Comapartment No.6 by Rosa Liksom

Compartment-No.6

Compartment No.6 by Rosa Liksom

Finnish fiction

Original title – Hytti nro 6

Translator – Lola Rogers

Source -Review copy

The soul is placed in the body like a rough diamond, and must be polished, or the luster of it will never appear.

Daniel Defoe

Well when this dropped though my door ,it was one I put straight to the top of the pile ,I’ve enjoyed all the recent books from Finland ,That I’ve read have been gems ,plus I’ve always had a fondness for books set on trains so two ticks meant it was a must read .Well Rosa Liksom is a Finnish based writer ,she is also a well-known artist in Finland .She has written 13 other books ,this Compartment No.6 is the latest by her ,it won the Finlandia prize in 2011 .

When the station bell rang for the second time she saw a muscular ,cauliflower-eared man in a black  working mans quilted jacket and a white ermine hat and with him a beautiful dark-haired woman and her teenage son ,keeping  close to his mother .

When she first sees Vadim Nikolayevich Ivanov on the station platform at Moscow .

Compartment No.6 Follows a train ride from Moscow on the Trans Siberian ,an unnamed finnish girl boards the train ,she searches and finds an empty compartment and settles down ,then her silence is shattered when a grizzled looking fellow enters the carriage , He then starts talking to the girl and telling her the story of his life at first she is a bit like a rabbit caught in the headlights not quite knowing what to do ,but as the train speeds through the russian hinterlands she warms to this rough diamond and maybe sees part of her own life in his stories ,as the train is stopped they experience the rough conditions of the Soviet era ,this is the late eighties ,initially the girls thoughts are on getting to Mongolia and see some cave paintings as she is an art student and meeting an old friend but as her and Vadium (the man ) ,grow see maybe sees her life in a wider view outside the life she grew up in .

The night speeds through the dark into dim morning , a dogged queue at the shrine of the WC , a dry wash among the puddles of pee ,sputum ,shame and sheepish looks ,shadows of steaming tea glasses in the window ,large flat cubes of Cuban sugar ,paper light Aluminium spoons ,black bread ,viola cheese ..

She captures life on the train so well the sights and sounds of Soviet life at that time .

Well this is one of those books you can tell came from a love of the writer ,it turns out the writer took a journey on the same train in 1986 ,where she herself shared a compartment with a Russian man .Rosa Liksom has the artist eye for detail so the little things of life in Soviet era Russia are caught so well .For me the story remind me of a very old friend that over the years I lost touch with but Like Vadium was a rough diamond ,yes I remembered my fist meeting Steve and thinking god this bloke is just awful he was a friend of a friend but then over the next few meeting ,I saw through the swearing tales of his very hard upbringing and got to know one of the kindest souls I ever met and regret losing touch with ,That said Vadium isn’t quite such a kind heart soul but he is more than he first appeared to the Girl and he is the person that opens her eyes on her world ,so like me with steve this is someone she will remember for the rest of her life .Rather like the last lines of  the film Stand by me ,a writer remember a friend and journey in younger life .

Have you a favourite book based on a train ?

 

The Human Part by Kari Hotakainen

untitled

The Human Part by Kari Hotakainen

Finnish Fiction

Original title – Ihmisen osa

Translator – Owen F Witesman

Source – review copy

Well day two of Maclehose press celebration here on Winstonsdad .I now move north from Italy to Finland and one of the most acclaimed writers Kari Hotakinen .He is a multi talented writer .He started as both a poet and Journalist,he is a columnist for the finnish newspaper   Helsingin Sanomat. He started writing novels in the mid nineties  this is his tenth novel,and his latest and the first I’ve read by him .It won the Runeberg prize Sofi Oksanen has also previously won this prize which awarded every year . .

My name is Salme Sinikka Malmikunnas ,and everything that I say will be printed word for word in this book .The author promised me this .In alarm he even suggested that my words be printed in italics ,which apparently emphasizes the importance of the words .

The opening lines of the novel .

So the premise of The human part is a sort off retelling of the old story of some one selling their life to someone else .In this case it is Salame an elderly lady who ran a button shop ,the cover is rather clever a red thread flows through the city and back to Salame at the bottom , she happens to  meets a writer he has writers block and is looking for a story ,so after much persuading and a wad of money she agrees to sell him her life story she had four but only three are still alive and they all have their own problems but their ,mother tends to view their lives with rose-tinted specs .So she starts her story  to the writer ,tell the story of herself ,husband  and her childrens lives .But what is the writer putting down in  writing as she speaks  and is her vision of the family the same as his vision of her family ? What will he write about her kids lives ? ,What will he make of the dark secret that lies at the back of the family ? All this and more is revealed as you move through her life and that of her kids as well  .

