The Birdcage Archives

Thursday 31 March 2016

Nobel Laureate and Auschwitz Survivor Imre Kertész Dies

Hello Gentle Reader

Now until his death at the age of eighty-six Imre Kertész grappled with the existential question of his own life and survival: how does one go on living after Auschwitz. How does one life continue, when one life was taken, and the next one, is filled with guilt, grief, and a painful attempt at understanding their place in the cosmos. Imre Kertész was a survivor of both World War II, and two of the most infamous Nazi concentration camps of the time: Auschwitz and Buchenwald; two names which are cemented in the conscious human history, as one of the greatest examples of mankind’s efficiently cruel heartlessness, at attempting to exterminate and extinguish another ‘group(s),’ of people from the world. Despite surviving both the war, and the two camps, Kertész’s fate or luck influenced by chance, was equally not as successful after the war, and liberation of the camps. The author returned to his home country of Hungary, and the city of Budapest, and soon found himself, in another ideological absurd nightmare: the Iron Curtain, and the communist state of Hungary. Despite this though, Imre Kertész completed his education (an equivalent to a high school diploma), as his education was interrupted by the war, and he was soon wrapped up into the collective human horror of the time, by the age of fourteen (14). After completing his education, Imre Kertész began his journalist career, for a journal called: “Világosság (Clarity),” and for a brief stint was a factory labourer, before moving on to a civil servant job within the Ministry of Heavy Industries press department. Afterwards, Imre Kertész was a freelance journalist and a translator of German works into Hungarian, including such intellectuals, philosophers and writers such as: Elias Canetti (Nobel Laureate nineteen-eighty one), Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. It was through this freelance journalism and translations in which Imre Kertész made a modest living. For the writer though, publishing his own work was a different and often difficult reality. The censorship restrictions and ideological formats which where the guiding principles of publishing, in Communist Hungary, saw Imre Kertész work often seen as not suitable for publication by the state censors. The largest problem Kertész faced with his work was that his work dealt with Jewish identity and its consequences; often mirrored or expressed through the human terror of the concentration camps. Even after publication his own work, Imre Kertész was not a well-known or recognized literary figure, in Hungary. It was not until after translation of his novels into German that the writer found recognition.

The greatest success though for the writer to receive would come in two-thousand and two with the announcement that he was the year’s Nobel Laureate in Literature. The Swedish Academy praised Imre Kertész’s with its citation: “for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history.” The Swedish Academy’s Nobel Committee went further to praise the writers “ultimate truth,” when discussing the mass human cruelty which was the holocaust.

For most of his later life, Imre Kertész had lived in Berlin for many years, but had returned to his birth city of Budapest, a few years ago. It is theorized he returned for treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

Imre Kertész wrote in direct and yet fragile prose, in which he discussed the fate of the individual, wrapped up in the arbitrary terrors of history. Be the individual live or die, was no concern for history, or the fate in which was passed onto them. This existential mode discussing the absurdity of existence, against the larger backdrops of politics, ideologies, history – the collective verses the individual, would often be at play in his novels. Yet Imre Kertész as the individual and the survivor refrains from judgement and black and white depictions of human cruelty, and the often unfortunate fates of the individual. Rather then, the world being black and white, balanced on the Libra scales of morality and immorality continually fluctuating between one dominant force and another subservient force, with no balance maintained or achievable; Imre Kertész wrote of an amoral and often distant focus of history and the collective perception of history. The world for Kertész was simply grey and varying shades of grey at that. Often the collective would consume all individuals, and force them to follow orders so terrifying it would be incorrect for anyone to state that they had any moral obligation or right to refrain from following or directly refuse the order. The writer was mature enough to see the paradoxical duality of history, and the individual when engulfed by the collective waves of history, ideology, and nationalism, and reserves and refrains from judgement. Though his depiction of suffering is admirable and outstanding it is by no means wrapped in the desire for pity. Quite the contrary, it were to seem Imre Kertész has simply exercise memories and documented experiences into an often tragic narrative, which each individual should take stock of.

Though Imre Kertész is Hungary’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature, at this point in time; the writer and the nation often had a rather complicated relationship between each other. Yet today political figures, country men, the cultured and the laymen each have a pit of sadness in their heart. There is no denying that Imre Kertész was a survivor, and a chronicler of the absurdity of human condition which is often unbearable, but survivable. Furthermore there is no denying Imre Kertész is a great and often challenging writer, who discusses the tragic nature of the human condition.

Rest in Peace Imre Kertész

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary 

Tuesday 29 March 2016

The Best Translated Book Award Longlist 2016

Hello Gentle Reader,

Spring is now in the air. The flowers are poking their green fingers up through the cardboard stalks of autumn. The trees have begun to bud, with little green claws. The sky is less quilted, and in it, one can see dewy eyes of someone just awaking from a long sleep. Now though begins the preliminary to literary awards. The Man Booker International Prize has already announced its longlisted writers for its debut, as an annual award. Now The Best Translated Book Award has listed its longlist, and according to the “Three Percent Review,” website, it has been quite a year for submissions. There was 560 eligible titles to be listed for the award, coming from 160 publishers, with writers hailing from 80 different countries. This year’s list includes books written in nineteen different languages, with writers ranging from twenty-three different countries. The list itself includes well known and established writers, along with new writers and rising stars.

The following list is organized by the writer, the country in which the writer hails from, and then the English title of the book. Here Gentle Reader is this year’s Longlist for The Best Translated Book Award:

José Eduardo Agualusa – Angola – “A General Theory of Oblivion,”
Bae Suah – South Korea – “Nowhere To Be Found,”
Clarice Lispector – Brazil – “The Complete Stories,”
Elena Ferrante – Italy – “The Story of the Lost Child,”
Per Petterson – Norway – “I Refuse,”
Amir Tag Elsir – Sudan – “French Perfume,”
Fiston Mwanza Mujila – Democratic Republic of the Congo – “Tram 83,”
Gabrielle Wittkop – France – “Murder Most Serene,”
Anne Garréta – France – “Sphinx,”
Kamel Daoud – Algeria – “The Meursault Investigation,”
Samuel Archibald – Canada (Quebec) – “Arvida,”
Yan Lianke – China – “The Four Books,”
Ludmilla Ulitskaya – Russia – “The Big Green Tent,”
Aleš Šteger – Slovenia – “Berlin,”
Georgi Gospodinov – Bulgaria – “The Physics of Sorrow,”
Mercè Rodoreda – Spain (Catalan) – “War, So Much War,”
Daniel Sada – Mexico – “One Out of Two,”
Andés Neuman – Argentina – “The Things We Don’t Do,”
Guadaulpe Nettel – Mexico – “The Body Where I Was Born,”
Valeria Luiselli – Mexico – “The Story of My Teeth,”
Yuri Herrera – Mexico – “Signs Preceding the end of the World,”
Yoel Hoffmann – Israel – “Moods,”
Eka Kurniawan – Indonesia – “Beauty Is a Wound,”
Wolfgang Hilbig – Germany – “The Sleep of the Righteous,”
Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi – India – “Mirages of the Mind,”

