourgeoisie, and draws telling character sketches of his contemporaries. The cultural heritage is reflected in the world of Klinge’s values and in his language. This handsomely produced book contains plenty of illustrative material ranging from entrance tickets and works of art to the jacket pictures of books important to the author and photographs. The volume lacks an index of personal names, which will hopefully be added to the final part of the work.
Translated by David McDuff

Coming in from the cold

13 December 2012 | This 'n' that

Kulttuurisauna in Helsinki: design by Tuomas Toivonen and Nene Tsuboi

Kulttuurisauna, ‘The culture sauna’, will soon be opened in Helsinki as a part of the World Design Capital 2012 programme. The idea was developed into a project by architect Tuomas Toivonen and designer Nene Tsuboi, a Finnish-Japanese couple who will also run the sauna.

‘When we started considering the idea of building a public sauna in Helsinki, I realised that my dream job is to run a public sauna – offering people a place for cleansing, bathing and sharing quiet togetherness. We have been working in the field of design and architecture for 10 years now, and felt that we can use all of our skills in this project, developing a new public sauna in Helsinki; as a building, as a service and as an environment. By doing this, we want to contribute to the city, participating in making Helsinki more interesting and enjoyable’, says Tsuboi. More…

In one hundred springtimes

23 November 2012 | Extracts, Non-fiction

Extracts from Uskomaton matka uskovien maailmaan (‘An unbelievable journey into the world of the believers’, WSOY, 2012)

In his new book the writer, professor of cosmology, a scientist without a religion Kari Enqvist explores religiosity, how it manifests itself in present-day Finland, in various churches and parishes. How will the expanding scope of science and secularisation change the world and the forms of spirituality in the course of the next century?

When, in July 1969, Neil Armstrong climbed down the ladder on to the surface of the Moon, it was a huge propaganda coup for both the United States and the scientific world view. Manned space flights as a way of gaining knowledge are both ineffective and brain-numbingly expensive, but it is hard to imagine a stronger individual and universally understandable demonstration of the superiority of the scientific world view than an astronaut on the surface of a foreign celestial body. Everyone can recognise it as a triumph of both engineering technology and the hard sciences.

But the astronaut solution has been tested already, and I do not believe that space travel will expand our consciousnesses in the next century. It is possible that we will not even have visited Mars. Fantasies about manned flights to other stars are, in my opinion, utopian in the extreme and I do not really believe that humans as physical beings will ever leave the solar system. Journeys to the stars are inconceivably long and so expensive that they cannot be embarked on merely in order to fulfil the Buck Rogers fantasies of teenage boys. Carrying humans to the closest one, alpha Centauri, a mere four light years away, would take, at best, hundreds of years (we can dismiss rockets that travel at the speed of light as mere scientific fantasy). Even if deep-freezing to slow vital functions were possible, it would make as much sense to pay hundreds of billions to freight pig carcasses to the planets. For everything that human beings can do can be done better – and, more importantly, more cheaply – by machines. Even if the spirit were willing, the flesh is so weak that silicone beats it hollow.

So it is my guess that in place of the macrocosmos the scientific world view will seek consolidation in the microcosmos. As a cosmologist, I am not happy to admit this, but admit it I must. More…

Rainer Knapas: Kunskapens rike. Helsingfors universitetsbibliotek – Nationalbiblioteket 1640–2010 [In the kingdom of knowledge. Helsinki University Library – National Library of Finland 1640–2010]

9 August 2012 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kunskapens rike. Helsingfors universitetsbibliotek – Nationalbiblioteket 1640–2010
Helsingfors: Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland, 2012. 462 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-583-244-3
€54, hardback
Tiedon valtakunnassa. Helsingin yliopiston kirjasto – Kansalliskirjasto 1640–2010

[In the kingdom of knowledge. Helsinki University Library – National Library of Finland 1640–2010]
Suomennos [Finnish translation by]: Liisa Suvikumpu
Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2012. 461 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-222-272-5
€54, hardback

