Friday, 18 November 2011

Leaves from Autumn's archive

My translation of some excerpts from Bo Carpelan's posthumously published novel Blad ur höstens arkiv (Schildts, 2011) are online at Books from Finland's website. I've also translated an essay by Clas Zilliacus which examines the book's style and structure.

Friday, 4 November 2011


Five allegorical sketches

by Rune Christiansen

The escalators down to the subway lead the shadows ambiguously home. In the absence of other gods, we eagerly greet the chill draught from the trains.


In Poems Around Zero Karl Vennberg wrote: "Someone, perhaps you, seems to be taking a rest, / though in great unrest," and then "Someone, perhaps myself, raises an arm / as against a delayed attack”, and elsewhere: "For a moment to stand there outside / and avoid recognizing oneself!"


We played soccer on a little piece of land, used an empty water bottle and a jacket as goal. I thought of all the years that had gone. When darkness came, we continued for another hour.


The two boys shivering in the rain will soon themselves turn into rain.


One no longer sees oneself as a child in one’s childhood.

translated from Norwegian by David McDuff


From Godfather [Gudfar], by Dy Plambeck

BANG! What a day to be at a cycle race! It was 1953, August, the time shortly before the turn, when the beech tree changes colour and the cycling season ends, and the rain was falling heavily. But it wasn’t one of those days when late summer puts a lid on, when the clouds draw together and the sky closes in like the dough round a baked pie. There was a brief, intense rain shower that made everything look stronger and more radiant, the way stones look brighter when they are wet. Then the sun broke through the clouds over Ordrup Track, and when Tenna noticed it she looked up at the sky. She had just fired the starting pistol to begin the race. It hadn’t been the original intention that she should do it. It was the job of Annalise, loved and admired, at least for her name. She was the daughter of Keller, the Track’s director, but she could not be said to be a great beauty. She was a small, slender woman with the shape of a pheasant. Only because Annalise was sick had Keller asked Tenna if she could oblige.

Tenna was twenty-nine years old, an hourglass-shaped girl with a big bosom, big brown eyes and big jet-black hair that fell in soft curls over her shoulders. She was slim, Gustav could have reached his hands around her waist, yet even so there was something full-bodied about her, something the police described in her dossier as stout, perhaps because everything about her was plump, her bosom, hair, lips, her large square nose, her puffy cheeks, her bushy eyebrows, pretty wasn’t the right word for her, more distinctive, alluring. She watched the riders as they raced down the straight. She loved fast cycling, a points race on the Track, the most exhausting kind of speed test. It was a pure war of nerves. The rider waited only for his opponent to lose concentration so he could attack. Only a moment’s inattentiveness was enough. No circuit race required the same raw strength and self-confidence.
  The start was crucial, the first turn of the pedal, all one’s strength had to go into it. The riders drew up parallel on both sides of their handlebars in order to set off in a straight line, and there was Erik-Frank approaching with his passionate face and elegant style. With his all-crushing ride. Tenna knew him from Pinden, the pub where she worked, the cyclists’ favourite watering hole, when he came and bought draught Tuborg. Tenna waved, Erik-Frank rode past her, and eight years earlier, in 1945, four days after the liberation, drove an open lorry through the old marsh district, Bringemosen, Møllemosen, Bundmosen, that surrounded Værløse camp, and continued across Måløvvej to fetch Tenna and Gustav from their bakery in Knardrup.
  It had been Gustav's dream to expand the bakery. He decided to raise the capital, he had the German discipline, even though he could hardly be called German. He was born in Flensburg, Germany’s Scandinavia, but had been naturalized and received Danish citizenship long before the war. He was seventeen years older than Tenna. One of his distant relatives knew a German officer in Værløse camp. It was through him that Tenna and Gustav came to manage the canteen. That way they could earn a bit extra, put money aside for Knardrup’s first patisserie.

The Germans took charge of Værløse camp from day one, on the very day of the occupation they shot the Danish army’s nine Fokker XXI aircraft to pieces. The Germans knew what they were after, how strong the fighter planes would make the Danish forces. As for the buildings, the Germans left them intact. They could use them. They hoisted the swastika over the camp and set up a shooting academy in the barracks where German fighter pilots from the front came to train. It was not the fighter pilots but the Danish workers at the camp whom Tenna had to serve in her canteen. She served breakfast porridge, sandwiches and leftovers of pastry from the bakery. She was a terrible cook, but the porridge and bread were not too bad. That was the extent of her abilities.

At Ordrup Track there were unparalleled crowds, people jostling in and out between one other, a tumult of shouting and roaring from the loudspeaker which told of the day’s programme, and there he was again, Erik-Frank. Tenna thought it inconceivable that he could ride any faster, but he could. In one single flash he was at the head of the field. It was suicidal to try to get ahead of him, the jet fighter, as he was called. In the first minutes of any sprint, no one could touch him.

As the freedom fighters stormed into the private flat above the bakery in Knardrup, a loud whining rang in Tenna’s ears. Her teeth were chattering. A freedom fighter pressed his submachine gun into her back, jabbed it and threatened to shoot if she did not stop crying. Her knees knocked together. Was it because Gustav was German? It had never even crossed her mind that she and Gustav had been picked up because of her work. While it was true that the canteen was in the workers’ barracks, it was the Danish workers that it served. She had never thought there was anything unpatriotic about working there. Nevertheless that was one of the points in the indictment. Tenna was arrested, forced to get into the back of a lorry and driven away, even though she denied ever having been a member of the DNSAP, the Danish Nazi Party. She had had no connection with the Wehrmacht, the German police, German organizations or the German intelligence service. She didn’t understand why the freedom fighters were asking her about it, didn’t understand what was happening, no, she had never given information to anyone in the service of the Germans, she had never been issued with weapons.


