Sunday, November 06, 2011

Books on my nightstand this week

Besides some books that I still haven't finished reading and that I mentioned a week ago:

1. Antti Tuuri: Ikitie [Eternal Road], 2011. A historical novel written in a matter-of-fact style, with a sense of epic grandeur. Set in 1930-1938, it starts in Kauhava, Pohjanmaa, where the liberal leftist protagonist is taken to a ride at night by vigilantes of the extreme right. Barely surviving an assassination attempt he escapes into Soviet Karelia where he has to endure the Great Terror of the 1930s with its genocidal massacres of Karelian Finns. Barely surviving again he escapes back to Finland where the vigilantist movement of the extreme right has been outlawed. From the world of the cinema this shattering novel reminds me of Masaki Kobayashi's The Human Condition, Part III. Thanks to Jukka Kemppinen for recommending this remarkable novel in his blog this week. Kemppinen remarks that Tuuri has also been a translator of Icelandic sagas. But the sober and rugged style is Tuuri's own. From my own family tradition not far from Kauhava I know that disgust was felt towards the vigilantes whose action was contrary to the tradition of freedom in Pohjanmaa, the cradle of free speech. The Enlightenment philosopher - and Lutheran minister - Anders Chydenius was the father of the world's first legislation of free speech in 1766. He also defended the freedom of religion and the freedom of enterprise before Adam Smith.

2. Jari Sedergren and Ilkka Kippola: Dokumentin ytimessä. Suomalaisen dokumentti- ja lyhytelokuvan historia 1904-1944 [In the Core of the Documentary. The History of the Finnish Documentary and Short Film 1904-1944], 2009. There have been about ten books on the documentary film in Finnish during the last decade, but this is the most significant, a foundation work with an abundance of original research. Besides its explicit subject-matter it offers also new insight in the founding of Finnish film companies more generally, the birth of the sound film in Finland, the construction of the image of the newly independent nation, the significant achievements in anthropology, and the various stages of the WWII propaganda.

3. Giovanni Garbini: Maailmantaide: Muinainen maailma (Mesopotamian, Egyptin ja muiden Lähi-idän maiden taide) (Landmarks of the World's Art: The Ancient World [Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Middle East], 1966, in Finnish in 1968. I continue revisiting this favourite book series from my childhood. The emergence of high culture in the most ancient urban societies in the river valleys of the Middle East, where architecture starts, writing systems are born, and history begins. There is archaic power in the images the oldest of which are from 8000 years ago.

4. Parnasso 6/2011, the leading Finnish literary magazine: Martti Anhava's essay on the writer Antti Hyry on his 80th anniversary, Antti Nylen's interview on his new translation of Les Fleurs du mal, and a translation of Thomas Mann's short story Das Wunderkind (The Child Prodigy).

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