Tutarlaps kaugelt neemelt.
Raissa Kovamees. Tutarlaps kaugelt neemelt. Tallinn. Olion. 1998. 303 pages. ISBN 9985-66-087-0.
In a previous review I referred to the island of Muhuas the real protagonist of Raissa Kovamees's (1907- 89) novels, since her writings have given the island a definite identity. Her most recent novel, Tutarlaps kaugelt neemelt (The Girl from a Faraway Peninsula), is no exception. I also characterized the work then under review, Kahe vaina vahel (Between Two Straits; see WLT 70:1, p. 209), as a "perfect ethnographic novel" for its ingenuity in transforming the author's vast data bank of the island's folklore into an artistic narrative.
"The Girl from a Faraway Peninsula," however, is more than that; it is an epic with an irregularly recurring lyric refrain on the wonder of life as such, not just on the lives of some obscure islanders somewhere in the northeastern corner of the Baltic Sea. The girl from the remote peninsula is Kia, and the peninsula is actually a shantytown where the village poor live. Kia grows up there as the daughter of a hardworking widow suspected of kleptomania. She endures many humiliations on that score, but the one overshadowing concern of her life is work. Since her earliest years she has had to toil as a babysitter, a shepherd, a farmhand, and a maidservant to keep body and soul together. At fifty, however, Kia's life of servitude ends with a wedding and a heartwarming ride into the sunset arm-in-arm with a kind forest warden. Is it a typical Cinderella story familiar to all readers since the Age of Sentimentalism? Well, yes and no.
Kovamees's emphasis here is not on sentiment but on sensitivity. Kia's saga of backbreaking labor is interspersed by moments unexpectedly devoted to her thoughts of love, friendship, and beauty. In spite of her humble origins and lack of formal schooling-or maybe because of them-she has been open to the wonders of life and nature since earliest childhood. She cannot, for instance, take a short break from her chores without making a long detour to the grave of her erstwhile playmate Kaasu to place some wildflowers there, saying: "Hello, Kaasu! Just bringing you some flowers. . . . You know it's St. John's Eve and I can visit home . . . and I'm driving a horsecart all by myself. I'm sure you can watch me from heaven, can't you?"
Kia, the holder of this solitary memorial service, is only ten years old, but she never loses her tenderness of heart or her ability to admire the beauty of nature, man, and animal. I call this and similar passages the "recurring lyric refrain." In my estimation, they are the defining moments of the novel.
Raissa Kovamees wrote six novels, plus two plays and many short stories. Their historical time span stretches from the czarist years, through Estonian independence (1918-40), to the Soviet occupation and World War II. Thus, her oeuvre details the destruction of the ancient village culture on Estonia's third-largest island, making it, among other things, an important anthropological document.
The bulk of Kovamees's writings were published in the 1950s and 1960s in Canada, where she lived with her daughter and son. With her children's help, the two novels mentioned in this review are now available in Estonia. One can only hope that the rest of her work will similarly find its way back home.
Hannu Raittila. Pohjoinen puhuu. Helsinki. WSOY. 1997. 174 pages. FIM 137. ISBN 951-0-21858-8.
Hannu Raittila's Pohjoinen puhuu (The North Speaks) presents an array of memorable, often haunting examinations of character and situation, embedded in three novella-length short stories. Raittila's eye for the absurd meshes powerfully with his characters' sometimes tragic circumstances, creating narratives which challenge the reader emotionally as well as intellectually.
Raittila is known not only for his short stories but also for his work as a critic and newspaper columnist. Crucial to his style in the present collection is his wide experience in writing radio plays and television screenplays. The three stories of Pohjoinen puhuu evince a strong reliance on dialogue as a prime means of characterization and manage to create vivid scenes with a minimum of words. At the same time, they use the medium of the written text to fullest advantage, allowing the printed page to obscure the identity of speakers, play tricks of point of view and interpretation, and engage the reader in a difficult battle to arrive at the sense behind what is constantly proven a senseless world.