With his delicate face, broad cheekbones, black, brushed-back hair, dimples and athletically trained body, Erik-Frank was the Adonis of Ordrup Track. Tenna watched him as he tore into the bend of the track. He had a nice smile, his teeth were more or less perfect. Gustav on the other hand had had teeth like lumps of amber and was shaped like a cigar. Low-voiced and round he was, and ever so withered to look at. Tenna met him on a staircase. He had been on the way down, she was going up. It was pitch dark. She couldn’t see him, but she liked the sound of his steps. His heavy, shuffling tread on the staircase made her smile. She stopped him. Nine weeks later they got married, it was 1940, she was only sixteen, they needed a royal dispensation.
  In the six years of their marriage Tenna never went anywhere without Gustav, to parties or coffee mornings, and anyway where would she go? They didn’t associate with anyone in Knardrup. Circle of acquaintances: None. That was what it said on their police dossier in black and white. When they were picked up by the freedom fighters and taken to the detention centre in Frederikssund they stood side by side on the back of the open lorry in their fancy dress costumes. They had been on their way to the carnival. Tenna wore a gown that was trimmed with imitation fur and had large tufts of feathers for buttons. Gustav was a negro. He had made a large hollowed-out head of papier mâché which he had put on top of him. It was brown with large, fleshy lips and a broad flat nose. On the head he wore a hat that was too small. In front of them stood a man who had been fetched from his wedding reception. He wore evening dress and had a carnation in his buttonhole. People in the street ran after the lorry, beat on it, spat and screamed: Folk like you should be put in a slicing machine and cut into slices!

Dy Plambeck, Gudfar [Godfather], Gyldendal 2011

translated from Danish by David McDuff


From Katariina, by Marisha Rasi-Koskinen


First I hear the sound. It’s a repeated sharp click followed by two rhythmic thumps. Click thump thump like the soft drum of a heart. When I see her, I see two furiously treading legs, around which the hems of a skirt are entwined. Hair that sways to the rhythm of the heart and descends in a ball. Hair behind which the sun gleams.

Click thump thump.

The legs stop. The skipping rope hits the wooden surface of the landing with a single empty blow and stops at the toes. The rhythm remains. Thump, thump, I think, though the sound is gone now. She looks up and I see her face. I see the serious eyes, the freckled cheekbones and narrow lips. There is something familiar about her, it is just that I do not yet know what.

“You,” she says. “Where did you spring from?"

She doesn’t seem surprised. On the contrary, she talks as if she had been prepared for my arrival. As if she knew me, though we’ve never met before.

I draw my breath.

"Me? What do you mean?"

She laughs. Her laugh is strange, only slightly more of a laugh than a hiccup. She sounds like a little girl, though a rather big one. Too big to be skipping with a rope in a pleated skirt and with scabs on her knees. Too big to speak familiarly to strangers, especially those older than herself. Too big to lick each finger one by one after slipping something from the pocket of her pleated skirt.
"I've seen you before. Tell me who you are."

She isn’t laughing any more. Not only that: she is completely serious. Her hiccups have turned into inexpressiveness in the time it takes to blink an eye or take half a breath. To open a mouth to speak. To intend to. When I say my name, she repeats it as if she knew it in advance.

"Katariina" she says. "You're probably eighteen now."


"That's good. I’m Margareetta. Thirteen."

Then she offers a sweet. I take the sticky yellow oval. It puts up a little resistance before agreeing to free itself from the sweaty palm of her hand. The sweet is fluffy and rough, so sugary that it hurts one’s cheeks.

We have introduced ourselves, exchanged the codes that are sufficient to bring us together during the weeks to follow.

We are Margareetta and Katariina, in that order.

The rules are simple.

"We’ll only meet at your place,” she says. "You can’t come to our place, and don’t come looking for me. I’m the one who decides when we meet, I’ll come when I can and if I don’t it means that I couldn’t. Don’t ask any questions, you don’t need to know. I will take care of knowing and telling you what you need. Got it? "

The rhythm of her speech is like a poem. A slow monologue rehearsed in front of the mirror, or a cheat sheet from a civics test. A preliminary guidance lecture for youth camp participants.

Margareetta does not wait for my reply. Or what I would say if I did reply, for I don’t. I have known her for five minutes and I already know that it is useless to resist her.

"I’ve done my skipping now, haven’t I, Katariina."

I must have closed my eyes, as I didn’t see her face turning into a smile. Yet there she is, smiling, rolling up the skipping rope and throwing it over the railing. She smiles again. I see the rope fall and open up. The sun brushes the plastic surface. My heart stops. It’s a thirty foot drop.

And later, many hours or days or weeks later, we sit on the roof of the house, on either side of the chimney, with the cooling bricks under our bare legs. Behind Margareetta the sun dazzles me so that I can’t see her properly. We sit with every muscle tensed, every nerve-end receptive, in the pit of our stomachs a fist that presses and of which we are unable to say whether it feels good or horrible.

From the roof we can see far away. The cars. The trees. The dogs. The people.

Margareetta speaks first.

"How many of them are actually thinking," she asks, "those people down there?"

"Not very many," I suggest.

"None of them. They’re all just props. They’re there to make us feel lonely. In the right kind of way."

I look at the props far below, props that walk and run, props that stumble, cycle or stagger. Pee against a tree trunk, if they happen to be dogs. Shriek and fly up to the branch of a tree, if they’re birds. How real it all looks. The sound effects carry upwards faintly: a cry, a laugh, the shouting of children.

"The sounds are a bit too quiet," I say. Margaret nods gravely.

"If you fell from here," she says, "it would be a thirty foot drop."

"We’d land with a thump in the middle of the stage.”

