Thursday, 3 June 2010

Mirjam Tuominen - 7

By Tuva Korsström (continued)

Mirjam Tuominen left Nykarleby, at first for short spells of time, and then finally for good.

'The decisive thing had now happened,' she writes in a short prose piece called Skilsmässa (Divorce) in the book Tema med variationer (Theme with Variations, 1952). 'They were separated, spiritually and physically irreconcilable – and what divided them was stronger than reason and will, stronger than instincts and desires.'

What caused the divorce was not only male jealousy at the woman's 'fornication with spirits, demons and non-personified men' which Tuominen describes in Skilsmässa. It was perhaps above all the jealous, all-consuming attention she herself paid to her own spirits and demons. She demanded solitude and wholeness. At the same time she was torn apart by her own demons.

For a while she lived with her mother and sisters in her former home in Helsingfors – an old, dark apartment, similar to the one in which her little heroine Irina has nightmares. A few years later, as a single mother, she was allocated municipal apartment in Kottby (Käpylä), a suburb of Helsingfors. She moved there with her two daughters and lived there until she died.

The book of prose sketches Tema med variationer reflects this new phase in Tuominen's life. Stories like 'The New Houses' or 'Ahti laughs' derive their origin from the new environment: a row of recently and poorly constructed tenement houses, filled with large working-class families, gypsies, alcoholics, social casualties and rootless people from all over post-war Finland.

This apartment was the first that Tuominen felt to be entirely her own. It was with a sense of triumph that she sat down at her typewriter in the early morning hours. Outside her window construction workers climbed on scaffolds. All around new houses were going up. There was a kind of pioneering spirit in the air.

Kaveri - kamrat - toveri:‘ (comrade) they shouted in the pouring autumn rain, in thirty degrees of frost, Then one had a sense that it was not they, these fellows well wrapped up and yet lightly clad: young and old - who were carrying out the work, But angels, While the men - old and young - stayed at home in order to drink hot milk - Kaveri - kamrat - toveri: in a long line at 7 in the morning they came. They laughed. They whistled. And did the work: Together. In broken Swedish, in broken Finnish, natural Finnish, natural Swedish, natural Yiddish - homeless people from Karelia, homeless people from Hangö, homeless people from some concentration camp in Central Europe...

With Tema med variationer Mirjam Tuominen embarked on a stylistic experiment on the borders between prose and prose poetry. While hitherto she had employed a timeless and classical literary language, now she strove for the inner leaps of the stream of consciousness.

She was moving from prose to poetry.

<(to be continued)

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