Whereas many of the formal characteristics of Raittila's stories find parallels in international postmodernist prose, the author shows a keen sense of moments and characters as emphatically and self-consciously Finnish as any imaginable. In the first story of the collection, "Pesa," Raittila paints for us the world of railroad workers in the lean days of the Finnish 1950s, weaving into the narrative details of railroad technology, reminiscences of a generation earlier, and the story of a young boy striving for acceptance and a company job, a combined goal embodied in the term pesa, which denotes both "nest" and the hopper of a railroad engine. In "Huttunen" Raittila follows the ceremonial burial of the remains of unidentified soldiers, recovered from one of the Karelian combat zones of the last world war. The reader follows an array of confused, despairing, sarcastic, and bemused characters of the 1990s as they try to uncover just what happened to one Huttunen, missing in action during the war. Rumors of escape and recriminations of treason vie with the soldier's heroic memory as his descendants and comrades in arms attempt to make sense of an impenetrable mystery, one deeply moving to a generation of Finns. In the title story of the collection, for its part, we follow the adventures of an unemployed writer who finds temporary work chauffeuring Estonian operatives in a scheme to develop trans-Baltic tourism. His resulting peregrinations take him across Norway, Sweden, and a dizzying array of cultural and informational boundaries, replete in the ironies of the 1990s economy.
Hannu Raittila is widely regarded as one of Finland's finest short-story authors, and the present collection certainly lives up to that reputation. The selections here make challenging and engaging reading for the literary critic and the casual reader alike.
Thomas A. DuBois
University of Washington
Irja Rane. Talvipuutarha. Helsinki. WSOY. 1998. 171 pages. FIM 140. ISBN 951-0-22681-5.
Irja Rane's latest novel is very different from her previous, Finlandia Prize-winning work, Naurava neitsyt (see WLT 72:1, p. 172). Talvipuutarha (A Winter Garden) is a brief memoir narrated by a little girl, about six years old, who is sent away from home to spend a winter with her relatives because her teacher-mother is not feeling well. The style of writing is that of a young child's free and imaginative stream of consciousness.
She looks at the snow. Falls and swings with the snow. . . . The sky opens. There are smiles. There are pretty smells and a Paradise, how many trees there are, they shake themselves endlessly and the petals fall, and the angels sway the door curtains of heaven. The angels have yellow wings and they sit on the swords of the sun and the sky is a clean wind and it comes and goes, it blows anyway it wishes to.
The girl first travels to eastern Finland, where her paternal grandparents have recently relocated. At Christmas she is able to meet with her parents and brother during a family reunion at her other grandmother's farmhouse in southwestern Finland. The conversations of people from different parts of the country add character and color to the text through the author's very knowledgeable use of local dialects. The changing scenery and the cavalcade of relatives are depicted through the eyes of a child who is smart, sensitive, and quite independent, although understandably she has her moments of anxiety, especially when her relatives assign her chores she is not accustomed to doing at home.
Christmas at grandmother's house is a sentimental, old-fashioned affair filled with tradition: a fresh tree from the forest decorated with live candles and strings of flags; a trip to the sauna followed by the Christmas Eve dinner, which begins with the reading of the gospel and the singing of a hymn. Finally, there is the visit from the gift-bearing Father Christmas. There's laughter mixed with tears of joy in the celebration of a Christmas with a large extended family that would make up for any winter spent away from home. The little refugee never needs to feel alone among all the relatives and their neighbors.
Despite its simple style, Talvipuutarha is a quaint and engaging story which uses the innocence and candor of a child to take a close look at two families. The girl often sees her mother as a beautiful but rather sad and distant figure, and there is a distinct difference in the personalities of the two grandmothers: one is somewhat stern, less accustomed to children; the other is a sweet, caring, storybook grandma. The novel ends with the description of the death of this dear grandmother, a symbolic passing of a time and place where people did not need to warn children not to talk to strangers. The girl's winter away from her immediate family has been a worthwhile adventure after all, thanks to the kind of extended family one could only wish for in similar circumstances.