The National Library of Finland was founded in 1640 as the library of Turku Academy. In 1827 it was destroyed by fire: only 828 books were preserved. In 1809 Finland was annexed from Sweden by Russia, and the collection was moved to the new capital of Helsinki, where it formed the basis of the University Library. The neoclassical main building designed by Carl Ludwig Engel is regarded as one of Europe’s most beautiful libraries and was completed in 1845, with an extension added in 1906. Its collections include the Finnish National Bibliography, an internationally respected Slavonic Library, the private Monrepos collection from 18th-century Russia, and the valuable library of maps compiled by the arctic explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld. Renamed in 2006 as Kansalliskirjasto – the National Library of Finland – this institution, which is open to general public, now contains a collection of over three million volumes as well as a host of online services. This beautifully illustrated book by historian and writer Rainer Knapas provides an interesting exposition of the library’s history, the building of its collections and building projects, and also a lively portrait of its  talented – and sometimes eccentric – librarians.
Translated by David McDuff

Nationalism in war and peace

3 May 2012 | Reviews

House of words: the Finnish Literature Society building in Helsinki. Architect Sebastian Gripenberg, 1890. Watercolour by an unknown Russian artist, 1890s

Kai Häggman
Sanojen talossa. Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura 1890-luvulta talvisotaan
[In the house of words. The Finnish Literature Society from the 1890s to the Winter War]
Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2012. 582 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-222-328-9
€54, hardback

The Finnish Literature Society has, throughout its history, played a multiplicity of roles: fiction publisher, research institute specialising in folklore studies, organiser of mass campaigns in support of national projects, literary gatekeeper, learned society, controller of language development.

The priorities of these areas of interest have changed from decade to decade, so Kai Häggman has taken on an exceptionally difficult subject to describe. He has, however, succeeded brilliantly in gathering the different threads together, using as as lowest common denominator the ideas of nationalism and nation whose role in global modernisation and European history have been studied, among others, by the British historians Ernest Gellner and Eric Hobsbawm. More…

C.L. Engel. Koti Helsingissä, sydän Berliinissä. C.L. Engel. Hemmet i Helsingfors, hjärtat i Berlin [C.L. Engel. Home in Helsinki, heart in Berlin]

23 February 2012 | Mini reviews, Reviews

C.L. Engel. Koti Helsingissä, sydän Berliinissä. C.L. Engel. Hemmet i Helsingfors, hjärtat i Berlin
[C.L. Engel. Home in Helsinki, heart in Berlin]
Tekstit [Texts by]: Matti Klinge, Salla Elo, Eeva Ruoff
Valokuvat [Photography]: Taavetti Alin & Risto Törrö
Översättning [Translations from Finnish into Swedish]: Ulla Pedersen Estberg
Helsingfors: Schildts, 2012. 140 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-50-2183-0
€ 31.50, hardback

The life and works of the German architect Carl Ludvig Engel (1778–1840) are portrayed in four articles by specialists in Finnish history, the history of Helsinki and the history of gardens. Engel spent almost 24 years in Helsinki, transforming it with his architectural designs. For eleven of those years, he and his family lived in a house surrounded by a large garden, both of them his own creations. Looking for work, the young Engel finally found it in the tiny northern town that was pronounced the new capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland in 1812 – both Tsar Alexander I and his successor, Nikolai I, favoured him. From 1816 onwards he designed more than twenty neo-classical buildings, among them nationally important landmarks: the Cathedral, the City Hall, the National Library and the University. Despite his mostly rewarding job as a highly regarded city planner, Engel found Helsinki cold, small and quiet, and he constantly longed for his native Berlin, which he never saw again. However, his flourishing garden gave him great pleasure. Richly illustrated with photographs, the book gives the reader an thorough and interesting picture of this city-changing man and his era.

Allan Tiitta: Sinisten maisemien mies. J.G. Granön tutkijantie 1882–1956 [The man of blue landscapes. A biography of J.G. Granö, 1882–1956]

9 February 2012 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Sinisten maisemien mies. J.G. Granön tutkijantie 1882–1956
[The man of blue landscapes. A biography of J.G. Granö, 1882–1956]
Kuvatomittaja [Picture editor]: Taneli Eskola
Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2011. 541 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-222-292-3
€ 44, hardback

The man of blue landscapes describes the life and work of the Finnish geographer Johannes Gabriel Granö (1882–1956), whose career also reflected Finland’s development as a modern state. Granö was a scientific explorer, writer, a pioneer of Finnish photographic art and a professor of geography at the universities of Tartu (Estonia), Helsinki and Turku. In Estonia he applied scientific method to the study of local history and from Tartu brought the tradition of urban research. Granö spent much of his youth in Omsk in western Siberia, where his father worked as a priest among displaced and deported Finns and Estonians. From 1906 to 1916 Granö made an expedition to Mongolia and the Altai mountains, but his fieldwork remained unfinished when the 1917 revolution broke out; the area was then closed to Western scholars for 70 years. Among Granö’s most important works are the classic travel book Altai, vaellusvuosina nähtyä ja elettyä (‘The Altai, seen and experienced during my years of travel’, 1921) and his methodological masterpiece Puhdas maantiede (‘Pure geography’, 1930). In it Granö outlined a theory of landscapes, and the book was a pioneering work ahead of its time: landscape was examined in terms of the relation between human beings and their environment, as the sum of all the senses.
Translated by David McDuff