The author interrupted to say that he didn’t intend to turn the Dictaphone on for the whole time we were meeting .As he said this he took a notepad and pencil out of  his pocket .I said he needed to put those away while I was speaking as well .The author shock his head and reminded me that he had paid for goods that he would be taking with him in some form ,

The telling of her tale begins .

So its easy to see Salame and the writers pact to sell her story  to him .As a twist on the old Faustian tale of selling your soul to the devil of course the writer isn’t the devil but he does  makes Salame  begin of view her life in a darker way than she did  .the book is also a clever critic on modern Life in Finland but not just Finland ,we all see the world our own ways and we all see our families one way , because they are our family .This book yet again shows we live in an age of changing values of  the general public  and how much  people willing to reveal all about themselves if the  money  is right .Via this story we see pain and suffering with in the family unit in modern Finland  .This is a book that even thou it is set in Finland  , can ring true to every one in this modern world  .

Have you a favourite Finnish writer ?

 

The brothers by Asko Sahlberg

the brothers

The brothers by Asko Sahlberg

Finnish fiction

Ordinal title – He (they in finnish )

Translator – Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah

Source review copy

Asko Sahlberg is a Finnish writer he has written 10 novels and radio plays ,he has been up for the Nordic council prize and the Finlandia prize as well .He has previously work as a journalist and in advertising before turning to writing full-time ,he said about his writing “part only partly link in the chain, part of a long literary tradition” .This was his ninth novel and the first to be translated to English .

I have barely caught the crunch of snow and I know who is coming .Henrik treads heavily and unhurriedly as is his wont ,grinding his feet into the earth ,The brothers are so different .Erik walks fast ,with light steps ,he is always in a hurry ,here then gone .

The farm hand hears Henrik returning .

So The brothers does what it says on the cover and that it is the story of a pair of brothers .Henrik and Erik .The action is set in 1809 as Finland is fought over between Russia and Sweden .Peace has come and the brothers return to their farm ,having fought on opposing sides during the war .One brother Henrik  lost his girlfriend during the war and is returning after a long time away from the farm and his family .Then there is also Erik’s  wife ,the farm hand and the horse  to name a few .This book is told in sections by the characters so we see the story unfold bit by bit , of how awkward the rejoining of these two brothers .The house is full of tension as we finds the brothers at one point had been face to face on the field of battle .

This house is a cadaver .The others are too close to see it ,but it has already begun to decompose ,I flinch from its decay .It is a collection of bones had been unearthed and dressed in fine clothing to create the illusion of a real body

Henrik talking about his family’s farm

 

Well this is one of those books I read and got scared how to describe ,yet again Meike has shown her strength in choosing books for Peirene .This book so fits the theme of last years Peirene’s which was the year of small epics ,at 120 pages long thinking back on reading it and how I felt after I imagined it was a thick book because it seemed to convey so much about life brotherhood , Finland sex what it is to be a man  and death .It is compared to Shakespeare and such luminaries on the cover and yes there are parts that do compare with richard the thirds in place a story around the horse and the great line my kingdom for a horse may come to mind . but I felt it maybe does have origins in Scandinavian art  ,Sahlberg as a radio play  writer must have come across   the Danish film group Dogme 95 where the action is set mainly in one place and this book is the same the action is all at the farm-house although they talk about the past  present and future  .I was most remind of the Lars von Trier film Dogville which like this is set in one place and has some on appearing  like Henrik and changing what happens .Another point may even be the Finnish Epic Poem the Kalevala a sort of collection of Finnish folktales that formed the basis of Finland and early Finnish culture .A fine job has been done by the mother daughter team that translated this book .

Have you read this book ?

Raid and the Blackest sheep by Harri Nykanen

Raid and the blackest sheep by Harri Nykanen

Finnish crime fiction

Translator – Peter Ylitalo Leppa

When I was contact by Diane a Us based pr about this publisher I was very happy I ve read a number of the books you’d call nordic noir .But among them had never read any from Finland and with the other Finnish novels I d read I was sure the crime fiction from there would be very different so I had two from Ice cold crime arrive this the first I read is by Harri Nykanen ,he used work as a crime reporter in Helsinki ,he describe his books as viewing the underworld through the eyes and rules of the criminals .This is the fourth book in the raid series after the first three were written there was a very succesful tv series made in Finland that at the height of the show it was watched by twenty percent of the population .I found a trailer but its in finnish but from watching it you get the feel of the series .