Walla Walla, Wa.
Joni Skiftesvik. Yli tuulen ja saan. Helsinki. WSOY. 1997. 173 pages. FIM 145. ISBN 951-0-22210-0.
Joni Skiftesvik's Yli tuulen ja saan (Above the Wind and Weather) takes us to the northern Baltic of 1944, where wartime intrigues, clandestine activities, and the sea vie to defeat Aulis Kurtti, the dogged, imperfect, but thoroughly likable addition to Joni Skiftesvik's already considerable gallery of northern characters. Kurtti's story revolves around his relations with his wife Linnea, mistress Veera, and daughter Armi as well as the frustrations and adventures of his personal and employment history. But it is also a novel of suspense and of the sea, a wonderfully compelling and entertaining work fully equal to Skiftesvik's well-established reputation.
With the patient and building style of a seasoned writer, Skiftesvik gradually unfolds before his readers the personalities and pasts of his main characters. He portrays the panicky, backbiting culture of late wartime Finland, as nosy citizens scrutinize the neighbors they dislike for potentially treasonous activities. Their supercilious and annoying letters are interspersed throughout the text, providing dry humor in a narrative that turns poignant and suspenseful by turns.
Skiftesvik reaches back into Finnish history to give us a portrait of human displacement as only the twentieth century has known it: a single family's shifting fortunes in the political and social conflicts of World War II. Leaving Finland after being blamed for an accident which was not his fault, Kurtti has brought his family first to America and then to Soviet Karelia, only to be forced to flee back to Finland during the Stalinist purges. There he serves in the army, unable to regain the status and trust which a naval appointment would have afforded. His army experience does little to lessen neighbors' suspicions but instead pulls him and his boat into dangerous company after his discharge. Skiftesvik portrays Kurtti's attempt to recover his dignity and status in an increasingly hostile and crime-ridden environment, where the reality of Finland's coming defeat against the Soviet Union hangs above all with ominous and unpredictable menace. With insight and care, Skiftesvik leads us to ponder the choices of wartime life as we consider both the haunting memories of the family's escape from Karelia and their eventual decision to flee to Sweden. Through it all, however, Kurtti holds onto a hope, a potential reward which he can win for discovering a hitherto uncharted reef, an object of danger which may prove Kurtti's only source of surety and friendship in an otherwise uncaring world.
As Joni Skiftesvik's eighteenth published work since his literary debut in 1983, Yli tuulen ja saan evinces many of the qualities which have become trademarks of this important writer's work. Few Finnish authors explore the psychology and society of the north of Finland with such insight, and fewer still provide such vivid depictions of the sea and the people who make their life upon it. Skiftesvik's artistry lies in the people he creates and the warmth and skill with which he depicts their quibbles, deeds, and dreams.
Thomas A. DuBois
University of Washington
Eeva Tikka. Kahdesti kastettu. Helsinki. Gummerus. 1997. 159 pages. FIM 134. ISBN 951-20-5215-6.
Kahdesti kastettu (Twice Christened) is Eeva Tikka's fifth collection of short stories, and her lifelong exploration of characters on the fringe in marginal situations is here at its finest. Not one of the fifteen stories in this aptly titled book is longer than fifteen pages, but most are delicate crystallizations of emotional encounters and self-recognitions in fewer than seven pages. The fifteen stories in "Twice Christened" crystallize around odd objects, such as an altar painting or an unusual crustacean. The stories occur in three sections, roughly corresponding to childhood, adulthood, and old age, although the characters appear in odd configurations.
