Wednesday, 27 May 2009

F.E. Sillanpää: Silja - 3


Having thus grown up, young Kustaa of Salmelus had to arrange the funeral first of his mother and, very soon after, his father. One spring at the time of the melting ice his mother died, and his father in the autumn of the same year.

As soon as his mother died, Kustaa realized that, for the first time in his presence, life at Salmelus had suffered a nasty jolt, pushed in a new direction from which it would never return. And he could not say whether this change marked a rise or a fall; with the spring’s reviving blossom were mixed the gravity of death and the unexpected alteration of life. He knew only that what had happened was something more than a mere passing-away; the people who remained were not the same, not even in the beautiful light of the sun…

It was a strange summer. Kustaa was returning from taking the horses to pasture. In the midst of the familiar shimmering of the summer evening he gave an unpleasant start: gazing amiably at the house, he had forgotten that his father was alive, he was still alive. It was as if the young man’s loneliness came towards him through the pasture gate like some creature… Hilma, the young kitchen maid, sat by the corner post of the veranda daydreaming, her eyes on the horizon. In this there was nothing unusual: the family ate in the kitchen and the girl sat there in order to be ready to serve them, if something were needed at table. Seen superficially, hundreds of bright summer evenings are as like one another as the dice in a cup. But in one of the dice there is a great prize; imposing and breathtaking, like the threat of thunder at bedtime… Kustaa still had some way to go, straight across the courtyard, in order to reach the place where the girl was sitting. Slowly and very routinely, she could have got up and gone inside. But this she did not do. She continued to sit where she was, allowing her features peacefully to depict her beautiful, melancholy mood, as though with her languorous gaze she were demanding that the young man notice it. The young man, who had just lost his mother, found a great sweetness in the girl’s nature and gaze. He needed to sling the reins over the corner post of the veranda where she sat. He stretched across her shoulder and put them there… There they were that summer evening, Hilma and Kustaa, future companions in fate and parents of the children they would bring into the world together. For them that evening would not pass by being set aside.

translated from Finnish by David McDuff

Silja - 2

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