Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Maaria - 4

from Katoamispiste (Vanishing Point) by Joel Haahtela (Otava 2010)


I listened to Maaria and through the window saw a twinkling, slowly moving light. Perhaps it was a ship, further out at sea. That journey must have been a real escape for her, Maaria thought, pouring a drop of mate into the bottom of a glass. Because if she had understood correctly, Raija's second marriage was in trouble, and she had embarked on the journey to get away from it, she herself hardly knew for how long. Maaria remembered that Raija’s husband, Tarmo, had two sons by his previous marriage who were likely to come and stay with them for a while, and perhaps that had scared Raija, though she had not talked about it.

Maaria related that she had gone back to Helsinki, but Raija stayed on, and when she later returned to Finland, Tarmo was taken ill, and died soon after. It had all happened so quickly, Maaria said, within the space of a few months, and at around the same time Raija's father also died, and now she felt that the two consecutive losses must have been too much for Raija; as though some cold and foreign object had been inserted under her skin.

Yes, Raija travelled again even after that, Maaria said, and even though those journeys were often disappointing and she came back earlier than planned, for one reason or another. In recent years they had not been in contact very often because Raija drank and did not always answer the phone, and there were fewer and fewer letters from her, too.

Then Maaria was silent for a long time, and I did not say anything either, feeling that the words had suddenly exhausted her, and that there were many things she did not really want to remember, and soon she began to talk about something completely different: how an apple tree grew in the yard, in a place where it should not be possible, yet it kept on growing and every spring it bore new white blossoms.

Maaria got up and said that she might still be able to find some of Raija’s letters, though she had not the faintest idea where they might be, because she was not very tidy, even less so this late in life. One day she had even lost her spectacles, and searching for one’s glasses without glasses was rather hard.

Maaria flitted away into the other room and in her absence I studied the bookcase, trying to make out the titles of the books. At the end of one shelf I found a volume by Ingeborg Bachmann, a collection of short stories called Word for Word (Simultan). I took the book in my hands and read the note on the back cover: "Ingeborg Bachmann was born in Klagenfurt in 1926 and died in Rome on 17 October 1973, as a result of serious burns sustained in a fire. She studied the philosophy of Heidegger and Wittgenstein, and after receiving a doctorate from the University of Vienna in 1950 she worked in radio and also in a mental hospital, and lectured at the University of Frankfurt. From poetry which received wide recognition she soon moved to imaginative prose. Malina, Bachmann’s only surviving novel (1971) was translated into Finnish and received the Finnish State Prize in 1984.” The translation was published by Weilin + Göös in 1988, and the front cover showed a painting of a woman's face. One of the woman’s eyes was black; the other seemed to be empty, a gaping hole.

translated from Finnish by David McDuff

(to be continued)

Maaria - 1
Maaria - 2
Maaria - 3