For instance, in the first story, "Veden psalmi" (Psalm of Water), a child and her fierce, evangelical father share a vision of an angel-loon, whereas in "Vainaja laulaa" (Song of the Departed) a child who is alienated from his taciturn father tries to understand him through his beautiful singing voice. When the father dies and his choir presents his widow and son with a concert in his honor, both child and father grow closer in spirit. In "Hengen kevat" (Spring of the Spirit) a senile old man visits his childhood home in his wife's company, trying to reconnect with his mother who was taken by the spirit and who spoke in tongues, mysterious languages the boy nearly understood, resurfacing in his own senility, which finds expression here in mystical encounters of memory.
While such mystical connections are the unifying spirit of Tikka's stories, her command of short-story structure and her knowledge of Finnish material and natural culture give her work a gritty authenticity. In "Uhvakalla uunin paalle" (With the Bread Paddle on the Stove), little Anni is startled at her grandfather's wake to hear his threat to stick her on the stove with the bread paddle if she doesn't eat her bread. His meanness and her obstinacy gain a new layer of meaning through this frightening vision. In another story, "Viila," lonely little Lassi steals a file from his father's workshop but returns it and confesses in fear of the sun's falling from the sky, as a neighbor has told him of the millennium. Lassi's fear of his fierce father is overwhelmed by his greater fear of a coming apocalypse.
In the second section, which focuses mostly on adult encounters with emotional realities, the eccentricities of human behavior are largely explained by the tremendously demanding emotional debts acquired in families or marriages or working relationships. For instance, in "Kymmenen kertaa parennettu" (Ten Times Cured) a skeptical man finds himself at a revival meeting, where he meets a familiar man whose debilitating panic attacks have been "ten times cured" at such meetings, leaving the skeptic to ponder the qualities of faith. In "Tunnustus" (Confession) an underpaid salesgirl pilfers from the till. Later, when she gets religion, she tries to confess to her now senile and deaf former employer, who ignores her. However, the employer's wife applauds the girl's audacity, wishing she too had dared help herself from her stingy husband's coffers while her life was still ahead of her. In the title story, "Kahdesti kastettu," a failed Christian and failing man hears from his elderly mother the story of his own dual baptism as an infant, once in the snow and then in an impromptu ceremony in a schoolhouse. Neither his eagerness to be born again nor his real-life christening has buoyed him in the vicissitudes of adult life.
The last set of five stories centers on old age, violence, and violations. In "Alttaritaulu" (Altar Painting) a battered woman considers her otherwise gentle ex-husband's beatings. Did she deserve them? And how does he treat his new wife? In any case, his blows have become the central meaning in her life. In "Kilkki" (Crustacean) a lonely woman, unmarried and bound to the care of her ailing mother, goes out of her way to liberate an odd crustacean she finds in a packet of herring from the open-air market.
Eeva Tikka's beautifully crafted stories often reach backward through memory or sideways through chance encounters with near strangers or deep plunges into senility or madness. These characters are truly twice christened, often chastened, and sometimes transcended.
Kathleen Osgood Dana
Antti Tuuri. Lakeuden kutsu. Helsinki. Otava. 1997. 363 pages. FIM 172. ISBN 951-1-14438-3.
Lakeuden kutsu (The Call of the Plains; a reference to the vast expanse of lowlands extending inland from the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia), the latest novel by Antti Tuuri, the exceptionally prolific writer of prose, plays, filmscripts, and radio dramas, won the coveted Finlandia Prize for 1997. The author has let his readers know that this book concludes his six-novel series about people of that plains region, and, more specifically, about the lives of three generations of the Hakala family. The time span of the series extends from America of the 1920s to Euro-Finland of the 1990s.
In this series-concluding novel, Erkki Hakala, the third-generation protagonist, returns home after having spent over ten years in Florida, where he escaped paying taxes on the revenues of his carpet factory. He returns to a clean slate, his debts are forgiven, and Tuuri would have us believe that, in retrospect Erkki's shenanigans in outwitting the tax department pale into insignificance in comparison with the murky business decisions made by bank directors who have cost the country billions-a questionable moral argument, at best.