So to the book Raid ,I don’t like joining books in the middle of series but it wasn’t til I started to write-up this review I found out it was the fourth book in the series .So it stood up well by itself ,Raid is a hitman but he is a quiet character in the book ,I was remind a bit of the saint by Leslie Charteris ,a bad guy but with a moral code as that is what Raid seems to have .The story is a road movie in a book .Raid has been hired by Nygren a large figure in the criminal underworld to drive him around the north of Finland as Nygren is facing a race against the clock to sort some untie threads in his life .We start at a church were we have to deal with a crooked preacher ,on the way Nygren meet friends and enemies as he tries to put right what he once did wrong (sorry paraphrased  that line just from quantum leap ) .There is a second storyline that is a Detective lieutenant Jansson this is a 50 year rotund balding with his marriages on the rocks ,he has had a run in or two over the years with Raid and wants to pin something on him this time  .So we see the two  storylines  the police and criminals getting close as Jansson follows Raids path via local police reports of people Nygren has dealt with in the past  .

Nygren was approaching sixty .His face was lean and furrowed with an inch long scar at the left corner of his mouth ,With his blond hair combed straight back to the nape of his neck,Nrygen looked almost boyish .The expensive watch on his wrist topped of his stylish attire .

Nygren as the book open sleeping in the back of the car with raid.

What I enjoyed about this book is the feel of it gritty ,a bit more masculine than other nordic crime books I ve read and also the way Nygren had flipped  the storyline round .So the main drive of the book is the viewpoint of the criminals as they head round north Finland sorting things out .Raid is a character I could read again and again ,I can see why he has become a real star in Finland he is a bad guy you like ,ok he kills people but only the  right people the truly  bad people ,he is a quiet guy but one that is loyal to whoever is paying him in this case Nygren as he need Raid to make sure he gets all he needs to get done in the race against time .I said he remind me of the saint I meant the saint is a character that walk line of morals  was he good or bad he helped people I also felt raid had the same air of mysery simon templar had .My one big qualm with the book is it cover I find rather non de script and   it does this wonderful book no real favours .So if you like to read a criminal viewpoint on nordic crime with a dose of action and drama this is the book for you .

Have you read any Finnish crime novels ?

The summer book by Tove Jansson

source – own copy swapped for winter book with Inside books .

Tove Jansson was a finnish writer that wrote in Swedish ,she was best known for her children’s books the Moomin series ,which was made into a tv series ,that I watched as a child and loved its humour ,which is in this book .

The summer book follows the gran Tove and her six-year-old grand-daughter ,on her Island home during a summer ,The winter book I read earlier this year was mainly about coping on the Island over the winter .But summer book is firmly about family and the fun A six-year-old can be with questions ,we also see the ebb and flow of the island ,new neighbours Sophie the grand-daughter missing her father who returns in one of the stories .The stories are rich in the tapestry of life ,fun and simple .Tove Jansson has manage to make everyday life seem bright and Vibrant to the reader .I manage to get through this book in an evening smile and laughing along the way .

Sophie asked her grandmother what heaven looked like ,and grandmother said it might be like the pasture they were just the walking by ,on the way to the village over on the mainland .They stopped to look ,it was very hot the road was white and cracked ,and all the plants along the ditch had dust on their leaves .

Sophie like any young child has a questioning nature .

Passages like this remind me of my own holidays with grandparents growing up ,they always seemed so wise and different and always seemed to have the answer to any question ,like the grandmother .There are new neighbours to deal with a large house new to the island ,The grandmother and Sophie sneak over and have a look at this house and Sophie is surprised by how big it is and then the owners appear with a huge dog the runs and barks ,she gets nervous but grandmother gives him some sugar and the owner says he only wants to play .This story was so funny ,you can see Sophie’s nervousness at  being in the house ,and fear of the dog but this is laced with humor and Sophie saying thinks like

he’s got big paintings .

They’ve found our boat .

Build the tension and humor .The book is now firmly one of my favourites and Jansson one of the best writers I ve read ,her style is uncluttered ,engaging and most of all highly readable ,the translation is perfect the book reads as thou it was originally written in English not Swedish .it evokes this island yet again ,I said on twitter it to someone when reading it ,that it made me want to live on a small island there is something about being away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life .Translated by Thomas Teal .

PURGE BY SOFI OKSANEN

 

source – library book

Sofi Oksanen is a finnish Estonian writer based in Finland ,this book won this years

Nordic book prize .She he father is finnish and her mother is Estonian .she has been heavily identified with BLGT Lit and has been well praised in the Baltic states for highlighting this .