Margaret laughs. She looks at the thirty foot drop and continues almost as if in a dream.

"If you lost your balance you’d end up sliding down the drain pipe."

"It would give way."

"Which way would you fall?"

"Legs first, then head. Or maybe head first. The head is heavier."

"It wouldn’t look good," she says. After that she doesn’t say anything for a long time. And then, at last: "I wonder what mother would say when she found you lying on the ground.”

"I don’t know. Cry, probably."

"Or maybe she wouldn’t."

Margareetta gets up and stands on the ladder. She stands with her legs apart and her hands outstretched as though she were trying to hold the sky in her arms. Her long shirt flutters. Her long hair streams.

"I wouldn’t just cry. If you were to fall, I would fly after you." She closes her eyes. "I’d fly so hard and so fast that I’d be able to catch you before you hit the ground."

I believe it. Margareetta always takes hold of me before I fall. If she wants to.

She’s a bird. Quite soon she will take flight. Quite soon she will fall. I don’t dare to look, but hug the chimney tighter and close my eyes. Then I remember the skipping rope. How it fell. How it opened like a cry. For a moment I think she is the skipping rope that fell. Or not her. I am.

Until she laughs again. Opens her eyes on the roof ridge.

"What about trying an experiment," she says, and I know that soon we will start to play again. "Let’s stage a fall. It would be great."

"It’s boring here, isn’t it,” Margareetta says, slipping another sweet into her mouth. To me she no longer offers one.

"Let's go to your place, Katariina."

We do that. We go to our place.

In the coming weeks we sometimes meet in other places too. In the city. At the harbour. Sometimes in a garden, in a park or under a bridge. Most often however, we meet at my place. At hers we don’t. I go there only once, and uninvited.

Our place. Soon, she starts to talk like that about my home.

Why did I obey? In this, and then in everything else as well? I simply obeyed. She was one of those people who are obeyed. The people who handle others like puppets and make them do things for them. Besides, if I really think about it, I wouldn’t have had anything better to do.

Katariina, by Marisha Rasi-Koskinen, Burning Bridge 2011

translated from Finnish by David McDuff

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

New Danish writing

The latest issue of Danish Literary Magazine is now online. Among the works featured is the novel Gudfar (Godfather) by Dy Plambeck, which in three interlinked but also independent narratives offers an unusual view of Danish history, culture and society stretching over seven decades.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Söderströms and Schildts to merge

According to an announcement on the website of the Finland-Swedish publisher Söderströms and another similar announcement on the website of its colleague and competitor Schildts, the two houses are to merge from the beginning of next year. From the Schildts announcement:
– Båda förlagen går med förlust. Med tanke på de utmaningar som branschen står inför är det nu rätt tid att stärka den finlandssvenska förlagsverksamheten genom att slå ihop resurserna. En fusion möjliggör att vi också i framtiden har en mångfald i utgivning av svenskspråkig lyrik, prosa och faktalitteratur i Finland, säger Stig–Björn Nyberg, ordförande i Schildts styrelse.
Kaj–Gustaf Bergh, ordförande i Söderströms styrelse, ser samgången som en möjlighet att stärka den finlandssvenska kulturen och därmed bibehålla tvåspråkigheten livskraftig i Finland:
–Vi kan skapa synergier som stärker förlagens viktiga kärnverksamhet: att trygga att de finlandssvenska skolorna får minst lika goda läromedel som de finska, och att kunna erbjuda finlandssvenska författare de bästa redaktörsresurserna, säger Bergh.  

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Translating poetry

On the BBC news website, Robin Fulton talks about his translations of the poetry of Nobel laureate Tomas Tranströmer.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

On the Whole - 2

Books from Finland magazine has now published my translations from Gösta Ågren’s new collection I det stora hela. There's also a short introduction to the poems, written by me.

Nordic Voices in Print

I uploaded the contents of the Nordic Voices in Print blog to a new website format. The site is fairly primitive at present, but perhaps I'll develop it a bit in the months to come.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

On the Whole

Gösta Ågren’s new collection - I make it his twenty-eighth - I det stora hela - is published by Söderströms. Books from Finland magazine intends to publish my translations of some of the poems in the volume, and these should appear in their site fairly soon. Meanwhile, Jenny Wikström has published a sensitive review of the book, which she rightly characterizes as "ett ambitiöst diktprojekt där [Ågren] prövar att koppla ihop de allra minsta beståndsdelarna av ett liv – en människas högst personliga minnen – med de allra största – de tankar om döden som förenar civilisationer."

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Autumn's archive

In Hbl, Clas Zilliacus writes about Bo Carpelan's posthumously-published novel Blad ur höstens arkiv (Schildts, 2011, 204 pp.), which takes the form of a semi-autobiographical reflection contained  in 101 diary entries. Commenting on this form, with reference to the Danish poet Paul La Cour, Zilliacus makes some topical observations about the history of the European novel, a genre which included not only the romance, but also the picaresque and the epistolary diary, neither of which was characterized by plot:

