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17 article(s) translated from Finnish

Letter to Lethe

Just so you know, my beloved daughter, they tell me I was a charming man, the kind of witty rascal whose arms women had the bad habit of throwing themselves into. “You would have liked yourself,” I’m often told. “It was impossible to be bored in your company.” On the other hand, they also say that I was a compulsive Don Juan, that erotic conquests were as natural and indispensable to me as reading is to a bookworm. I’ve heard other things about me, too....

The Message Bearer

In the entrance hall of the library the children’s coats let off the damp smell of an autumn day. The patter of feet, the giggling of girls, the scrapping of boys: the sounds filled the quiet space of the library. I welcomed the visiting students and their teacher. It had become my habit to bribe the children first, and this time, too, I handed out stickers and a small notebook where they could record what they were reading. I showed my own as an example, and asked the children...

The Weight of Words

The finger of fate pushed Miss Götha Traub into Belgian Wallonia at the end of the 1930s, leaving her stranded there when, with lightning speed, the Wehrmacht occupied the country. She had come to Belgium to study the French language in its Wallonian guise, but during the war she ended up at a hospital caring for casualties, victims of the bombings and those suffering from the diseases that raged during the war. She took care of Belgian civilians, German soldiers, French and English...

Final Appearance

That winter afternoon, just before the flyover and exit for the city of S—, E. suddenly saw a broad, dark shadow cross the beam of his headlights. The back-end of a truck! Such was his perception. There must have been an accident and the truck’s trailer had overturned to sprawl diagonally across both lanes of the motorway. E. saw no alternative but to slam on the brakes or swerve off the road. Before fully deciding what action to take—not so much by deliberation as by...

The White Room

Daylight and color are to be avoided, says Padima. No troubling pictures and patterns, no colorful details that your gaze gravitates toward. The room is to be clear and peaceful, and as bare as possible. Because once the patient’s senses are numbed by inactivity, the body will gradually calm down. The periods of rest will lengthen on their own, because there is nothing to do. The wild rush of thoughts in the brain will slow down. Everything will become more leisurely: the metabolism,...

Easy as Flushing

Perttu needed to poop. That’s how it had been, the situation, all weekend. But nothing would come out. He stared out the train window, vaguely expressing his discomfort. The crushingly somber pinewood landscape was suddenly broken by a looming tower, looking strangely warped against the gray-hued mat of slow-moving, rainless cloud. “Fuck me, Näsinneula tower,” said the teenage girl sitting across the aisle. She was wearing a turquoise crop-top which exposed a...

from “When the Doves Disappeared”

1941 Tallinn The grain warehouses were burning, the sky grew columns of smoke. Buses, trucks and cars filled the roads, their worn tires screaming like the people were, screaming to get away. And then an explosion. Shrapnel. Shards of glass like a shower of rain. Juudit stood with her mouth open in a corner of her mother’s kitchen. Her mother had escaped to the countryside, to her sister Liia’s house, and left Juudit on her own to wait for the bombs, the bombs that would end...

from “Finnhits”

Are you completely sure I feel like listening? Have you thought it through carefully and concluded that on Friday at 4:54 PM I'm going to feel like taking in one more life story that starts deep in the bowels of the earth and ends in the heart of the city? Think again. It may be that I don't have space for any more stories, that my hard drive is already complaining. But if you're absolutely sure that your story is unique, lay it on me. Remember: keep it short. Cut it open like...

One of Those Difficult Feelings We Have

I couldn’t sleep. I went outside and sat in a garden chair. It was September, a mild night with no wind. A few minutes passed and I began to wonder how I must look sitting there at 12:30 at night. Did I perhaps seem strange? What if someone passed by now? Would this passerby wonder what kind of guy was sitting alone in the yard in the middle of the night? I sat up straighter. When that felt stiff, I leaned back and sought a natural position. I tried to find an expression with which I...

from “The Eternal Road”

Abducted from his home in Finland in 1930 by the radical Finnish right-wing Lapua Movement, the narrator escapes his captors and finds himself alone on the Russian side of the border. Russians discover him near death and take him to a hospital in Petrozavodsk in Karelia. Here the narrator has just left the hospital.   Strang stopped by to see me every day and asked if I was getting enough to eat where I was staying. On the evening of the third day I felt strong enough to go with him...

The Right Place

They had the Kaukokiito stage up in the marketplace and some of the market crowd stood over by it looking in. Karhu and Ella circled around in front of it and saw potters sitting around wheels. Some were throwing big pots, others still shaping small balllike masses. The announcer commented on the competition over the PA system. Ella smiled contentedly as she watched. Karhu thought: I bet she’s content with even just this. A handful of flea market tables had been set up, with dishes,...

Daughters!

"Daddy,” comes a yell from the bathroom. “There’s a bug in my bathrobe sleeve.” I leave the sandwiches half done and go to check. A daddy long-legs, or a moth? Can’t be a wasp, the yelling would be louder. “It must have come in the open window last night.” I get to the bathroom and look at the sleeve. “Did it fly off?” Meri stands on the toilet seat, holding her toothbrush. “No, it’s still inside the sleeve.” I...

The Garden

That Friday when my parents finished their work in the garden, my mother’s pant-legs and the tops of my father’s boots were covered in pollen. It turned into a yellowish paste where it touched damp skin, and when they tried to wipe it off it just spread and stuck to their hands, and it wouldn’t even come off with soap and a scrub-brush. “We’ll just have to wait. I’m sure it’ll wear off eventually,” he reassured her at the water spigot when...

from “Baby Jane”

The office building across the street lit up like a Christmas tree every morning. The fluorescent lights chased each other pling-pling-pling, lighting up from one room to the next, pulling the people along after them. I watched the same performance every morning while smoking a cigarette in my robe at Joonatan’s unpleasantly sun-filled window. I only woke up that early if Joonatan was going to work. I didn’t have to wake up, but I did anyway, got out of bed, put high-strength...

from “Purge”

When the Baltic Germans were invited into Germany in the fall of 1939, one of the sisters’ German classmates from school and confirmation classes came to say good-bye, and promised to return. She was just going to make a tour of a country that she’d never seen before, and then she would come back and tell them what Germany was really like. They waved good-bye and Aliide watched as Hans’s hands wrapped around Ingel’s waist and moved toward her rear end. Their...

Tweety

A faint sound emerged from the night; or maybe it was an almost imperceptible smell that drifted out of the darkness, soothing somehow, like the smell that comes off of boats and wet wooden docks, and though Tweety didn't grasp it intellectually, he felt how it affected him. It very nearly discharged something inside him, opened it up like a jammed valve in the back of his mind, and all at once he realized that he still had the power. It positively teemed inside him, especially in...

From The Order

Translator's Note: The story takes place in 1918 Finland, right after the end of the Finnish Civil War, where some 30,000 Finns were killed, most by summary execution or in detention camps. This novel is built around a documented incident. Lander focuses on three characters-prisoner, captor, and military judge-to force readers to probe questions of truth, perception, power, duty, and conscience. In this extract a Red prisoner writes to her White foster father. Ruukkijoki 1 May 1918...
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