Suomalainen piru. Paholainen kansanperinteessä [The Finnish devil. The Evil One in Finnish folklore]

23 December 2011 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Suomalainen piru. Paholainen kansanperinteessä
[The Finnish devil. The Evil One in Finnish folklore]
Toim. [Ed. by] Mari Purola
Kuvitus: [Illustrations]: Christer Nuutinen
Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2011. 144 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-222-289-3
€ 25, hardback

In Finnish folklore the Devil has borrowed features both from ancient popular belief and from the Christian faith. Unlike the devil of Christianity, the Finnish devil is not wholly evil, and the relation between man and devil may sometimes recall a contractual relationship: man can benefit from his link with the devil without losing his soul. In the mythological stories the devil is a a creature that supports the values of village society, who punishes misdemeanours and with whose help inexplicable phenomena like surprisingly good luck or illness can be explained. Finnish folk belief contains a numerous group of lesser magical figures such as elves and sprites. The devil has also borrowed the powers of the ancient gods, such as good luck in hunting from Tapio, and in fishing from Ahti. The folk archives of  the Finnish Literature Society contain a collection of devil-themed stories from the 1880s to the 1960s.
Translated by David McDuff

Tuomas Heikkilä & Liisa Suvikumpu: Suomen Turku julistaa joulurauhan. Åbo kungör julfred [Finland’s Turku announces the Christmas peace]

9 December 2011 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Suomen Turku julistaa joulurauhan. Åbo kungör julfred
[Finland’s Turku announces the Christmas peace]
Swedish translation: Malena Torvalds-Westerlund
Helsinki: Kirjapaja, 2011. 71 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-247-229-8
€ 24, hardback

This bilingual book offers a broad interpretation of a unique Christmas tradition upheld by the Finns: at 12 on Christmas Eve a large proportion of the population falls silent to listen to the declaration of the Christmas peace from Turku cathedral. After its bells have rung noon, the deputy mayor ceremonially opens a manuscript prepared according to mediaeval tradition and reads the announcement in both Finnish and Swedish. After the announcement, the land settles down to celebrate Christmas following traditions dating from the 13th century. The Christmas peace has been announced in Turku almost without interruption since the Middle Ages. The last time it went unread was in 1939, during the Winter War. The Finnish Broadcasting Company broadcasts the occasion to all the member countries of the European Broadcasting Union EBU. The Christmas peace is also sent out into the world by Swedish radio, reaching a total of some 140 countries.
Translated by Hildi Hawkins

Kari-Paavo Kokki: Tuolit, sohvat ja jakkarat. Renessanssista 1920-luvulle [Chairs, sofas and stools. From the renaissance to the 1920s]

24 November 2011 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Tuolit, sohvat ja jakkarat. Renessanssista 1920-luvulle
[Chairs, sofas and stools. From the renaissance to the 1920s]
Photographs: Katja Hagelstam
Helsinki: Otava, 2011. 175 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-1-23415-9
€56, hardback

Could it be that chairs are the most important pieces of furniture in our daily lives? The history of furniture in Finland – not much has survived from earlier than late 16th century – is made up of Swedish, Russian and Finnish parts. Furniture-making in the Kingdom of Sweden, of which Finland formed a part until 1809, was modelled on European trends, and that was also the case in St Petersburg – which is close to Finland – during the period when Finland became a Russian-governed Grand Duchy (1809–1917). Finnish peasant furniture has always been of high quality, despite often harsh circumstances. Finnish furniture-makers adapted both Swedish and Russian styles; for example, Empire (in England, Regency) and Biedermeier chairs were either of the Russian or the Swedish type. Gustavian furniture (c. 1775–1810), from the period of King Gustav III, was popular and abundant, and in the past decades the style has become extremely favoured by collectors. Detailed, beautiful photography in this book supports the concise, informative text. Kari-Paavo Kokki, director of Heinola City Museum, is an antiques specialist.