Hela genreproblemet är omdebatterat. Att Urwind fick Finlandia­priset 1993 vann allmänt gillande. Men att samma författare fick priset för Berg 2005 var oerhört i sig. Dessutom – priset hade snävats in till ett romanpris – utlöste utkorelsen en principfråga: Var detta verkligen en roman? Skön var Berg, och poetisk, men intriglös; den saknade den spänningskurva man har rätt att kräva av sina lässtunder.
Det var trångsynta invändningar. Romangenren hade en av sina första stora perioder under tidigt 1700-tal, då det kryllade av dagboksartade ting. Då kunde man ha trott att genren var bestämd att vara just fingerad dagbok. Visst blev det mer intrig efterhand, men vem säger att just intrigen var romanens bestämmelse? Är det dagens vurm för thrillerns whodunit som har skruvat in romanen i ett så litet hål?
The whole problem of genre is the subject of much debate. The award of the Finlandia Prize to Urwind in 1993 gained general approval. But that the same author won the prize for Berg in 2005 was unheard-of. Moreover - the prize had been narrowed down to a novel prize - the choice triggered a fundamental question: was this really a novel? Berg was beautiful and poetic, but had no plot: it lacked the tension one curve had the right to demand of one's reading hours.
Those were parochial objections. The novel genre had one of its first major periods in the early 18th century, when it swarmed with diary-like things. Back then one might have thought that the genre was precisely designed to be a fictional diary. While it is true that a greater element of plot gradually developed,  who will say that plot was the novel's designation? Is it today's craze for the thriller and the whodunit that has forced the novel into such a small pigeon-hole?
It's also significant that, as Zilliacus also aptly points out, in addition to his diary-like works of fiction, Carpelan also produced a traditional historical detective novel, showing perhaps that while he was perfectly capable of working in that form, he did not consider it the most suitable medium for the realization of his artistic  intentions.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Eyewitness to C.O. HULTÉN

by Pia Tafdrup

Your earth is a space
  for horror and revolt.
Your house is built from force and gravity,
  so you easily get lost,
it has more than a thousand entrances.
Your mind in storms has even more,
when it burns all the bridges 
or hungers for life.
Not to speak of the dreams,                 
which in the living grow and search
for beauty, send out
  new roads
from memory's labyrinths.
Colours rumble
- Flame yellow, rust red and royal blue -
like African drums
in tears and laughter.
It is NOW
  that matters.
Earth is a space
  for horror and revolt,
but Europe is a dancing woman.
There are also forest women 
  and demons’ games.
And the city's lonely woman who kisses
  a bird.
The bird has swallowed a fish,
it swims at its full length
  in the bird's belly,
both free and trapped.
Birds are seen in flight, alone and in flocks,    
seen in battle, seen in plunging
into the dream-lake, from which eyes staring up
between submerged leaves
and drowned insects.
Staring up at cockleshells  
floating like heavenly bodies  
on the night sky between   
lovers' wing-beats,             
their rhythm forward through the air
  to meet.     
Fabulous creatures, doomed to an eternal dream journey
in a space that opens 
febrile on all sides, transforms itself
into all colours, in deep secrecy opens a heart.

Din jord er et rum
   for rædsel og revolte.
Dit hus er bygget af kraft og tyngde,
   så du let farer vild,
har mere end tusinde indgange.
Dit sind i uvejr endnu flere,
når det brænder alle broer
   eller hungrer efter liv.
For ikke at tale om drømmene,
der i den levende vokser og søger
efter skønhed, skyder
   nye veje
fra erindringens labyrinter.
Farver buldrer
- ildgul, rustrød og kongeblå -
som afrikanske trommer
i gråd og latter.
Det er NU,
   det gælder.
Jorden er et rum
   for rædsel og revolte,
men Europa er en dansende kvinde.
Også skovkvinder findes
   og dæmoners spil.
Og byens ensomme kvinde, der kysser
   en fugl.
Fuglen har slugt en fisk,
den svømmer i sin fulde længde
   i fuglens bug,
både fri og fanget.
Fugle ses i flugten, alene og i flok,
ses i kampen, ses i styrtet ned
i drømmesøen, hvorfra øjne stirrer op
mellem sunkne blade
og druknede insekter.
Stirrer op på muslingeskaller
svævende som himmellegemer
mellem planeter på nattehimlen,
mellem elskendes vingeslag,
deres rytme frem gennem luften
   for at mødes.
Fabelvæsner, dømt til evig drømmerejse
i et rum, der åbner sig febrilt
til alle sider, transformerer sig
i alle farver, i al hemmelighed åbner et hjerte.

translated from Danish by David McDuff

Jussi R.I.P.

Jussi (14.10.2004-31.8.2011) has passed away. He was a brave, kind and noble cat, and he will be remembered for a long time.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

from The Diary of William N. [3]


25.12. 14 degrees Celsius. I ate some Alsatian sausage cold. A glass of madeira. The university swallows talents and digests them slowly and surely as the sundew which grabs the fly and use it for food, but I do not have to fight for a "position" at any university, for there has always been enough ground under my feet. The thanks one receives are mere crumbs for the sparrows, while the vultures lurk on the branch waiting for the moment you make a mistake: Thank you, thank you, friends and enemies! Now that it is dark it sounds to me as though Paris is humming. Plaisance used to be open countryside – there was even a large park and a castle, which the omnibus company demolished in order to build the depot, and now there are tenement buildings and narrow streets, and the residents are poor people. Before the tall building was built opposite to darken my dwelling, this street was better than the Rue Pernety, where I used to live.

26.12.1898 Between the first and second pages of this notebook I have inserted a note which reads: "À Madame Constance Cavé. Ce cahier doit être détruit après ma mort."

27.12.1898 No letters. Before Christmas Elise sent me the instrument I had asked for, but it was quite the wrong one, even though I carefully explained what it should look like, and drew a picture of it. It will have to be returned. Coughing badly, the codeine tablets do not help, my whole body hurts and I have no appetite. If I get the article finished, the black-gowned academics will attack it like flies on a carcase.

28.12.1898 Death is not discussed as much as love (which is also discussed on the street corner), even though it is the only certain thing in life. Write poetry about death! People love a woman/man, but, I ask, does anyone love death? Suicides I do not count, for they do their deed while their minds are unbalanced. As a physician I have seen death many times, but the face of a dead person is neither happy nor sad, but completely empty, as the death struggle is over. When I die my old enemies will be disappointed, because they will miss an important event in my life, one that with all their hearts they desired to witness.