There it is Gentle Reader the Fiction Longlist for The Best Translated Book Award for 2016. The list is 25 books longs, and 25 writers strong. The list compiles five French language novels and writers, from Quebec Canada, to Algeria. The list also has five writers, writing in the Spanish language from Mexico, to Argentina. There are two Portuguese writers, one from Brazil and one from Angola; as well as one writer from Spain, who had wrote in Catalan. Political dissidence also makes an appearance on the list with Yan Lianke whose satirical novels have been censored and banned in some cases within China. Aleš Šteger also comes back to award, after taking the Poetry portion of the award back in two-thousand and eleven with his poetry collection: “The Book of Things.” Now Aleš Šteger is on the fiction longlist with his book of literary contemplation “Berlin,” composed of both photographs and prose pieces discussing Berlin and the writers who have lived there.

[ II The Poetry Longlist ]

The following list Gentle Reader is the Poetry Longlist for this year’s Best Translated Book Award, it is arranged in no particular order, and is organized in the same method organized for the Fiction longlist:

Yevgeny Baratynsky – Russia – “A Science Not for the Earth: Selected Poems and Letter,”
Liu Xia – China – “Empty Chairs: Selected Poems,”
Angélica Freitas – Brazil – “Rilke Shake,”
Frédéric Forte – France – “Minute-Operas,”
Silvina Ocampo – Argentina – “Silvina Ocampo,”
Natalia Toledo – Mexico – “The Black Flower and Other Zapotec Poems,”
Yi Lu – China – “Sea Summit,”

Abdourahmaa A. Waberi – Djibouti – “The Nomads, My Brothers, Go Out to Drink from the Big Dipper,”

Various writers/edited by: Lakshmi Holmström – India – “Wild Words: Four Tamil Poets,”

Various writers/Edited by: Farzana Marie – Afghanistan – “Load Poems Like Guns: Women’s Poetry from Herat, Afghanistan,”

Here is the Poetry longlist Gentle Reader, compromised by different poets – two anthologies from the appearance, as well as old grand masters, and new writers once again. On the poetry longlist we have two Chinese writers both of different political extremes. The first is Liu Xia, the wife of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate of 2010 Liu Xiaobo, who has been incarcerated by the Chinese government still for his non-violent protest seeking democratic reform in China, and the end to the one party system. The second is Yi Lu, a Chinese poet who appears more ideological acceptable or less politically challenging, then the other two Chinese writers who have been longlsited for both the fiction and poetry section of the award.

It’s a unique list of writers for this year’s award for both fiction and poetry! It will be exciting to see who makes it to the shortlist and who will possibly walk away with the award themselves.

Good luck to each of the writers, and thank-you to the Best Translated Book Award Judges, for showcasing new writers and books that may have been overlooked in prior searches for unique new literature to read.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary

Friday 25 March 2016

Swedish Academy Breaks Silence

Hello Gentle Reader

In nineteen-eighty eight, Salman Rushdie found himself embroiled in great controversy over his newest and most controversial novel: “The Satanic Verses.” Rushdie immediately found himself having to defend his depiction of the Islamic prophet Muhammad (named Mahound in the novel). The novel was banned in thirteen countries, who had a large demographic of Islamic believers within their boarders’. Those countries were: India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Africa, Thailand, Kenya, Venezuela, Tanzania, Singapore, Indonesia, and Iran. Due to the protest taking place during this time, Rushdie wrote a column, stating that his book was not anti-religious, and called Muhammad “one of the great geniuses of world history,” but defended his depiction by stating the Islamic prophet was human, and therefore open to human follies, and is not divinely perfect. However on February 14th nineteen-eighty nine, Rushdie found himself in the greatest controversy that would surround his career as a writer. The then spiritual leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a “fatwa,” against the writer, and soon after, Rushdie would be pushed into the underground and into hiding over his novel “The Satanic Verses.”

The death threat from Iran’s spiritual leader, and the fervor in which Muslims both in Iran and outside of Iran, had taken the order, was frighteningly extreme. Copies of “The Satanic Verses,” were burned, book shops were tortured, publishers and translators were attacked, or seriously injured, and in some cases even killed, over the publication and translation of the book. Criticism of the Iran and the fatwa was immediate; while support for Salman Rushdie was swift and sincere.

Controversy however would continue to burn with the publication of “The Satanic Verses,” the bounty for Rushdie’s head was continually increased, and still exists to this day; while Britain and Iran severed diplomatic relations over the incident. However Ayatollah Khomeini not long after declaring the fatwa, and soon Iran found itself having to diplomatically reposition its official statement in regards to the death threat. Though the Iranian government does not outwardly support the fatwa which has been issued, it also states that it cannot revoke the fatwa, and only the issuer of it can do so. Ironically, seeing as Ayatollah Khomeini is dead. However, Iranian news media has stated that the fatwa will remain in place permanently; or at least under implications until it is executed. Rushdie verifies this stating that every February 14th Iranian officials send him a “valentine,” reminding him of their threat.

Controversy however erupted in other places, surrounding the fatwa as well. The most well-known controversy has been the internal strife within the Swedish Academy. The Swedish Academy throughout the controversy had remained silent, and attempted to retain neutrality in regards to political matters. This silence saw three members of the Swedish Academy symbolically resign their posts and membership of the Academy, and become passive members of the Academy. Those members are/were: Werner Aspenström, Lars Gyllensten, and Kerstin Ekman.

Now twenty-seven years later, the Swedish Academy has actively taken support for Salman Rushdie in regards to the fatwa and his freedom of sight. Tomas Riad released a statement for he Swedish Academy, outlying its disproval of the fatwa and the reward money, stating:

“The death sentence and the reward money are flagrant breaches of international law and rules of civilised interaction within the world community and therefore can in no way be compatible with normalisation.”

Tomas Riad continues:

“The fact that the death sentence has been passed as punishment for a work of literature also implies a serious violation of free speech. The principle of the independence of literature from political control is of fundamental importance for civilisation and must be defended against attacks by avengers and the adherents of censorship.”

Kerstin Ekman relished the move stating to Swedish Public Radio:

“It took a few years but here it is. I think it is very good,”

However Ekman had also informed the radio program that she would stay a passive member of the Academy, with her symbolic resignation.

