Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Books on my nightstand

Veikko Huovinen: Luonnonkierto. Novelleja, pakinoita, lyhyitä erikoisia 1950-2001. [Natural Circulation. Short stories, causeries, special short prose]. Helsinki: Siltala, 2012. Veikko Huovinen (1927-2009) was a treasure in Finnish literature, a master of the language, a humorist, a satirist, a pacifist, an ecologist. The great writer also enjoyed great popularity, and all his life he also wrote short prose for magazines. This collection includes only stories that have never been published in a book before. There are  also texts that are published here for the first time. Among other things, Veikko Huovinen is a master of laugh-out-loud short comic prose. When my father once returned from Tampere in 1969 he had read during the train journey the humoristic collection of short prose Mikäpä tässä [untranslatable, means something like As Good As It Gets] and told that he had attracted the attention of the whole train car by laughing out loud. Since then, the family, at least we the sons, became Huovinen aficionados. Later we lived in Tampere, and at school, the Tampereen lyseo, our legendary Finnish teacher Pentti Kalela (aka Pote) had a test for every class to read aloud Huovinen's short story "Uuteen tukikohtaan" ["A New Bastion"]. Whenever the reader broke into laughter he had to pass the book on to the next reader, and the test was if the class was able to read the story to the end in one round. It never was. There are such stories in this posthumous collection, too: "Varjopuolia ja epäkohtia Euroopassa" ["Drawbacks and Weaknesses in Europe"] and "Kovat kisat" ["Tough Games"], for instance. On the whole, Veikko Huovinen is untranslatable. His work is such word gravy that it is impossible to convey into another language. This goes also for his deeply felt stories about the nature, about the deep Kainuu forest. They also reveal something about the onomatopoietic and magical character of (the Finnish) language. There are still Huovinen stories that have so far only been published in magazines. To the end of this blog entry I copy a list of such stories by Huovinen that we have kept in our family collection and that have as far as I know not been published in books.

Anton Chekhov / Anton Tshehov: Valitut novellit II [Selected Short Stories II] [1887-1903]. Selected by V. Kiparsky, translated by Juhani Konkka. Porvoo - Helsinki: WSOY, 1959. The second part of this Anton Chekhov collection comes up to his very last stories (The Bishop and The Bride). During his first seven years as a writer Chekhov published over 500 stories; during the last 16 years, less than a hundred. There is increasing gravity in his work, and it is rewarding to read these stories in chronological order. In this selection the very greatest ones are not included, as they were published in another set of two volumes; the only longer tales included here are Ward No.6 and The Black Monk. A child's viewpoint is important in Chekhov's new stage as an artist (At Home, During the Holy Week). A critical view of society is evident (Sleepy, A Case from a Doctor's Practice). Oppression in Siberia, in military service and in exile, is among the themes (Gusev, The Deported). There are three tales with aspects of horror and affinities with Poe and Balzac (A Bet, Ward No. 6, and The Black Monk). There is a classic caricature (The Man in the Case). Recurrent themes are the woman whom love passes by (The Story of Miss NN, Ionich), the hypocritical woman (A Princess), and the superficial woman (Anna on the Neck, Darling). Might The Story of a Head Gardener, about a self-sacrificing doctor, be Chekhov's fairy-tale self-portrait? There is a powerful cinema-like dream quality in certain passages of Sleepy. Might The Bishop have been one of the sources of inspiration for Ingmar Bergman's Winter Light? I cannot relate to Chekhov's melancholia and resignation although I find these stories among the greatest ever made.

487. Дома / Kotona, 1887 [At Home]
512. Отец / Isä ja poika, 1887 [A Father]
493. На страстной неделе / Piinaviikolla, 1887 [During the Holy Week]
536. Рассказ госпожи NN / Neiti NN:n kertomus, 1887 [The Story of Miss NN]
533. Поцелуй / Suudelma, 1887 [A Kiss]
538. Спать хочется / Nukuttaa, 1888 [Sleepy]
546. Пари / Vedonlyönti, 1889 [A Bet]
547. Княгиня / Ruhtinatar, 1889 [A Princess]
551. Гусев / Sotamies Gusev, 1890 [Gusev]
550. Воры / Varkaita, 1890 [Thieves]
566. В ссылке / Karkotettuja, 1892 [The Deported]
562. После театра / Oopperasta palattua, 1892 [After the Opera]
569. Палата No 6 / Sali n:o 6, 1892 [Ward No. 6]
597. Случай из практики / Eräs tapaus lääkärin elämästä, 1898 [A Case from a Doctor's Practice]
594. Человек в футляре / Koteloitunut ihminen, 1898 [The Man in the Case]
579. Рассказ старшего садовника / Ylipuutarhurin kertomus, 1894 [The Story of a Head Gardener]
573. Черный монах / Musta munkki, 1894 [The Black Monk]
577. Учитель словесности / Kirjallisuuden lehtori, 1894 [A Teacher of Literature]
585. Анна на шее / Anna kaulassa, 1895 [Anna on the Neck]
593. Ионыч / Jonytsh, 1899 [Ionich]
599. Душечка / Kullanmuru, 1899 [Darling]
604. Архиерей / Piispa, 1902 [The Bishop]
605. Невеста / Morsian, 1903 [The Bride]

Jack Stevenson: Scandinavian Blue. The Erotic Cinema of Sweden and Denmark in the 1960s and 1970s. Jefferson, North Carolina, and London: McFarland & Company, 2010.

Jack Stevenson (ed.): Fleshpot. Cinema's Sexual Myth Makers & Taboo Breakers. Manchester: Critical Vision, 2000.

Despite their colourful titles Jack Stevenson's books are sober and balanced accounts of little-studied aspects of film history. Denmark was the first country to abolish censorship in 1969 - restrictions to pornography were removed from the criminal code, and film control was restricted to ratings to those under 16 year old only without an authority to ban. Soon the Western world followed the Danish example. During a strange transition period films such as I Am Curious - Yellow and The Language of Love become the most successful foreign films in the U.S.A.

VEIKKO HUOVINEN STORIES not published in books, in our family collection:
Piru ja Pitch-Pine (Uusi Kuvalehti 27/1953)
Vanhat herrat pulputtavat (Uusi Kuvalehti 21/1953)
Ihminen ja eläin (Uusi Kuvalehti 12-13/1959)
Sikojen fonetiikkaa (Kuva-Posti 51-52/1959)
Sinisiä ajatuksia: Elämää suomalaismetsissä (Apu 7/1974)
Sinisiä ajatuksia: Metsän peitossa (Apu, heinäkuu 1974)

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