29.12.1898 Human folly occasions an anger that warms like an eiderdown or a bottle of burgundy! Th. S. wrote to me about a dispute concerning a civil service appointment, which is interesting, even though it does not concern me at all: let Helsinki, Uppsala, Lund and all the universities of the world look after their affairs without me!

30.12.1898 7 degrees Celsius. I lie in bed under the coverlet (my coat is also being used) and am trying to write, but my fingers are numb. It is 4 pm. I did not eat, drank milk which I mixed with hot water and sugar.

31.12.1898 At midnight the year changes and I will be writing in 1899, but I will not stay up that late. In her letter Elise wished me a "Good New Year". How good will it be, I wonder?

Paris, 1. January, 1899 A person of romantic disposition would suppose that this day is a "clean sheet", as it is Sunday and the first day of the year. I have not the slightest tendency to romanticism, but I awoke pleased that I had slept better than I have for a long time, for the cough did not keep me awake. On opening the front door (I was taking the refuse out to the back yard), I received a surprise: propped against the wall was a paper-wrapped bouquet of anemones, lilac, poppies, expensive spring flowers that can only be bought at the finest flower shops in Paris, and I thought it was a mistake and the bouquet was intended for one of my neighbours, but no: in an envelope was a card with my name on it, Dr. William N. On the other hand, there was no sender's name, and I am most perplexed by this occurrence! After rummaging in the kitchen I found a large jam jar (it was not clean, but I washed it), and in it I put the bouquet of flowers, which I think is very beautiful, and it looks as though spring had come to my dark, cramped and dusty apartment. A truly remarkable event!

[Kristina Carlson, William N. päiväkirja, Otava 2011]

translated from Finnish by David McDuff

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Estonia gunman dead

Via RIA Novosti:
The attacker was identified as one Karen Drambyan, 57, a member of the United Leftist Party of Estonia, a group with strong links to the country’s Russian community.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

London riots

Not really a subject for this blog, I suppose, though in the context of AB Breivik's sadistic and brutal campaign it may have some relevance even here. A LiveJournal poster has written what I think is so far the best and most informative reflection on the recent violence in London and other British cities.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

from The Diary of William N. [2]

19.12.1898   In Finland I am not respected!  How would it have gone with me if I had remained in Helsinki? Poorly – the mail does not go to the hinterland properly, unlike in Europe –  the circles there are narrow, malicious, and even I respect but a few men like Th. S. who is loyal to me and F. Elfving, who is also a decent man. The Fries family are Swedish, but how they have messed up my life! At the dinners in Uppsala there was punch and chatter, yes, yes, but later the mood of the music changed (furioso), F. pater did not listen to my opinions, he contradicted me and cultivated relations behind my back in many directions, and so did F. filius. Lord knows  what will become of science if the scientists comport themselves like dancing masters!  I tried to promote Zetterstedt’s appointment to the Upsala post, but it turned out otherwise, for the post went to  T. Fries filius. Professor Andersson of Stockholm had the nerve to claim that I had merely succeeded in harming Z.’s position, thank you very much!

20.12.1898   Constance brought "Christmas fare", as she he is leaving tomorrow with her "old fellow" for the Auvergne. (I thought the man was a former officer, but he is really a common soldier.)  I received food that keeps such as sausages and brawn and English-style Christmas cake  in which there were plums, apricots, cherries and raisins, and the cake is soaked in brandy. I snorted at the word “Christmas”, for C. knows the manner in which I "celebrate" it, but she also insisted on cleaning, which led to an altercation between us, and C. shed some tears when she went home. But she is a good woman.

21.12.1898  Today I sat in the hospital (I had promised Elisa that I would see the doctor), on a bench with a mother who held a crying baby in her arms, an old, loud-voiced deaf woman, a labourer whose leg was wrapped in bloody rags, etc.  The dreary corridor echoed with footsteps when the nurses and doctors walked by, and I at last I made up my mind to get to my feet and shout that I was a doctor too, and should therefore be treated with respect, did I have to bow and scrape in order even to make a doctor halt in his tracks, I was not trying to jump the queue ahead of the concierge-woman or the tinsmith, but had been waiting for two hours, so perhaps at last it was my turn. A third hour began, and I could not endure to wait any longer, but went home. Let Dr. S. send me instructions for treatment by letter as before. I am too thin, I know it is true,  I am six feet tall and weigh only 136 pounds, but my frame has the strength of spirit and intellect.

24.12.1898   I ate two slices of Christmas cake and drank two small glasses of Madeira. (A.B brought the Madeira yesterday.)  I have found  the pharmacist R's  old letter in which he writes: "Vous serez toujours pour moi un homme d'une veritable science, mais d'un caractère quelquefois difficile. " Friends and enemies in the same basket! R.  helped me to manage my affairs in Paris during the time when I held the post at Helsinki, but later he got tangled in a troublesome affair which had its origins in the fact that I did not inform Descaine of my travel to Helsinki, although he got me the money with which to complete the Synopsis (Part Two), and therefore D. began to threaten to reclaim the money by legal means, which information was passed to me by R. That wretched sum of money, a mere handout, which originally seemed almost an insult, but the real insult was the fact that I was suspected of laziness or incompetence or even of dishonesty! I immediately sent half of the sum to Tulasne, and through him a letter to  D.  My relations with many people were at once broken off, but not even in the scientific sense can I associate with people who do not trust me and do not value my work. Since in the room it is only 15 degrees Celsius, I shall drink one more glass of Madeira, this is my Christmas Eve.

