Saturday, January 16, 2010

Veikko Huovinen: Havukka-ahon ajattelija (novel)

A Finnish novel. Porvoo / Helsinki: WSOY 1952. I read the tenth edition from 1958.

Re-read the most famous novel of Veikko Huovinen (1927-2009), this reading inspired by Kari Väänänen's film. Veikko Huovinen is one of my favourite writers in any language, and he belongs to the special brand of Finnish writers whose work is based on word magic. They create new words and expressions which have onomatopoietic, magical, almost carnal relations to the things they describe. They are also interested in animism. Yet they also have a sober and humoristic viewpoint. Writers in this tradition include Aleksis Kivi, Pentti Haanpää, and Veikko Huovinen. They are prose writers whose language has special qualities of poetry. I don't think there has ever been a good translation of any of their works, and the task of translation may be impossible.

Konsta Pylkkänen, Veikko Huovinen's favourite character, appeared in three books of his, the last one written six years before his death. In the deep forest he thinks big thoughts. He is a free wanderer but not a hermit. In his observations there is a view of the history of Finland from the great hunger years of the 1860s (Aleksis Kivi's era) to the present day of the nuclear danger. His mother had died of hunger during the Great Depression.

Despite the gravity of his basic themes Veikko Huovinen can also be enjoyed as pure word gravy.

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