In keeping with Tuuri's declared theme of forgiveness, Erkki Hakala forgives his brother, whom he left in charge of the factory in his absence but whose management skills could not ward off bankruptcy during recessionary times. On a more personal level, Erkki is pursuing his wife Kaisu, to whom he is still married despite their long separation. Tuuri's world is a man's world; hence Kaisu is the fallen woman who has, in her husband's absence, borne a son by a man identified only as "the one from Lapua." Although Erkki seemingly wants to be part of the lives of his daughter and this boy, the ambiguity of his resolve is not lost on the reader. We never learn the boy's name, as Erkki refers to him merely as "the one sired by the Lapua man."
Tuuri is at his best in bringing to life the characters' sense of place, the indelible impression the plains make on the people of the region, and the insularity of these people to whom even neighboring villagers are "foreigners." He is a master at telling about the changes in the lives of the region's farmers made by the barely conceivable new European authority. Historically, unlike farmers in most other European countries, the Finnish farmer has always been independent; thus, having now to conform with Brussels's all-encompassing directives becomes an invincible cause for struggle, Most notably, however, Tuuri is brilliant at evoking the typical, somewhat self-deprecating humor of the populace.
Stylistically, Lakeuden kutsu, whose narrative time span is one July day, employs Erkki Hakala as the first-person narrator in a curiously archaic mode. In the absence of dialogue, not only is the entire narrative filtered through the narrator's point of view, but in the process, events and opinions of others get condensed or summarized by Erkki, making him more of a chronicler than a narrator in a literary sense. Despite many dramatic happenings in the novel, there are no emotional highs or lows; the tone remains consistently flat and detached, leaving the reader unengaged on an emotional level. In the end, and despite the enormously rich source of narrative material with which Tuuri is very familiar, Lakeuden kutsu, rather than being a great novel, one which would memorably cope with the condition humaine, turns out to be pure entertainment, no more and no less.
Daniel Lowy. A teglagyartol a tehervonatig. Cluj, Rom. Erdelyi Szepmuves Ceh. 1998. 368 pages. ISBN 973-98374-2-5.
Hannah Arendt and a bevy of modern historians opined that Romania was one of the most anti-Semitic countries in prewar Europe. With hauteur and outrage, an equal number of scholars denied such charges. A teglagyartol a tehervonatig (From the Brickyard to the Cattle Car) renders eloquent proof of the veracity of the accusing camp. Be that as it may, the work is an unsentimental history of the Hungarian Jewish population of Kolozsvar (Cluj), the so-called treasure city of Transylvania. It is primarily a reconstruction of the tragic events of fifty-four years ago when what is now Romanian territory belonged to Hungary.
This profound and compelling document is a tribute to honor the dead but also to warn the living. As a major testimony against the "danger of forgetting," it was first and foremost penned for the younger generations, who know less and less of the Holocaust but continue to manifest an eager curiosity about its human impact, its psychological roots, and the chief antagonists of humankind's ultimate drama. Daniel Lowy does not pontificate, blame, probe ethics, or sound shocked or outraged, but instead, with understated eloquence and in a lean, taut, translucent style, provides a devastating text with no avenues of escape for the reader. A modern, reticent Rhadamanthus, he demands that we grapple with the true story, the real implications of the Holocaust-its absolute evil.
By focusing attention on a variety of controversial issues, the book accurately reflects to whom, what, how, and why such unspeakable horrors could happen. With painstaking, stubborn consistency, the author gathered his data by conducting interviews with survivors, researching countless contemporary documents, and consulting history tomes as well as street monuments, even personal relics.