Its best to be late, then never. It’s a breath of fresh air, the Swedish Academy takes a stand, against the behaviours being perpetrated against literature, freedom of speech, and the written word, just because someone disagrees with what is written. Good literature does not always offend, but great literature often takes a stand against oppression, violence, and extreme thoughts of human or spiritual thought, in order to provoke the mind into a new form or way of thinking. Bravo to the Swedish Academy, and its safe state, that Salman Rushdie is equally pleased by the support and defense given by the Academy, stating via twitter:

“I would like to thank the Swedish Academy. I am extremely grateful for its statement.”

Thank-you to The Guardian for informing me of the news. 

Here is the Swedish Academy's Press Release.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary

Friday 18 March 2016

Finnish Finds

Hello Gentle Reader

The Finnish language is esoteric, both literally and figuratively. In the linguistic physical sense, the language has only two other languages in the world, which are considered its relatives: Estonian (and its neighbour) and Hungarian. Finnish is the language of dreams, spells, enchantments and incantations; it’s a language of divination. The sound of the Finnish language itself continues to propagate such mystical thoughts of its people, who come from a land of forests and frost. To further show this point one need only look at the following sentence in English and the uniqueness of its Finnish equivalent:

[ English ] “Koko (name), gather the whole kokko (midsummer fire)! The whole kokko? The whole kokko.”

[ Finnish ] “Koko (nimi ), koota koko kokko ( juhannus tulipalo ) ! Koko Kokko ? Koko Kokko.”

Though the translation presented above is from google translate, it does give a unique idea of the complexities and morphology of the Finnish language. The Finnish language is known to chance its word meaning based on syntactical structure. Listening to the Finnish language spoken is equally a unique, with its shift in tone, sounds and vocalisations; though deciphering where a period is used, to signify the end of a sentence, is a challenge at times.

The challenges of the Finnish language are why it is so underappreciated and under translated, to the English language. Thankfully though, some works of Finnish have found themselves translated into English, via anthologies, short story collections, and of course novels. But to see an author’s entire oeuvre in the English language is much harder to find. Yet again the eclectic reader will always be able to find a sample of a Finnish writer’s work somewhere, in some obscure anthology or magazine.

The anthology in which I personally own is “The Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy.” The anthology is unique as its collected samples and stories, range from the contemporary to the twentieth century all the way to the nineteenth century. The editor of the anthology Johanna Sinisalo wrote a wonderful introduction to the anthology, by first and foremost discussing the historical landscape of the Finnish language, and how its first written word, is by most historical grand societies rather juvenile in contrast, to the grand literary traditions of England, France, Germany or Russia. Yet as Sinisalo points out in her introduction, the Finnish culture had a strong oral tradition of storytelling and poetry, before anything was being transcribed or scribbled on paper. Yet since then Finnish literary culture has been unique, often falling between the traditions of the nineteenth century realist novel, the twentieth century existentialist novel, and now the emergence of greater questions of identity, privacy and the concepts of reality as science and technology takes us further and further into what we would have once thought an impossible future.

The now defunct “Books from Finland,” is perhaps the greatest resource if anyone is interested in Finnish literature. There is a wealth of articles, stories, poems, samples of novels, and essay as well as interviews, which will a reader entertained for hours, as they excavate the archives of the site, and become acquainted with new and exciting writers. “Books from Finland,” has (and continues to) been a resource which has yet to have been exhausted. To this day my e-mail archive is still filled with links to articles, titles and authors, in which I have yet to fully research, read, and enjoy. One of these days I will get around to that task, and read the work of each of those writers and come to appreciate each of those writers, and dream of the day in which I can finally own their work in English translation, and carry them with me in their full novel format or short story collection, and even perhaps the odd poetry collection here and there.

Now Finnish literature is not entirely out of the English language perspective when it comes to translation. There have been a few Finnish writers who have come to have great success in the English language. The most recent and well known writer to have had received that success is Sofi Oksanen, who is also considered a global literary phenomena. However, Oksanen’s subject matter, deal with Finland’s cousin: Estonia, specifically under the Soviet Union. In this sense Oksana is not entirely a Finnish writer in her subject matter, but discusses the complex and tragic history of Estonia. Oksanen achieved great critical acclaim with her novel “Purge,” a novel that traced the lives of two sisters who went separate ways during the occupation of Estonia by Soviet Forces and ideology, but also of the contemporary problem of human trafficking, and rampant corruption of former Iron Curtain states. For “Purge,” Oksanen walked away with Finlands most prestigious literary award: “The Finlandia Prize,” as well as the Nordic Council Prize for Literature; and the rock star writer probing communist pasts, has continued. 

There are however, many authors – Finnish writers who themes are closer to home, that are often overlooked; but are nevertheless great writers. It is now that I would like to say thank-you to “Books From Finland,” for introducing me to these writers, and some of which I would like to introduce below.

( I )

Complicated and tragic are the two words that come to mind when thinking of the Finnish poet Helvi Juvonen. In the photos I have seen of her, she is wide eyed and curious in one, with restrained sense of elegance; and the others wide eye with paranoia, fear, and animal instinctual distrust. In her youth Helvi Juvonen was referred to as: Nalle (Teddy in English). This animal reference would make numerous appearances in her poetry, along with fairy-tale logic and eccentric subject matter. However, do not be quick to dismiss the poet as being lightweight or nonsensical. Helvi Juvonen was a serious poet, who had a unique way of refreshing the world via new perspectives, but also discussed the subjects of alienation, loneliness and suffering. Despite the subtle childlike surreal streak can run through her poems: a goblin who shares its happiness with a bee, a kettle that sings, or a tapir who talks to a stone – her poetry has often been known for its foreboding religiosity and discussions of human suffering.  Helvi Juvonen wrote with her eyes trained down, she not once dared to look to the sky; rather she wrote of the moles, the lichen, the moss, the stones, and maggots under foot. Helvi Juvonen however was a tragic character herself, she left her studies after panic attacks over the final exams; she took a job as a bank clerk and then a proof reader, while living in the bleak and squandered landscape of post-war Finland. At one point she was well underweight, and her life as I remember reading was filled with illness, struggles, and often tragic circumstances; later in life it should be noted, that the poet made a living by her poetry and translations, and was a adamant and accomplished translator of Emily Dickinson. Despite her poetry often dealing with this suffering, this illness, and the subsequent alienation and loneliness she felt because of it, there was often a transcending sense of hope for humanity and human life, though often mixed with mystical religious symbolism. In the following poem; taken from “Books from Finland,” titled: “A New Game,” Helvi Juvonen’s form of god is intimate and someone in which the poet can converse with. In the poem however, God is more a playmate then an authoritative and omniscient

“A New Game,”

            By Helvi Juvonen

Phenomena and circumstances toyed with me,
and so I said to them:
You have become really dull.
Now I will start to toy with things myself,
and when I grow weary,
I will go away.

