Sunday, October 30, 2011

Books on my nightstand this week

1. Kjell Westö: Missä kuljimme kerran [Where Once We Walked] (2006). I read Westö's novel mostly on the train ride to Punkaharju and back. An engrossing historical novel with a fresh approach. I read it now because of the premiere of Peter Lindholm's film adaptation this week.
2. Arto Melleri: Pääkallolipun alla [Under the Skull and Crossbones Flag], Melleri's collected prose edited by Martti Anhava, 2011. Melleri was a modern Villonian-Rimbaudian poet, perhaps not a master of structure in his prose, but with a fecund talent for words.
3. Night Visions 26-30 October 2011 festival catalogue (also sporting a skull and crossbones emblem), festival director Mikko Aromaa. I was not able to attend the festival because of a funeral trip to Punkaharju, but I had a great time with the catalogue which is good reading in its own right.
4. Österreichisches Filmmuseum November 2011 programme booklet, director: Alexander Horwath, themes: Dreyer das Gesamtwerk, James Benning: New York, Italy Experimental 1905-2010, What Is Cinema, Die Utopie Film. Some of the best writing on the cinema is also in the programme booklets of film archives.
5. Jacques Malthête, Laurent Mannoni (ed.): L'Œuvre de Georges Méliès. La Cinémathèque française, 2008. This richly illustrated catalogue raisonnée on the non-film elements of Georges Méliès is also a good general survey into the work of the first magician of the cinema, .
6. Kirsi Raitaranta, Leena Virtanen: Ruutia, räminää ja rakkautta: Elokuvaklassikoita lapsille ja nuorille [Film Classics for the Children and the Young.] KAVA / SKS 2011. Published this week: a colourful and attractive media education textbook for schools.
7. Andreas Lommel: Maailmantaide: Esihistoriallinen ja primitiivinen taide (Landmarks of the World's Art: Prehistoric and Primitive Man, 1966, in Finnish 1967). Rereading a childhood favourite: an introduction to the most ancient forms of art. African demon masks are not an expression of demonism but a weapon to master the demon inside. In Lascaux there are abstractions comparable to Paul Klee. Picasso, Klee, and Miró rediscovered something of the inner vision of the primordial man in the age when art was not yet perceived as art but something necessary in man's relationship to the interior and exterior world. The layout is magisterial.
8. Samuli Paulaharju: Wanha Raahe [Old Raahe / Old Brahestad] (1925). The great ethnographer and folklore expert wrote the history of a Finnish seaport town from the 17th century to the present, in search of lost time, rescuing vanishing forms of life. One might expect a subject like this to be provincial, but many of the citizens of Raahe had seen the world as seamen, and it was not unique to have made the trip around the world. During the golden age of the tall ships Finland was a world power in tar and wood export. Paulaharju was a brilliant wordsmith comparable to Aleksis Kivi, and also his own photographer, drawer, and graphic artist. He drew his titles by hand using vintage writing styles and designed the layout of his books which are artworks in every way.
9. A collection of Lutheran psalm books from the 19th century to the present, family inheritance, read and sung in preparation of the funeral service. There are passages of poetry in them, facing the grimmest ordeals with powerful words. The oldest layers are from the Catholic age (before Reformation). "Dies irae", topical today perhaps as an ecological warning, still belongs to the present-day Lutheran psalm book, called in Finnish "Vihan päivä kauhistava" ["The Day of Wrath is Horrifying"]. This Gregorian hymn is much quoted in serious concert music (Berlioz, Mahler, Orff... ), in heavy metal, and in the cinema (Dreyer, Kubrick's The Shining), but the oldest hymn in the current Lutheran psalm book is from the 4th century. Omitted from the current editions is the old Swedish hymn "Kun vääryys vallan saapi" ["When Injustice Reigns"], which sounds topical in the current world financial situation.

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