[Kristina Carlson, William N. päiväkirja, Otava 2011]

translated from Finnish by David McDuff

(to be continued)


From 2083, by Anders Behring Breivik:

...we have to agree on a consensus for creating a modern, “un-tainted”, cultural conservative, patriotic youth movement which will prevent our youths from joining NS or WN movements. This movement should be somewhat like the equivalent of Russias Nashi movement (Putins youth movement - 120,000 members aged between 17 and 25). They are anti fascist/anti Nazi, but still patriotic conservatives.

(p. 652)

Many state leaders around the world are puzzled over how little resistance the European elites are getting in their attempts to completely demographically reshape Europe.

Even the Russian president, Vladimir Putin knows exactly what is going on as he has publicly stated in the past:

“Western Europe is heading in a direction where they are going to become colonies of their former colonies."

(p. 732)

Q: Name one living person you would like to meet?

A: The Pope or Vladimir Putin. Putin seems like a fair and resolute leader worthy of respect. I’m unsure at this point whether he has the potential to be our best friend or our worst enemy though. He’s very hard to psychoanalyze. I wouldn’t want to be his enemy, that’s for sure. Obviously, he has to openly condemn us at this point which is  understandable.

(p. 1407)

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


by Tommi Parkko

In a city built inside a pot there is no dancing,
rise from pitch and molten lead, be a straight-backed saint.
The black steps rustle down to the shore, the ribs of the houses
melt into the river.

Old age is a habit rooted in the body, the icons bear the pure
colours of God. The black and the grey are from man, from bone.
The other colours are from flowers, shield bugs and stones
The sky is perforated by urine, the snow by Tycho Brahe’s toenail.
In a city built inside a pot there is no dancing,
do not talk to me of Mary or of virgins. Your unicorn
is the beluga whale and the relics
are tsarist bonds and Kafka. You must threaten
the relics with fire and spike to have your will.

In the synagogue's attic are the remains of a creature, and pigeons,
the city’s dream beneath the tourist map.
You will soon call the castle home, it is the backbone of everything.

translated from Finnish by David McDuff

[From Pelikaani, Savukeidas, Turku, 2011]

Dershowitz in protest at ambassador's remarks

Alan Dershowitz has spoken out in protest against remarks made in a recent interview by Norway's ambassador to Israel that Hamas terrorism against Israel is more justified than the recent terrorist attack against Norway. At the conclusion of his article, Dershowitz writes:
Nothing good ever comes from terrorism, so don’t expect the Norwegians to learn any lessons from its own victimization. As the ambassador made clear in his benighted interview, “those of us who believe [the occupation to be the cause of the terror against Israel] will not change their minds because of the attack in Oslo.” In other words, they will persist in their bigoted view that Israel is the cause of the terrorism directed at it, and that if only Israel were to end the occupation (as it offered to do in 2000-2001 and again in 2007), the terrorism will end. Even Hamas, which Norway supports in many ways, has made clear that it will not end its terrorism as long as Israel continues to exist. Hamas believes that Israel’s very existence is the cause of the terrorism against it. That sounds a lot like the ranting of the man who engaged in the act of terrorism against Norway.
The time is long overdue for Norwegians to do some deep soul searching about their sordid history of complicity with all forms of bigotry ranging from the anti-Semitic Nazis to the anti-Semitic Hamas. There seems to be a common thread.

Update (August 5): The Jerusalem Post has published an op-ed piece by Norway's deputy foreign minister in which he says the following:
The ambassador was incorrectly quoted by Ma’ariv. He did not compare the motivation behind different terrorist attacks; he simply tried to answer a question about whether the terrorist attacks in Norway would change perceptions of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. He stated that many Norwegians see the conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territory in the context of the occupation and religious extremism, and that this view would probably not change after the events in Oslo and on Utoeya.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

from The Diary of William N. [1]

by Kristina Carlson

26.11.1898  Solitude is not dispiriting or sad, but it is sometimes boring, and I conclude that this is due to the company in which I am alone.

27.11.1898  Today a pharmacist, D. (there have been many pharmacists in the circle of my acquaintances!), invited me to dinner at his home on Sunday.  I went with some reluctance, as the D.’s  live in a street off the Avenue de Messina where I had to travel by omnibus, and what was more,  Dr. D. did not belong to the same botanically cultured group as, for example, the pharmacist Dr. R., who at one time did much to help me (my relations with him have broken) – Dr. D. is just an ordinary, successful, wealthy pill-pusher. I accepted the invitation none the less, because he assured me that there would be no other guests apart from myself, and that his family had an excellent cook. The dinner was indeed first-rate: Potage velouté aux champignons, Filets de poisson en soufflé, Bifteck sauté béarnaise, Pommes normande en belle vue, vegetables, cheeses, and so on, and good wines. When we rose from the dinner table I had to pay for my meal with  some culture! The children’s nanny and Madame D. led into the drawing-room two little girls with curly hair adorned with bow-ribbons, whom they planted in front of the grand piano to play duets, and after the first piece I applauded, but when they began to play a third I began to fret and wondered when it was going to be the little girls’ bedtime, which fortunately arrived at the end of the fourth. I do not know what error led the D.’s to imagine that I was a lover of music, but luckily I managed to catch the omnibus.

28.11.1898  People who live in the flatness of the everyday do not think about their own condition, they are well-to-do and satisfied, for they have delicious dishes and good wines on their tables, they have shiny carriages and sleek horses, servants who bow to them, and they live without care, for it never even occurs to them that everything could be different – instead, their happiness is ensured by at one-dimensional view of the world. Perhaps they browse through newspapers and novels, attend the theatre or concerts and look at works of art, but this dilettantism has a uniform surface, and their minds are not touched by art. They have a certainty about the essence of the world that is based on an assumption, one that they do not call into question by looking through a microscope or telescope. They are pitiful, but they are "happy", so what is there in them to pity? I thought  that even on a flat surface a crack or roughness would appear, but with these self-satisfied people that does not happen. While I do not begrudge them their wealth and their self-satisfaction,  I would never dream of exchanging my narrow room for the cardboard theatre of their world.  

