Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Autumn reading

Kai Ekholm, Jussi T. Koski: Pysähtymiskirja. Paremman etsijälle. / [The Book of Standing Still. For the One Who Is Looking for Something Better]. Helsinki: Into Kustannus, 2013. A good suggestion for a gift book: wisdom of life for our age. It's about living in the escalating media torrent, how to be a master of one's own life in the middle of the raging data storm.

Dorrit Gustafsson, Kristina Linnovaara (ed.): Essays on Libraries, Cultural Heritage, and Freedom of Information. Helsinki, 2013: Publications of the National Library of Finland 81. - Essays written by Janne Andresoo, Pekka Gronow, Juha Hakala, Tuomas Heikkilä, Kristiina Hormila-Poutanen, Esko Häkli, Päivikki Karhula, Matti Klinge, Mikael Korhonen, Tuija Laine, Jukka Liedes, Kai Linnilä, Ilkka Mäkinen, Hanna Nikkanen, Yrjö Repo, Hermann Rösch, Jarmo Saarti, Gunnar Sahlin, Sinikka Salo, Sinikka Sipilä, Vigdis Moe Skarstein, Paul Sturges, Pia Södergård, Jukka-Pekka Timonen, Gunilla Widén, Timo Virtanen, Mauri Ylä-Kotola. - Festschrift published on the occasion of Kai Ekholm's 60th birthday. - Kai Ekholm has been the director of the National Library of Finland since 2001, during the age of the greatest turbulence in literature since Gutenberg. Free speech has been Ekholm's central theme in his scentific work, including in his dissertation. Such issues, and questions of copyright and heritage, are covered in the essays written by high profile authors.

Kai Ekholm: Niiden kirjojen mukaan teidät on tuomittava / [By Those Books You Will Be Judged]. Helsinki: Atena, 2013. A detective novel. The title has been inspired by the Last Judgement fresco of the Albi Cathedral whose concept is based on the Book of Revelation. The book is a page-turner. I have had my period of devouring detective fiction, but now I am completely out of touch though I know there's a lot worth reading. I have my own comparable hobbies such as Marilyn Monroe biographies (I was about to write "Marilyn Monroe fiction"). I'm also amazed at the Rashomon-like discrepancies in the accounts of the JFK assassination. Currently I am an avid reader of the case of Cornelius Gurlitt, the Munich hermit with his cache of 1300 artworks. I'm incapable of assessing Ekholm's book as detective fiction, but I'm fascinated by the Gurlitt link in this novel whose deep background story is about the giant black market of looted cultural heritage, also one of Ekholm's concerns of study as a researcher.

Markku Jokisipilä, Janne Könönen: Kolmannen valtakunnan vieraat. Suomi Hitlerin Saksan vaikutuspiirissä 1933-1944 / [Guests of the Third Reich. Finland in the Sphere of Influence of Hitler's Germany 1933-1944]. Helsinki: Otava, 2013. Books like this are more thrilling than fiction. This is the most comprehensive study of the relations between Germany and Finland during the Third Reich. Much of this is familiar, but the general picture is new, and there is also a lot of previously unpublished material. Finland was not German-oriented in the 1930s, but there was an important cultural bloc that was, and German links and sympathies among the military were strong. This book offers the greatest comical writing I have read all year: the "dinner of nine provinces" the writer Maila Talvio offered to Alfred Rosenberg accompanied by Karelian dirge singers, utterly demolishing Talvio's pretenses of our Aryan heritage. And also some of the most horrifying writing, in the account of the visits of Hitler and Himmler to Finland in 1942, the year of the Final Solution. The authors are fully tuned to the extreme complexity of the situation. Finland had a unique position during WWII. This book helps understand better. A splendid example of Finland's new history school, able to offer truths that might have been too uncomfortable to discuss in public during the Cold War.

Matti Salminen: Pentti Haanpään tarina / [The Story of Pentti Haanpää]. Helsinki: Into Kustannus, 2013. Pentti Haanpää belongs to my handful of favourite Finnish writers, word magicians with a compelling vision of life and society. Good books have been written about him, but Matti Salminen manages to uncover much that is new. Haanpää's life and work needs to be reconsidered fundamentally in the light of this new information. Haanpää was a bitterly critical writer during the reactionary 1930s. His work was being suppressed but he found channels to publish, sometimes in papers and magazines that have been obscure until now, as discovered by Salminen. This book is a must for Haanpää aficionados although the text is unpolished and the approach is needlessly and heavy-handedly undiplomatic towards other Haanpää scholars. Salminen should be proud of what he has accomplished and let readers draw their own conclusions about other scholars.

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