I will find a new habitat.
God the Father asks me thoughtfully:
Where should I put you,
you who have been capable
of neither goodness nor badness.
Then I will say it to Him,
then I will say it:
Let’s play that new game now,
the one in which we are happy
and everywhere.

It becomes aware that the religiosity Helvi Juvonen is not strictly religious in the traditional sense of ornamentation and holy praise. Rather it is subtle and more spiritually inclined, then formally religious. But the final three lines always strike me the most of her poignant ability to shine hope, especially against the phenomena and circumstances of the current situation. To read: “Let’s play that new game now, / the one in which we are happy / and everywhere,” breathes new life and hope under ones wings to go on, and battle the upcoming dawn and the new day.  Though she only published five collections of poetry during her life time, and a sixth posthumously, Helvi Juvonen remains a remarkable poet of the Finnish twentieth century literature, as a depicter of hope, spiritual maturity, and childlike surreal perspectives which often show our humble beginnings via the most miniature and overlooked aspects of nature. This leads us to an end, and to depart with one of my favourite poems by Helvi Juvonen, one in which her surreal and childlike observation gives a fresh new perspective to the world.

“A Fairy Tale,”

            By Helvi Juvonen

A fairy tale is going round the forest:
A goblin child walks, a green scarf on her head,
and a harebell tinkles, a silver jingle.
At the places she touches with her hand, the grass revives,
the troll folk go into hiding  behind a tree stump.

A fairy tale is going round the forest in the guise of a goblin
the haircap moss is dewy and the hay is fragrant,
the white clover gives enough
nectar and gold-dust to the bumblebee.
The goblin eats nectar-bread and shares her joy
with the bumblebee.

( II )

If you have read my Nobel speculation list, the name Sirkka Turkka will strike and ring familiar. Animals have a particular place of fondness in the poets work. In nineteen-eighty seven she received the Finlandia Prize for her volume of poetry titled: “Tule takaisin, pikku Sheba,” or translated into English: “Come back, little Sheba.” The volume of poetry documents and details the friendship of the poet’s dog named Sheba. Animals are given greater love and tenderness, then the human contemporaries. Her love of animals and the animal kingdom often rings true in Turkka’s poetry, which is also reflected in her unique career, holding numerous positions along with being a poet: librarian and stable master. Yet one should not be quick to dismiss Sirkka Turkka as a simple nature poet, who as a love and affinity for animals (be it dogs, reindeer, horses, or hares), rather she is a poet who discusses and probes the level of grief that the human soul is forced to endure and deal with. The death of a rabbit, the suffering of a horse; these are all metaphors for the plight of human existence. Yet it should be noted, the poet is not entirely concerned with these solemn occasions. Her poetry is filled with irony, sarcasm, quotes from proverbs, rock songs, and pop lyrics, all pastiched against the high style of the poets work. What is always consistent with Turkka’s work is always the tone of the poet. Tone becomes rhythm in how the topics, themes, and subjects are all dealt with. Now as mentioned already, animals have a strong connection to Sirkka Turkka’s poetry; but they are not objectively described as such. Rather the animals which are placed within the poetry, are coded be our cultural perspective: ravens, reindeer, foxes, elk, hares – these are creatures which are depicted being wiser and more ancient then humanity, who is new, and destructive in its intelligence; whereas the animals understand the natural order of the world, and seek neither to improve it or usurp it. The following portrait or prose poem comes from her collection “Minä se olen,” or in English: “It’s Me.” In it we can see how the dog takes certain stage, but is quickly juxtaposed against the experience of the human narrator of the poem. It should also be noted the following poem is written in a prose poem like manner, or what was called: Prose Fantasy, when it was first published back in the seventies.

“Something kept me awake late. Something woke me up early. It’s four o’clock and the dog is puzzled. He tries to continue his dream: he was just about to catch a squirrel he barked at all of yesterday. He leaves me quite alone in silence, in which not a single breeze stirs. What is in the past ceases to be, what is to come has no significance. There is only the sun, just about to come up. And the calm surface of the lake and the coffee cup, from which leisurely steam rises.”

With her mixture of biblical proverbs, highly stylized tone, and then the use of pop cultural lyrics, Sirkka Turkka often creates a unique verbal landscape in which she details the challenges, the grief, the sorrow, and the hope of humanity. In this sense, I always slightly consider Sirkka Turkka to the Polish poet and Nobel Prize winner Wisława Szymborska. Both poets showcase a gentle wisdom towards the world around them. They offer unique perspectives and thoughts on the convoluted idea of the human experience. For Turkka if we wish to understand the terms and words of love and compassion; loyalty and devotion; wisdom and experience, we need only look to our natural counterparts: dogs, horses, elk, jackdaws, foxes. In which I leave off with one more prose poem from her collection: “Yö aukeaa kuin vilja,” in English translation: “The Night Opens Like Corn.”

“A poor dog has little to give to the moon. No luggage, no lighted rooms, no compartments hidden in the heart. It has only its heart. Only a bark, long and narrow like a tunnel, released from its brown muzzle. Like a small abandoned ice-cube it zings from shore to shore. Strange, how the heart can be carelessly left behind in bed-linen, on long, endless streets, in dust behind curtains or in a glass, like teeth. Dogs ceased talking and received in place of a mouth an inky line, but man lost his heart; his ear can no longer pick out songs from inside a tree. He  swears criss-cross on his heart, he thinks it’s a distant island, or then he looks for it in his trousers; in many, the heart looks like a bottom and vice versa. But in dogs it is where it should be: just after the muzzle, boulder-like, baby-faced and willing.”

( III )

Genre bending or format bending can often lead to some new startling and wonderful results via this experimentation; or it can be a disaster of postmodernism pastiche. In the case of Kaarina Valoaalto, it is a wonderful delight. Is it poetry or prose; perhaps a prose poem, or poetic prose. Whichever the case Kaarina Valoaalto has often kept readers and critics puzzled, but overjoyed with her writing. To classify Valoaalto’s work as short stories would be misleading. Rather Valoaalto’s work is summarized as slices and sketches from people’s lives. Her work is best summarized then as small poetic vignettes. Yet both people and animals are given the same weight, and the same character, in her work. Valoaalto is capable of describing a dog with equal traits of a human being, and with its own blend of mannerism becomes a realistic creature full of intelligence and instinct on its own. Kaarina Valoaalto’s work is poetic and sensual. One can certainly see the poet in the writer come through in her genre and form bending work. She linguistically kneads and moulds the words like a child crafting a unique format in which detail and outline the world. Just read the following little extract from her work: Einen keittiö, Eines kök or English translation: “Eine’s kitchen,” taken from “Books from Finland,”:

“This sort of detached block of flats is as much of a living organism
as the folk dwelling in it.
For above are the brains and below are the intestines and outlets.
The upper floors were flaunting their kitchen taps, sink-tops,
lion-clawed sofas, mahogany chests and
sapphire-pendant crystal chandeliers, flashing the violet-tones of sea and

Years later these very things, like the previous generation’s taps and
furniture, passed a ghostly underground life in the weird
of their storage-spaces, telling about their former life, inviting us to share
their phantasmal world of things and furniture, manifesting with moss
green faces like the faces the graveyard dead beckon with to the living.”