The volume is divided into two parts; the first twenty-six chapters delineate the city's history and that of its Jewish citizenry's history from 1848 to the late 1940s, detailing the struggles for emancipation. It also depicts the Jewish residents' rich contribution to the development of Kolozsvar/Cluj in the first decades of this century (they built hospitals, schools, businesses), minutely tracing both events and lives during World War II and then depicting the inevitable road to destruction: the city's own Holocaust. (The evacuations to the brickyard started on 3 May 1944, and within a month the cattle cars emptied their human cargo in Auschwitz.) Lowy pursues his goals relentlessly, undeterred by any of the evidence, no matter how overwhelming or repugnant; with dry objectivity he brings into focus both the ghastly tortures and the deeds of many humanitarian "Wallenbergs," the accusers and the accused, unfailingly incorporating the meticulously acquired testimonies by the teeming cast of the most macabre drama in the twentieth century. We gradually learn how, out of sixteen thousand Jews, only about 10 percent survived, and also that merely a handful of the murderers were ever punished after the war.
The second part is a rich, all-encompassing documentation: accurate lists of primary and secondary sources, geographic and sociological reference materials, Romanian and English synopses, Western "supplications," biographies of the martyrs, and texts of noteworthy speeches. Although most of the research was done in Europe, the book was written in the United States.
Daniel Lowy, a true humanist (and an elegant stylist), is not a historian but rather a professor of chemistry! For close to seven years now he has been working in Memphis, Tennessee, but in his heart, although a citizen of Romania, he has remained a proud, loyal Hungarian, a hopeless lover of Kolozsvar, a relentless seeker of truth both as a Jew and as a bona fide mensch.
Inta Mi}ke Ezergailis. Nostalgia and Beyond: Eleven Latvian Women Writers. Lanham, Md. University Press of America. 1998. viii + 269 pages, ill. $57 ($36.50 paper). ISBN 0-7618-0996-1 (0997-X paper).
Inta Ezergailis, who teaches German literature at Cornell University, has established herself as one of the most serious critics of Latvian literature, having gained a great deal of recognition for her scholarly research as well as her new critical insights-recognition which will not be diminished with Nostalgia and Beyond. The eleven Latvian women writers Ezergailis has chosen for her work are not all the most popularly known in the annals of Latvian letters. Such famous women writers as Anna Brigadere, Aspazija, or Zenta Maurin[cedilla]a are not included among the elect, whereas others who are less well known (or some whose place is still uncertain) are prominently featured. For example, the very first entry, Austra Skujin[cedilla]a, whose early death by suicide cut short a promising career, is a controversial figure by most reckonings, considered an outsider socially and politically by the well-bred. For this reason, her name often does not figure in the literary histories of the time. Ezergailis's final entry, Margita Gu[macron]tmane, as well as another relative newcomer, Agate Nesaule, have just debuted in Latvian letters, though both have scholarly publications in German and in English. Their entries into Latvian letters have stirred some controversial debate among more conservative Latvian readers.
But it would be erroneous to infer that Ezergailis seeks controversy and finds merit only in rebellious spirits. Her approach is distinctly feminist, but not of the aggressive type. She wants to examine these authors in the light of woman's perceptions and experiences, which are so often overlooked or misread by male critics. Most of the other Latvian women writers included are well recognized and praised by official arbiters as well as appreciated by their readers, among whom, not unknown to WLT readers, is Astr[superscript one]de Ivaska. Ezergailis pursues various approaches and sometimes embeds her studies in the framework of some of the more recognized esthetic ideas and social theories of today, thus incorporating Latvian culture in the thought processes of postmodernism. Among Latvian critics there is some resistance to what is perceived to be the dilution of "pure Latvianness" by insisting that Latvian literature partakes of West European thought. Furthermore, Ezergailis, while recognizing the impact a writer is likely to experience from her environment, particularly the political and social pressures, makes little distinction in terms of the country of residence-i.e., homeland or exile, which used to be, and in some instances still is, the watershed for critics and publishers. The cosmopolitan approach, including the many references to the most recognized thinkers of our world, is a welcome attribute to Latvian criticism, which so often tends to be narcissistic.