30.11.1898   I too have received awards! The French Academy’s Prix ​​Desmazières, an honorary doctorate, honorary membership of the Fauna & Flora, what else, by giving those awards they salved their bad consciences, but did I receive assistance when it was most needed, for the writing and printing of the Synopsis, for example? Had I jumped off the bridge in 1857 my great work would have remained unpublished. My only support was  Dr. J. B. Mougenot, who lived in the Vosges, and though I have never wanted to be financially dependent on anyone, I agreed to accept money from him, as it was a loan and not a gift, and a loan that I paid back conscientiously. Mougenot, said that precisely because of all the difficulties the Synopsis would become dear to me, and in that he was right, though my joy in completing the work did not last long, for the second part was still waiting to be written and published, a process that took many more years. I did not take seriously Mougenot’s instructions about the life of society, for he exhorted me to be polite and conciliatory in my behaviour, and said  in his letter that "Truth and the conviction to defend the right opinion give one strength, but one must strike with caution." How does one "strike with caution"? With the butt of an axe? I was sorry when M. passed away a few weeks later, after I had taken up my post in Helsinki in the autumn of 1858.

1. 12.1898  Awards, awards, indeed! Perhaps they will even put up a gravestone for me,  though at Helsinki University they ridiculed my clothes (I did not dress according to their idiotic dress code , not even at meetings of the Senate), and my meagre sandwich lunches, because even my students ate better than their professor, and it was told as an amusing story how I hammered and chiselled the dry pieces of bread, when hunger overtook me  and the students on a specimen-gathering trip and nothing else edible could be found. at the peasant cottage. One of the students broke a tooth, but when the pieces of bread had been soaked in spring water for a little while, they were fit to eat.  In their heart of hearts the university people had no respect for me, of course I know that, that is precisely why I was not given von Nordman’s apartment, because among them there were still those with whom I had quarrelled as a younger man, when in Fauna & Flora I  opposed von Nordman’s plan to send a biological expedition to the White Sea, yet it was  my duty as the Society’s vice-chairman to oppose it, because the White Sea was not part of the region we studied, and the expedition was against the Society’s rules.  Nordman and his assistants would have  liked the Society’s  2000 roubles for himself! When Nordman resigned from the Society he was followed by Mannerheim, Nordenskiold, Ilmoni, Bonsdorff, Mäklin and Wright, but was that my fault, or was it the fault of the Society’s rules?

2.12.1898   In the mid-1860s Admiral Jones, who lived in Dublin, sent me 500 francs when he heard that I had resigned my professorship, but later I never heard anything more from him. The German F. Arnold sent me 100 francs, but I returned that money and wrote "timeo Danaos”, because Arnold is a Schwendenerist, and my opinion is not for sale. Monsieur M. sent me some lichen specimens wrapped in hundred franc notes! I suppose he was quietly trying to help, but I returned the money and later only accepted a fee, which I had earned by my study of the specimens.

3.12.1898   I took a long walk, though the weather was bad, it was cold and windy and the drizzle poured from the sky, but as I walked my brain also remained in motion  (the peripatetic school) – in my apartment I can only move an inch or two  at a time, as there are books and papers all over the floor.  I must outline the contents of an article, there is not enough light for microscope work, and my eyesight is not what it was. Constance has not visited.

4.12.1898   The next time the year changes, we shall be on the threshold of a new century, and a hundred years after that there will be a new millennium, too.  I shall sink into history, and no one will remember me. Elise maintains that the “good” people will be remembered, because their memory will be transferred from friends and relatives to subsequent generations, but I am not a “good” person! If friends (?) and enemies are to be believed, I am:  sharp-tongued, cantankerous, malicious, quick-tempered, unforgiving, rancorous, suspicious, jealous, bitter, pig-headed, egocentric, ill-bred, and stingy. Among other things.

5.12.1898  Plain talking is not valued in academic  "social circles", and rebuttals must be wrapped in cotton wool, so as not to "offend" anyone. But is the cause of science advanced in this way?  Honesty has always been my guiding principle. But it is not enough – for everything to go smoothly one must please, no matter how insignificant one’s work! Even  in ancient times one could  succeed by means of  eloquence, although one’s other achievements were not particularly impressive.

8.12.1898   Perhaps I am not a nice person, perhaps no one likes me – let alone loves me – so I can hardly expect even pity as my lot.

10.12. 1898   A.B. came to visit, even though in a letter I had forbidden him to, as except for  Constance I do not want to let anyone into my apartment,  and my friends know that, but A.B. was stubborn, and rang my doorbell despite my prohibition, which made me angry, because I was dressed in a morning coat and cardigan, with woollen socks on my feet, and was not prepared to receive a visit. A.B. did not, however, turn away from the door, but came inside, because I did not think I could stop him by force. He brought me meat pasties and egg pasties, two cakes coated in pink sugar, a bottle of burgundy and a newspaper, but my wrath did not abate until he handed me a surprise, which was a reproduction of  Georges Seurat’s painting "La Grand Jatte"!  After he left, I studied the picture closely, and I am just as thrilled as when I saw the original work, though the copy fails to do it full justice. I like Seurat’s "scientific" way of painting, for he is not content with an obvious or flat surface like the painters of the old school who try to carefully imitate the reality that is visible to the eye. Instead,  S. disperses and reassembles, and in this process I see a confluence with microscope work, when the gaze is directed on even the smallest elements, and the brain traces their  significance and completeness. A. B. also talked about the other "Impressionists", whose paintings he believes I ought to see, but perhaps this one alone will suffice. Once I had moved the other things away, I leaned the picture against the edge of the stove.