Kaarina Valoaalto is a writer who I wish was translated into English. Her work is poetic, startling, and formalistically bending. She is the kind of writer, the English language almost appears to lack, the kind who takes simple concepts of the day and in quick and gentle brushstrokes shows the intimacy of such moments, and the absurd epiphanies that are abound in the everyday mundane and monotonous life. Specifically speaking “Eine’s kitchen,” is based off and around her childhood and adolescent memories; taken from the perspective of a sensitive child, who has a certain proclivity for poetry. The work itself through the short and small samples provided by “Books from Finland,” is startling, unique and original. Valoaalto lives and breathes new life to language, and the poetic and prose formats, by marrying both forms.

( IV

Raija Siekkinen was a master of the short story format in Finland. She died suddenly and tragically though in two-thousand and four, during a house fire. After her death though, Siekkinen left behind a strong archive of short stories, which details the middle classes blights and plights, and materialistic requirements to fend off the dark nights of the soul. When there is a hole, the path treaded often is: fill it; in the case of Siekkinen’s short stories, the holes are bottomless and often filled with continual new bright and shiny object, in attempt to ward off the abyss and its alienation. In the stories of Raija Siekkinen tension builds on the idea or thought that something will happen, which leads to the memories of the past to become newly acquainted with the holders; as the characters think about what will happen in the coming moments, months, years, for somewhere down the line in their future. Raija Siekkinen has gathered comparisons between herself and the Canadian short story master Alice Munro, for their similar treatment of women’s souls. Where the two writers verge in differences is, Alice Munro details the life of a women against the backdrop of the societal or small town values of the time, whereas Raija Siekkinen predilections move in a more poetic journey of the interior world of the women. For Siekkinen the prose form and the lyricism of her writing gives rise and essence to the of the music of the heart her female characters experience in their darkest nights and their desperate hours. Such as the following sentence taken from “‘Yöllä kello kolme,” translated into English: “‘Three o’clock in the Morning,”:

“That night, once again, she woke suddenly and was immediately wide awake, and even without looking at the clock she knew that it was the darkest moment of the night, when death breathed her own breathing.”

Much like Ersi Sotiropoulos and Alice Munro, Raija Siekkinen writes of the relationships of people – be it siblings, mother and daughter, or husband and wife. However, unlike Sotiropoulos or Munro, the world in which Siekkinen creates is far more pessimistic. Relationships as described by Raija Siekkinen are at their most bleak and pessimistic. Relationships are best defined and depicted in her short stories, as prisons in which her nameless characters often find themselves confined and incarcerated in. it’s a sentence in which the characters cannot break free from, are bound to each other in a continual dismal prison. There is a lot of regret for her characters, they’ve past their youth, and they are frustrated with their lives or their studies or career choices. In doing so they are alienated from others around them, people who go on with their normal and face-value happy lives, while her protagonists are left to mull over their regrettable decisions or situations. Raija Siekkinen’s stories are poignant, pointed and pessimistic. They give rise to the psychological abyss and its landscape of every woman who questions her own decisions, and life path. It would be difficult to discuss a positive resolution being found in one of her short stories, which there never is, but there is a subtle survival plan which is formulated with some, who manage to continue living, and face the uncertainty in which the future holds.

( V )

Eeva Tikka is a biologist by education, and was a biology teacher before she turned to writing. Her writing resume includes poetry, prose (short stories, novels, and children’s books), and story-telling. Yet it is her scientific education in regards to the study of life, which finds itself liberally placed within her writing. Nature is nothing new to Finnish literature, but rather than being an ornament or a lyrical landscape painting n beautiful prose, for Tikka it is both an all engulfing arrogant foe in one instance, and in another it is a tender earth mother, nurturing the surrounding landscape. Much like the preceding author Raija Siekkinen writes in the grand vein of the realist tradition, often dealing with middle aged individuals or middle class people; but just Raija Siekkinen she is not a dime store kitchen realist or a garden variety realist; Eeva Tikka is a psychological prober of the lives of her characters. Where she differentiates from Raija Siekkinen, is that her work often finds itself, with a more positive inclination, rather than facing the abyss and hopelessness of the human predicament in the darkest hour of the night. Eeva Tikka is a highly lyrical writer, and depicts often ordinary landscapes and ordinary lives, but beneath the surface the foundations of the quiet life begins to fracture and crack, revealing the whirlpools hidden beneath the normalcy of the otherwise content and complacent lives of the individuals she depicts in her short stories. There is often a quiet strength to her work, depicted by nature, and religious imagery, when relationships begin to grow tense or break down. One such pivotal novel is “Hiljainen kesä,” or in English translation: “The Quiet Summer,” which depicts the family drama and tension, which builds after the youngest son of the family, drowns in a nearby pond during the spring gales. The pain and transgression both past and new, come to haunt the family, and tensions begin to rise as spring burns off into summer. What has always struck me though as the hall mark of Eeva Tikka is her striking and beautiful lyricism and poetic sensibilities, which often find itself being placed in the short stories, that are available on “Books from Finland.” Her work often deals with the sense of abandonment as the day’s progress forward, and the years begin to add up behind them and be subtracted before them. Days of youth are looked back upon with a sense of nostalgia only afforded to the old, and the tragic longing for a time when everything made sense, is made all the more poignant by the changing landscape, the breakdown of relationships, and the ever present motion of moving forward without any other decision. Yet for Eeva Tikka relinquishment and atonement, are forms of moving forward with a lessen load, and a lighter sense of being, and often give rise to hope. Love maybe a disappointment, and youth squandered and wasted and frivolous needs of the time, and these regrets certainly shake the present day middle aged cage quite well, there is a relinquishment afterwards and atonement for past mistakes. The slow passion of her work, the measured tone and rhythm all work in  Eeva Tikka, creating an often highly lyrical depiction of the quietness of life, with often a great sense of wisdom and understanding of how things should work – or rather what we’ve forgotten about the naturalistic way of how things work. The following extract from the short story comes from Eeva Tikka’s short story collection: “Hidas intohimo,” or translated into English as: “A Slow Passion,” thankfully once again to the courtesy of “Books from Finland,”

“I don’t want to interfere with it. If something comes of it, then something comes of it. You can’t interfere with time, or fate, or another person. Time ripens things on its own. Fate takes a longer view of things than people do. Like the prophet says, there is a time for every purpose, for my purposes and other people’s.