The book centres on two women’s lives fifty years apart one at the start of communism and the other at the end of it ,we see how there stories develop ,throughout the book the main body of the work is devoted to Zara a victim of human trafficking in the nineties her trial and tribulations and how she escapes the clutches of the people who made her take part in the sex trade ,this story is a story that needs to be told and is a common problem for young women in the former soviet states that end up on the streets and dark rooms of the larger cities in Europe

A light shone through the keyhole .Zara awoke on a mattress next to the door .Pus had drained from her inflated earlobe; she could smell it .She groped for the beer bottle on the floor .the mouth of the bottle was sticky ,and the beer made her throat feel the same way go from dry to sticky and rough .

Zara early on in Berlin held in a room for men to use .

The second person in the book is Zara’s  great-aunt Aliide Truu ,she has her own story to tell of love and jealousy with Zara grandmother her sister during and after the second world war that lead her to live in a remote part of Estonia and be estranged from her sister and the family ,in the middle part of the book we see the sisters story unfold during and after the war and how communism effected even the most normal of families as it did in their case ,this lead aliide to become a very strong and self-willed person she is at the very start when she finds the broken Zara at the front of her remote house as she has escape the clutches of the people who forced her into the sex trade .she is hesitant at first but then comes to care for her grand-niece .

Aliide tightened her grip on the scythe .Maybe the girl was crazy .Maybe she had escaped from somewhere .You never know .Maybe she was just confused ,maybe something had happened that caused her to be like that .Or maybe it was that she was in fact a decoy for a Russian criminal gang .

Aliide find her grand-niece in the garden .

This is a truly powerful novel ,it was developed from a play so there is a lot of speaking in places ,it seems to capture the female struggle before during and after communism for women in the Baltic states .The book is very violent in places but this is need as the subject matter shouldn’t be sugar-coated for the reader .a wonderfully powerful novel from a truly promising  Young female writer .the book was translated by Lola Rodgers who seems to have done a wonderful job retaining the characters voices .

the year of the hare by Arto Paasilinna

notes-

this book was originally written in 1975 ,and may be describe as new age in a way ,Arto Passilinna is Finnish a journalist poet and novelist .The year of the hare is his most successful book being named a U.N.E.S.C.O BOOK IN 1994 .The book has twice been made into a film in 1977 and 2006 .Arto has published over twenty novel his last published in finland last year Elävänä omissa hautajaisissa (“Alive at His Own Funeral”) .

THE BOOK -

The story revolves around Vatanen a finnish journalist ,he and a photographer are driving home one evening when they hit a hare . they gather the injured hare .At this point Vantanen decides to nurse the hare and follow it to the far north and wilds of finland,abandoning his previous life and his family as he does so ,but along the way taking a number of small jobs with an assortment of characters he runs along .He wants the hare as his constant companion and only real friend .in the end Vantanen ends up in prison in the old soviet union as the hare doesn’t know about borders . but not even this keeps him from freedom with his hare at his side .

my view-

this book seems to be of its time 1975 ,it is a  new age novel in the vein of Jonathan Livingstone seagull about freedom and being yourself no matter what .Artos use of the hare is wonderful through history the hare has been revered as a magical and mischievous creature .The book is wonderfully paced with short snappy chapters and at 130 pages long is a two sitting or all day book . A real find of a book .

links -

peter owens page

QUESTION -

Have you read this book or any finnish fiction ?

A Winter Book by Tove Jansson

 A winter book is a collection of wintery themed book from the writer Tove Jansson ,perhaps best known for her moomin books for children although not a huge fan of the moomin books i did enjoy the cartoon series of the moomins .well the stories span a life time from childhood in finland to being a grown up ,letters  .The writing has been wonderfully translated from Swedish ,the stories are simple and powerful .you get a real feel for Jansson as a person .Out of the stories the ones that really gripped me where -

 The squirrel ,a wonderful short tale of a tame squirrel that ventures on to an island where the writer lives and brightens what is a quiet tranquil place with its liveliness and antics

correspondence ,a group of letters from a japanese person  to Tove ,the beauty of these is how it shows a writer can touch people all over the world how tales wrote in a small island in finland can travel and engross a reader in japan .This showed me why my around the world project matters to me as to be touch by voices round the world is one of the greatest joys of reading

One windless day in november, near sunrise,she saw a squirrel at the landing-place .It was sitting motionless near the water, scarcely visible in the half-light , but she knew it was a real live squirrel and she hadn’t seen a living thing in a long time .You can’t count gulls:they’re always leaving:they’re like the wind over waves and grass.

a quote from start of the squirrel by Tove Jansson ,a winter book is published by sort of books

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