Carnegie Mellon University
Nils-Aslak Valkeapaa. The Sun, My Father. Ralph Salisbury, Lars Nordstrom, Harald Gaski, trs. Guovdageaidnu, Norway. DAT (University of Washington Press, distr.). 1997 (released 1998). 136 pages, ill. $18.95. ISBN 82-90625-32-4.
Beaivi, ahea6an. Guovdageaidnu, Norway. DAT (University of Washington Press, distr.). 1991. 444 pages, ill. + audiotape. ISBN 82-90625-06-5.
With the publication of the English translation of Beaivi, ahea6an as The Sun, My Father, Nils-Aslak Valkeapaa has possibly gained the stature of a world poet in a world language, speaking for his people at the Arctic margins of Norden, the Scandinavian peninsula. Beaivi, ahea6an is a beautifully composed mythography for the Sami people, filled with photos like a great national family album. Like Seamus Heaney, who grew beyond his own personal needs as a poet to write for all of Ireland, Valkeapaa has embraced both the poetry of his own personal past and the past, present, and future of all Sami people.
Beaivi, ahea6an is an ambitious, multilayered work, with triple cycles of poetry-personal, seasonal, and mythic. The poems are understated, quiet, and intense, filled with images of the seasonal activities of a reindeer-herding people, using understated, subtle, natural metaphors. In fact, in the English version the translators decided to leave the central poem describing a reindeer roundup in the original Sami, simply because English does not have the words or concepts or sounds that can describe this activity, which is central to all of Sami culture. The poems are delicate and strong, like the finest Sami handcrafts, made of local materials and language and shaped by an artist's hand.
The Sami original is beautifully produced, with archival photos of the Sami people, gleaned from museums and archives of Europe and personal photos of the landscape of Sapmi, the Lapland homeland of the Sami people. These images are numbered consecutively along with the poems. In the accompanying audiotapes the poems are read with great care and precision by the author, while the photos are read in accompaniment with yoiks by the author and the incantatory music of Esa Kotilainen, a multitalented musician who has collaborated with Valkeapaa on many projects in the past. Each syllable is precise, exact, and quiet; each image is magical, expressing centuries of domination by southern cultures and societies.
Sami is a small language, spoken by fewer than 60,000 people, many of whom are not literate in their native language, but it is also a remarkably resilient and subtle language. Linguistically synthetic like Finnish, to which it is most closely related, Sami has nevertheless developed a level of secret codes, particularly in its musical yoik tradition.
The Sun, My Father is a fine translation of Beaivi, ahea6an, intelligently and sensitively crafted by Ralph Salisbury, Lars Nordstrom, and Harald Gaski, an unusual trio of translators, who did very fine work earlier on their translation of Trekways of the Wind (1995; orig. Ruoktu vaimmus, 1985), a trilogy consisting of Valkeapaa's autobiographical cycle of poems Gid-a ijat euovgadat (1974), Lavlu vizr biellociza} (1976), and Adjaga silbasuonat (1981). Nordstrom made the first draft from the Swedish translation into English. Salisbury, a Native American poet, concerned himself with the objects and meanings of a native culture as well as the intent of the poetry. Gaski, a Sami scholar at the University of Tromso in Norway, checked the final result against the Sami original. All three counted syllables and meter. However, the English translation is presented without the photos in the Sami original. Thus diminished, it is less a book of translated poetry than a handbook to the Sami original, which is perhaps as it should be.
Maybe the time is right for Westerners to immerse themselves deep in the thought and culture of native peoples. If so, English readers can take great pleasure in the depth and beauty of Nils-Aslak Valkeapaa's Beaivi, ahea6an with The Sun, My Father in hand.
Kathleen Osgood Dana
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|Author:||Dana, Kathleen Osgood|
|Publication:||World Literature Today|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 1998|
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