This garden cottage is a good place to watch everything quietly, a ringside seat for someone who doesn’t want to flail around getting smashed up. The potatoes bloom when it’s time for them to bloom, depending on the length of the summer, the weather, and the time they were planted. Their white and purple flowers are worthy of admiration– potato flowers are flowers, after all. But when the flowers are just opening, it’s not yet time to go digging around among the roots. You have to restrain yourself and wait until the tubers form. You have to wait until they’re finished blooming and the flowers are replaced by plumping green, poisonous berries – though not all potato varieties produce them. But if your fingers are really itching for them, you can poke into the dirt and grope around a little before it’s really time, feel for tubers and remove them carefully, patiently, leaving the plant undisturbed for the smaller ones to grow. If the groping turns up something, you can slip away and savour it, but you still have to wait before you can dig up the whole plant with its rootstock, its beautiful pure tubers heaved up onto the soil, as if Life were offering itself on a silver salver. Then you can have them. They’re ready. But it takes time. Many good things are destroyed by impatience.”

( VI )

Rosa Liksom is a post-punk, post-feminist writer, who depicts a thorough debauched world, filled with despair, destruction, and macabre actions – all quickly sketched in icy lyrical prose, of a rather detached authorial presence, in just a few pages in length. The reviewer Marc Lowe compared Rosa Liksom to Elfriede Jelinek in a similar approach to literature, with a shock value punch line. Much like Jelinek there is often a nervous guffaw to be found here and there (often during a second reading) and there is scathing, scalding and biting irony, freshly open for display. Rosa Liksom writes about the anguish of existence. Her characters may arrive from one of the most northern parts of Finland, and also its most scarcely populated places: Lapland; where the author herself often hails from. The world however in which Liksom portrays is dark, though ironic, it is dark and gloomy. It’s a world desolate, desperate, and filled to the brim with despair. The nights never end, and when the days do break, it simply means you’ve reawakened to the existential anguish and nightmare that is your life. It should be surprising then to see Rosa Liksom dressed in often contrasting clothes, with bright vibrant colours, and quick to smile, a full toothed grin, considering her shocking subject matter. But like the Nobel Prize winning writer Elfriede Jelinek, Liksom uses shock value to bring to attention to the questionable circumstances in which the current society chooses to live, and how it quickly ignores the less fortunate or the desperate and disturbed individuals, being consumed by the schizophrenic reality around them. Her short impressionistic vignettes of dark and disturbing images certainly give rise to the thought that the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side; especially when its frozen stiff. Some people may find it surprising to learn that Rosa Liksom is a revered and acclaimed writer in Finland. Her latest novel “Hytti nro 6,” or translated into Enlgish “Compartment No. 6,” won in two-thousand and eleven the Finlandia Prize. It may be surprising to readers as well, that Rosa Liksom has one book of short stories translated into English “Dark Paradise,” by Dalkey Archive Press; and “Compartment No. 6,” is on its way for North American readers, later this year; while Serpents Tail in the United Kingdom has already published the novel. It can be seen the Kafkaesque prose of Liksom and her episodic sketches are also taken an interest, not just in Finland but also abroad. Currently I am humming and hawing about purchasing “Dark Paradise,” but the comparison to Elfriede Jelinek is quite intriguing, and her novels written about the Soviet Union strike me as interesting. The following is a sketch taken from “Books from Finland,” which will hopefully give you an idea about her writing style:

“Between the town centre and the boarding house there was a broad marsh. The hard February frosts coming in from the Atlantic had frozen it into a shining plain of ice. A woman was cutting straight across it to her boarding house. She was wearing a fur coat and high leather boots and she had an irritable look on her face. In the sky a jet-trail snaked across the dark blue clouds. Near a clump of bushes her pace slackened. She felt a shooting pain in her heart and remembered something far off: midsummer, a mat of thick green grass and a pig squealing in the butcher’s hands. She managed to localise the memory: it had happened somewhere else, in another country, but it had happened. A sadness crossed her face. She thrust her hands deep into her coat pockets and felt the cold rising from the pit of her stomach to her scalp.

Behind the bushes a man was holding his breath and hanging on a moment till the woman was in exactly the right place. His eyes were frightened and the veins in his temples distended. He held himself back another moment and then leapt out on her from behind. She fell on her back, hitting her head on the ice. He was panting hard, fitfully, with pale childish features, light wavy hair and black leather gloves. He struck her in the face, tore her fur coat open, thrust his hand into her blouse and tried to wrench her trousers apart. She didn’t cry out but looked at the man discerningly. He even had a certain beauty for her. She glanced up at the sky. The white trail of the jet had vanished: nothing but blue clouds and the frost that made her nipples stand out.

‘Do it somewhere warm,’ she said as he struggled despairingly with her tight trousers. He started and withdrew his hand. He stared at her in distrust but let go her hands, which were bleeding. ‘I’ve a little room that’s warm.’

He eyed her swollen lips and quickly got up off her. She staggered to her feet, buttoned her blouse and straightened her hair. She set off again for her boarding house and the man followed her a few paces behind.

The doorkeeper was asleep. They went into one of the cheaper rooms on the ground floor and undressed, she expertly, he clumsily. She folded back the coverlet, lay down on her back and looked in his eyes. There was nothing to see there but a profound emptiness. She sighed, put her hand between her thighs, closed her eyes and settled a little smile on her face. The man lowered himself shyly onto her. She caressed his shoulders. He kissed her breasts and neck, tried to penetrate her straight away but without succeeding. She closed her eyes and swallowed. He rolled down beside her sobbing like a puppy. They slept in each other’s arms till morning, and then she had to go to work. She took a packet of cigarettes from the bedside table and went out. Sometime after mid-day the man woke from his sleep with a start and went away without a look back.”

( VII )

The next writer, is a writer who I did not discover via “Books from Finland,” but rather through “The Best European Fiction,” anthology series. Anita Konkka does not appear to make an appearance on “Books from Finland.” Yet she is a writer of esoteric subject matter; specifically dreams and their relation to reality. Her work often though traces relationships; specifically relationships dealing with love, though not with pity or with furrowed brows, but humorously and with understanding compassion. Konkka herself has written novels, short stories, essays, radio plays and one dream book. When I state that Finnish is a language of the esoteric, mystical and the voice of dreams, it is because of Konkka. In her novel titled “The Garden of Desires,” her characters consist of the following (as quoted from a review posted on Konkka’s website): Paula, the building custodian and life's pushover; Rosa, who sweeps men off their feet; Eugenia, the neurotic virgin; Dolores, who practices witchcraft; and Leif, the poet. With Adam, the hermit-composer, who still lives on the nearby hillside; Teresa, who meditates perpetually under the fig trees and unemployed Milopa, a fool for women. Her characters reflect the authors eclectic and eccentric qualities, and are all mashed together to certainly create quite an entertaining and enthralling read. Dolores herself strikes me as the most interesting; I imagine her reading the stars at night, pulling tarot cars out from her sleeves for consulting purposes, and interpreting and articulating the language of dreams of all those who seek her services and assistances. Beyond this though, there is not a lot to mention about Anita Konkka. Her achievements, oeuvre and biographical information is difficult to find and discuss. She has two works translated into English. The first being “Fools Paradise,” as published by Dalkey Archive Press, and the second an extract from her novel “The Garden of Desires,” titled “The Clown,” published in the anthology “The Best European Fiction: 2010.” One can certainly hope though that Anita Konkka’s work is given more and more opportunities abroad, in order for readers over here to become enchanted by her discussion of love and its troublesome relationships that it creates.

