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August 2014

A New North: Contemporary Writing from Finland

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. Elsewhere, in three pieces from Ukraine selected by Oleksandr Mykhed, Sashko Ushkalov finds a job applicant with unusual experience, Taras Antypovych's gravediggers confront the end of their profession, and Tanya Malyarchuk shares secrets of pest control.

An Introduction to Finnish Literature

The literature of Finland has historically been sparsely represented in English translation.

Letter to Lethe

But remembering the future helped me to operate in the present.


The Message Bearer

“Open that parcel when you can. And forgive me.”


The Weight of Words

The first volume of Bogumil Linde’s Polish-language encyclopedia (Abakus–gulasz) hit his head with a thump.


Final Appearance

“I’m interested in that so-called thriller you wrote.”


The White Room

I have been in the white room for five months and twenty days now.


Easy as Flushing

The teenage girls began chatting aimlessly in rhythmic tones punctuated by robust usage of the F-word.

from “When the Doves Disappeared”

The town shook, burned, smoked, but it was still standing, and she was still alive, and the Red Army was gone.

from “Finnhits”

It is true that dropping one’s host in the well does not demonstrate much sense of propriety.


Had he used a bayonet, or a knife? Had he felt hatred? Pleasure?


“We needed some liquid gold,” Milla says very seriously.


The Right Place

Was everything perfect enough?

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

One of Those Difficult Feelings We Have

I was born to be afraid.


Book Reviews

Antonio Ungar’s “The Ears of the Wolf”

Reviewed by Anne Posten

It is this instability, this dance between beauty and horror, fear and elation, and this delicate navigation of power, which can turn one into the other, that animates Antonio Ungar’s singular, captivating novel.

Gonçalo M. Tavares’s “A Man: Klaus Klump”

Reviewed by Ethan Alexander Perets

Gonçalo M. Tavares (Does the M stand for Man? Maniac? Master? Certainly not anything as common as Manuel . . .) is a writer that trades in oppositions. And business is good.

Alessandro Baricco’s “Mr. Gwyn

Reviewed by Jennifer Florin

In an attempt to combat an approaching aimlessness after his sudden retirement, Gwyn chooses the new vocation of a copyist.

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