Sunday, 23 May 2010

Mirjam Tuominen - 5

By Tuva Korsström

Besk brygd concludes with essays on Edith Södergran, Franz Kafka and Hjalmar Bergman. 1949 saw the publication of Tuominen’s essay collection Stadier (Stages), which contains studies of Valéry, Proust, Rilke and Cora Sandel, among others. Tuominen was an assiduous reader of literature in the Nordic languages,  German, French, and to some extent also Spanish and Italian. She had extraordinary literary intuition and, while she still wrote reviews in newspapers she often introduced new names there. She was one of the first people in Finland to write about Kafka, and was drawn to Hölderlin years before he was rediscovered by literary fashion, though she seldom used literature as a source of news items. The essays in Besk brygd and Stadier indicate that she wrote only about writers whom she liked and with whom she felt a spiritual affinity.
Of Kafka, she writes:
This latterday relative of Jesus of Nazareth was born in Prague and grew up in an incurably bourgeois home.
One may wonder if there is anything so immensely liable to have a hostile effect, an effect that is deeply and inwardly incurable to the bottom of the soul, on a growing poetic force that senses its possibilities but as yet has no idea of its own existence, than the helplessly arch-bourgeois mentality.
For Tuominen, Franz Kafka became n almost ideal object of identification. Both are victims and outsiders. They feel surrounded by despotic executionerss who want to reshape and adapt them to 'normal', bourgeois life. Both bear the harshest executioner within themselves.
Franz Kafka carried an extremely harsh executioner within himself. He was harsh with himself, exacting as to the quality of what he wrote, and equally exacting of other people.
In her Kafka essay, Mirjam Tuominen consciously or unconsciously defines herself and her writings. When she describes Kafka's irony, it is her own sense of humour she portrays, that of the physically passive, non-aggressive victim.
The irony of both writers is predominant in her analysis of Kafka’s story ‘Die Verwandlung’ (Metamorphosis). The metamorphosis is the only way of escaping the strains of normality:
Gregor Samsa persists in his existence as a beetle, he cannot part from this existence even by his own will, he lives in his dark, untidy bedroom, shabby and neglected, bitter and ashamed, guilty and yet neither ashamed nor guilty, because if he looks like a beetle in the eyes of the family, then there is nothing to be done about itl, then he must be a beetle, he wants to be a beetle, he has no wish to be the respected son, the good brother any more.
Tuominen concludes: 'In order to write a story like “Die Verwandlung” Kafka must have felt the conflict between the demands of his inner being and those of the world around him with extreme and almost intolerable intensity.'  She could hardly have found a more accurate definition of herself and many of her own characters.

(to be continued)

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