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A New North: Contemporary Writing from Finland

August 2014

Image: Susanna Majuri, Stabben Fyr, 2009, C-Print auf Diasec, 100x150cm, Auflage von 5 + 2 AP

Image: Susanna Majuri, Stabben Fyr, 2009, C-Print auf Diasec, 100x150cm, Auflage von 5 + 2 AP

This month we present writing from Finland. Due to historic and linguistic circumstances, Finnish literature has received less attention in the English-speaking world than it merits. Our guest editor, the prominent Finnish translator Lola Rogers, has selected an exciting group of contemporary writers, many of whom appear in English for the first time. Leena Krohn’s depressed writer presents the reading from hell. In stories of parents and children, Mikko Rimminen finds unexpected obstacles on a train, and Shimo Suntila looks in on a single parent wrangling two rambunctious girls. Two pieces here bring history to life, as Sofi Oksanen pens a vivid recreation of the bombing of Talinn in 1940 and Antti Tuuri observes an expat Finnish construction crew working in Russia under the local Communist Party in 1930. Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen’s dementia patient loses his memory but develops second sight.  Daniel Katz calculates the literal weight of words, while Maritta Lintunen’s librarian receives a package from the past. Tiina Laitila Kälvemark’s fragile woman struggles to recover her sanity. Kari Hotakainen’s multiple narrators struggle with anger and ennui. Joonas Konstig’s fretful young man seeks an appropriate setting for an important question. And Petri Tamminen acknowledges a lifelong trait. We thank the Finnish Literature Exchange for their generous support of this issue.

An Introduction to Finnish Literature
By Lola Rogers
The literature of Finland has historically been sparsely represented in English translation.
Letter to Lethe
By Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
But remembering the future helped me to operate in the present.
Translated from Finnish by Lola Rogers
The Message Bearer
By Maritta Lintunen
“Open that parcel when you can. And forgive me.”
Translated from Finnish by Emily Jeremiah
The Weight of Words
By Daniel Katz
The first volume of Bogumil Linde’s Polish-language encyclopedia (Abakus–gulasz) hit his head with a thump.
Translated from Finnish by Lola Rogers
Final Appearance
By Leena Krohn
“I’m interested in that so-called thriller you wrote.”
Translated from Finnish by Eva Buchwald
The White Room
By Tiina Laitila Kälvemark
I have been in the white room for five months and twenty days now.
Translated from Finnish by Eric Dickens
Easy as Flushing
By Mikko Rimminen
The teenage girls began chatting aimlessly in rhythmic tones punctuated by robust usage of the F-word.
Translated from Finnish by Eva Buchwald
from “When the Doves Disappeared”
By Sofi Oksanen
The town shook, burned, smoked, but it was still standing, and she was still alive, and the Red Army was gone.
Translated from Finnish by Lola Rogers
from “Finnhits”
By Kari Hotakainen
It is true that dropping one’s host in the well does not demonstrate much sense of propriety.
Translated from Finnish by Owen F. Witesman
By Peter Sandström
Had he used a bayonet, or a knife? Had he felt hatred? Pleasure?
Translated from Finland-Swedish by Ruth Urbom
By Shimo Suntila
“We needed some liquid gold,” Milla says very seriously.
Translated from Finnish by Liisa Rantalaiho
The Right Place
By Joonas Konstig
Was everything perfect enough?
Translated from Finnish by Douglas Robinson
from “The Eternal Road”
By Antti Tuuri
I had not seen meat on my plate since I left home.
Translated from Finnish by Jill Timbers
One of Those Difficult Feelings We Have
By Petri Tamminen
I was born to be afraid.
Translated from Finnish by Jill Timbers