( VIII )

Petri Tamminen is the comic come tragic kind of writer. His work is often filled with tragic events, juxtaposed with the comic and deft sense of the situation. The tragedy or the phobia’s of his characters often creating very absurd situation, in which relief is found in the neurosis of the characters. My first foray and reading of Tamminen came from his user manual on hiding; how to escape reality and find the comforting spaces in which one can be safe, and find security: be it an attic or a mother’s lap. In just a few sentences, or a sketch Tamminen creates a life, and quickly summarizes it. When I think of Petri Tamminen the Icelandic poet and vignette writer Gyrðir Elíasson who is capable of creating and summarizing a life in equally small spaces, and leaving most of the work unsaid, for the reader to create and understand what has happened, and will transpire. Yet for me, it was his book of short short prose: “Piiloutujan maa,” or English translation “The Land of the Hider,” in which I found a manual to rid oneself of the burdens and responsibilities of the world, for just a moment, by tucking away out of sight for just a short amount of time; and have continued my search for a open but private little hide away, in which I too may take refuge. The following short prose is taken from “Books from Finland,” and is from Petri Tamminen collection of short short prose: “The Land of the Hider,”:

“The Library,”

A cosy local library can be a paradise but there are hideaways to be found in a scientific library. Awaiting the visitor are kilometres of austere shelf space, the silence of lonely potplants and a melancholy like that at a long-jump pit in October.

First you should wander as if searching for something, then suddenly grab a book and open it. The title pages waft dust into the air. The surface of the paper is a delicate shade of yellow, the typeface is matter-of-fact, the book’s subject the reception of Catalan women’s writing in Sweden. The book should be stroked tenderly.

As you continue wandering, you know that the world will endure. Humankind is overflowing with love and trust. People do not desire evil, rather, they wish for time and for a safe cell in which to examine matters. When you think about it, it makes you want to huddle in the space between the wall and the shelves. Sooner or later the gentle smell of coffee floats into the room, indicating a well-deserved break for the hard-working library staff.

( Part II The Second Language )

Finland is a relatively young country, which prior to its independence, was continually under the influence of another empire of some sort. Generally speaking it was either the Kingdom of Sweden or the Imperial Russian Empire; Finland however did fight back during the Winter War, against the Soviet Union, and retained its independence and ideological autonomy from the corrosive touch of Stalinist Communism. Finnish is the dominant language of Finland, and its second language is Swedish, spoken by just five percent of the population. However, literal Swedish writers in Finland have gathered as much notoriety and acclaim for their written works, as their literal Finnish contemporaries.

( ii I )

Tua Forsström is a wise, existential, and vulnerable poet. She’s not a new writer to me, but with the help of “Books from Finland,” as well as “Poetry International,” I’ve come to grasp and have a better understanding of the poet. She does not publish often, but when she does, Forsström often has great expectations resting on her shoulders, to repeat previous success. Her poetry is known to clean up awards, including the Nordic Council Prize for Literature in nineteen ninety-eight with her collection of poems titled: “Efter att ha tillbringat en natt bland hästar,” or English translation: “After Having Spent a Night Among Horses.” Her poetry is readable, wise, and looks to the everyday with a melancholic tone and keen observation. Her poetry has found a home in other languages as well, including Dutch, Danish, German, Italian, French, and English. Much like Sirkka Turkka, there something about Tua Forsström that reminds me of the Polish poet and Mozart of Poetry: Wisława Szymborska. Perhaps in the case of Forsström it is her slow pace of writing, and her continual desire to perfect, and make her poetry transcend or vacate the ivory tower of poetry itself. Much like Szymborska, Tua Forsström turns her keen poetic observations to the everyday life, and writes compelling and beautiful poems in regards to the everyday interactions in which each of us participate in. Utilizing beautiful and original metaphors with a simplistic language though, Forsström is close to her Swedish compatriot Tomas Transtromer, in her wise and existential discussions. The following poem: “Staden Glittrade,” or English Translation: “The City Was Sparkling,” show cases keen observational skills, mixed with her melancholic tone and breathe; it is taken from her page on “Poetry International,”

“The City Was Sparkling,”

            By Tua Forsström

“The city was sparkling at a distance, and
I stopped. Everything looked so beautiful,
the street plans and the terraced gardens,
as if water-transparent, and I saw it all
very clearly. I thought about the great cities
with cathedrals, and the small local museums in
the countryside in Sweden, and the meadow-sweet with its
strong fragrance, and I remembered how attached I had been
to the little kitten with the spotted paws who
ran away and how I had missed it.
I turned around and someone was crying, I couldn’t
pay attention to it. The city was made of transparent glass.
I stood there. I saw my pre-eminent love.
Shimmering of pearls. The black swans. Chalcedony.
I tried calling the small kitten. Everything was sparkling.
I hesitated, I knew everything, I would
not come back.”

( ii II )

Susanne Ringell first began her career as an actress on the stage; but eventually turned away from the stage, to work behind the production of plays, by playwriting, which eventually turned her into the direction of poetry and prose. Since her change in career, from actress to writer, Ringell has achieved great success. She is most well known for her short stories, which can vary from the traditional length of a short story, to what would be considered vignette, character sketches, to flash fiction. The spoken word is greatly important to Ringelle as a writer; which stems from her writings for theatre, as well as being an actress herself. Dialogue and linguistic acrobatic idioms are often used full force in her work, which often makes for a unique reading experience which further brings life to the work, rather than alienating readers; especially readers from a different language in itself. Body language is often used in her work of prose as well, often as the bridge between the physical and external world, and the internal world within her characters. Ringelle’s work is varied, unique and startlingly new and fresh. Her prose poem collection or poetic novel: “Vara sten,” or English translation: “Being a Stone,” is written in a monologue of a stone, sitting in a field commenting on the world passing it by. Recently it has been the small sketches, vignettes and character sketches that have seen Ringelle receive success and praise over. “Av blygsel blev Adele fet,” or English Translation: “It was embarrassment that made Adele fat,” is an A-Z book for adults, filled with multi-layered short stories, and character sketches, which grasp and paints small episodic lives of the characters in question.  After testing the waters with this collection of short prose format, Ringelle repeated it once again with the collection: “En god Havanna. Besläktad,” or English translation: “A good Havana. Kith and Kin,” uses the authors strange relatives as the subject matter, and the book is connected more so than “It was embarrassment that made Adele fat,” this allows for Ringelle to show her playfulness and in some cases provide meditative prose poems to discuss her themes. What I find most enjoyable about Susanne Ringell’s work is the lyrical and poetic fashion in which her work is written, often with startling and unique metaphors to further push her points across. The following short prose piece is from A good Havana. Kith and Kin,” taken from “Books from Finland,”

“Take Your Plastic Bag and Go,”

The fact that you don’t happen to have a birch-bark basket skilfully woven by selected Karelians to hand is not a problem. Take your plastic bag and go!

That is the motto of second cousin Siv. The mushroom forests are there for everyone: they are not reserved for aesthetes with special equipment, these strange autumnal snobs who walk down the leafy catwalk in their precisely adjusted accessories. Nor are they there exclusively for mycologists with special insights and a special sort of knife. Don’t let yourself be cowed! A plastic bag and fingers are all you need, eyes, legs. If chanterelles are all you can recognise, just pick chanterelles. There’s no shame in that. The shame is to stay sitting at home thinking I can’t do that. What if someone were to see me and my disreputable plastic bag? What if someone were to see me and my shabby jacket – old in the wrong sort of way – my shoes unsuitable for the forest, my eyes unaccustomed to the forest, looking in the wrong grove, under the wrong tree, in silly terrain. Don’t pay any attention to it, the apple – cheeked open – air hogwash! If you are scared of snakes and ants (elks bears wolves) take rubber boots. If you’re scared of the howling green confusion, the branches, the thickets and the twigs, take the paths. Or if you’re just scared, take a bottle of schnapps in your pocket. Have a packet of mushroom soup ready at home in the cupboard, preferably Knorr rather than Pirkka, but it doesn’t really matter. Go. Enjoy. If all you can see is yellow leaves, then all you can see is yellow leaves. They are soggy, stickily attractive. Perhaps you’ll spot a mourning cloak, a late butterfly. Even if you don’t know that the mourning cloak is a mourning cloak, you can rejoice in it. Naming things isn’t everything. Take your plastic bag and go. That is the motto of second cousin Siv.

( Part III The Break Through of One )

Leena Krohn is one of Finland’s literary exports. She is a genre bending master, while maintain a sense of what is literary. She can appeal to both lovers of fantasy fiction, and those who loved Kafka and other serious literary writes, who bend the rules of reality. Leena Krohn is an award winning writer. She has walked with the Finlandia prize, and has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, the Horror Guild International award, as well as the Nordic Council Prize for Fiction, all for her breakthrough novel “Tainaron: Mail from Another City.” Krohn is a writer whose main literary themes, are morality, problematic situations in which human beings find themselves in, the borders between reality and illusion, and questions of rising artificial intelligence. Now, Krohn has finally received a breakthrough in English, with the publication of a huge collection of her work being published in one large volume. In the volume includes novels, short stories, extracts from novels, a children’s book and numerous essays. The book has received critical acclaim by numerous literary journals and reviewers who are delighted by the prospect of the author reaching a larger audience in a larger language. Since the publication of: “Leena Krohn: Collected Fiction,” has appeared, numerous short stories and essays can be found throughout the internet. One such story “Lucilia Illustris,” is a great short story published on, is a great starting point in which to understand the themes, and writing style of Leena Krohn. She is a unique writer which has broken literary bounds between genres that are generally pushed to the side in favour of more realistic or philosophical narratives. Krohn however uses philosophical narratives in her often strange and unwavering fiction to delve into concepts of morality, reality, and the human predicament. Much like the Canadian Margaret Atwood, Leena Krohn sees the boundless possibilities of the human future, but also provides warnings, and needs to be weary of rushing head long into the future without thinking of the current situation, and predicament of the world, and the state of humanity; and urges humanity to think carefully about its decisions before acting on what at first appear to be innovative and unique ideas.

It is with great thanks to Cheeky Frawg Press, and Jeff VanderMeer for advocating the author to have her work more readily available in the English language, for new readers, to take a marvel at her serious literary works, and contemplate the destiny of humanity. It was thanks to the publication of Leena Krohn that made me come up with this blog post. To see and give Finnish literature its deserved and due attention in the spotlight is one that should be done more often; hopefully with the warm and positive reception of Leena Krohn’s collected works, will we see more Finnish writers, receive their due attention in the English language.

( Part IV To Conclude )

There is no denying that Finnish is a difficult language, and that English translations would be difficult to get the original into another language without too much adjustments being made, which would take away from potency of the work. However, surely newer and better attempts need to be made to make the great writers of the Finnish language more known to the English public and readers. It is a shame that “Books from Finland,” is not defunct because the website, and its publication, was doing such a service to readers in the English language with an interest in foreign languages and its literature. Yet attempts are certainly being made, with the publication of Leena Krohn’s collected fiction; Tua Forsström had a poem published in “The Guardian,” newspaper, and her more recent collection: "En kväll i oktober rodde jag ut på sjön," or in its English translation: "One Evening In October I Rowed Out On The Lake". Yet what is disappointing is to hear that Raija Siekkinen translates and lands quite softly in the English language, and yet we have not seen one of her short story collections published in the English language yet; then questions are raised about Eeva Tikka and the possibility of seeing her in the English language any time soon, with her highly lyrical prose, and biologically infused short stories. What about Susanne Ringell? Surely there should be either a very good excuse why we have not seen her published in English, or are we just fooling ourselves of our own parochial crimes by refusing to even think about or look at such a wonderful writer. It would be delightful to see her work someday published in English like “Being a Stone,” or “Water,” or “A good Havana. Kith and Kin.” Though Sirkka Turkka has been published into English, she still remains unknown and obscure to any potential readers. The world of translation is certainly moving into a more positive and productive manner, and yet we still overlook some languages and their respective countries. Someday I hope we will see more Finnish translations, more Estonian translations, so they too can join Hungary their linguistic cousin, on the literary map.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary 

Post Script - For those of you my dear Gentle Readers, who would like to a further look into Finnish literature, please follow the links provided below, as they will give you extracts from novels, short stories, poems and essays to read, as well as wonderful introductions and notes about the authors presented. 

Books from Finland

Transcript (Finland)

As well as the following website which deals specifically with Nordic Women's Literature:

Nordic Women's Literature