11.12.1898   Sunday. On Rue Didot there was a modest funeral. When I stopped to raise my hat,  Madame L. hurried up to me, whispering in a loud voice that "he ought not to be buried in consecrated ground, because he took his own life," and it was apparently the same coal merchant whom I saw in the summer. In my opinion he need not have troubled to take his own life, as he would soon have died from high blood pressure and heart failure in any case. I didn’t jump into the Seine, and I am already at an age where I know that  Nature takes care of death in due time, so there is no point in hurrying.

12.12.1898   At night it was cold, and I felt so chilled that I shivered. I got up in the dark to fetch a coat to put on top of my quilt. In the morning the outside thermometer read -3, and when I went out to buy milk and bread I saw that  the water flowing from the drainpipes had frozen in the street, which the little boys thought was fun, because they could “skate". The cold and darkness prevented me from working at the microscope. Of the things that  A. B. had brought me I still had 1 egg pasty, 1 cake, and ¼ bottle of wine. After I had eaten, at 4 pm I went to bed.

16.12.1898   I shiver and have no appetite, I suffer from shortness of breath and pains in my joints, my stomach is bad and I am unable to work, but I will endure, for I know that I have done the right thing, I have not curried favour with anyone, I have not sold myself, I live like a poor artist, even though I am a scientist, and posterity will not remember me though I have sacrificed my whole life to science. I suppose art is never "wrong" as science can be, but is that any consolation to  the artists whose work is not valued and not purchased? (G. Seurat  is said to have been a wealthy man, but he had a very short life.)

(to be continued)

[William N. päiväkirja, Otava, 2011]

translated from Finnish by David McDuff

Sunday, 31 July 2011 Oslo/Belarus connection

According to, Belarusian oppositionists claim that Anders Behring Breivik has connections with Belarus which went far beyond his ostensible interest in Viking graves and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster (he visited the country as a tourist in 2005). Party of Patriots leader Mikhail Reshetnikov is quoted as saying that that earlier in 2011 Breivik may have received paramilitary training from former members of the Belarusian KGB. See also this link.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Seven Dresses for Visibility

by Pia Tafdrup

I am sewing a dress that can be worn
proudly by one who is born with
an expectant spark in the heart’s vessels,
it will perfectly fit large and small,
is spun strong by the bow of the rain
it can be enjoyed a whole life long,
if the cloth is looked after well.

I am sewing a dress that can be worn
silently by new victims of fear,
it can fit large and small,
does not hide vulnerability
as droves of birds are hunted
out of the tree's dense crown,
the fabric flutters in the wind.

I am sewing a dress that can be worn
lightly by new victims of hate,
it is coloured red by blood
and has thunder-black borders,
it can fit large and small,
those who least of all will think
that one should change before the night.

I am sewing a dress that can be worn
by the victims of a cold cynicism
it can fit large and small,
its crazy fabric is made
of fire no downpour will quench,
it will be a reminder that the earth
may open up at any time at all.

I am sewing a dress that can cover
dried blood on the victims of death,
it can hide large and small,
it is shaped by the deep furrows
of tears across the cheek,
the cloth matches the walls of the dark,
the peace in each grave on the planet.

I am sewing a dress that can be worn
in a misty haze of sorrow’s
victims, designed for relatives
and friends of the deceased,
it can fit large and small,
anger’s first light is visible
between lead-grey threads of pain.

I am sewing the dress that can be worn
securely by one who knows hope,
woven in are the laughter of friends,
quiet tears of joy, the desire
to wake up in spite
of life the disaster took
– it reflects the rays of the sun.


Jeg syr en kjole, som kan bæres
stolt af den, der fødes med
forventningsgnist i hjertets kar,
den passer fuldendt stor og lille,
spindes stærkt af regnens bue,
den kan nydes hele livet,
hvis der værnes godt om klædet.

Jeg syr en kjole, som kan bæres
tyst af frygtens nye offer,
den kan passe stor og lille,
skjuler ikke sårbarhed,
som flokkevis af fugle jages
ud af træets tætte krone,
flagrer stoffet op i vinden.

Jeg syr en kjole, som kan bæres
let af hadets nye offer,
den er farvet rød af blodet
og har tordensorte kanter,
den kan passe stor og lille,
den, der mindst af alt vil tro,
der skulle skiftes tøj før natten.

Jeg syr en kjole, som kan bæres
af en kold kynismes offer,
den kan passe stor og lille,
kjolens vanvidsstof er gjort
af ild, som ingen skylregn slukker,
den skal minde om, at jorden
når som helst kan åbne sig.

Jeg syr en kjole, som kan dække
størknet blod på dødens offer,
den kan skjule stor og lille,
den er formet efter grådens
dybe furer over kinden,
klædet matcher mørkets vægge,
freden i hver grav på kloden.

Jeg syr en kjole, som kan bæres
i en tågedøs af sorgens
offer, viet til en slægtning
og til venner af den døde,
den kan passe stor og lille,
vredens første lys er synligt
mellem blygrå smertetråde.

Jeg syr på kjolen, som kan bæres
trygt af den, der kender håbet,
vævet ind er venners latter,
stille glædestårer, lysten
til at vågne op på trods
af liv, som katastrofen tog
– den reflekterer solens stråler.

translated from Danish by David McDuff

Utøya poem

Pia Tafdrup has written a poem about the Utøya shootings - my translation can be read at World Literature Today.

The Danish text of the poem is on this page of Politiken's e-edition (left-hand page, right-hand column, click to enlarge).

A Poem for Norway at the London Times (paywall).

Friday, 29 July 2011

From "Landscape"

by Lassi Nummi (1949)

A line. From the left, slowly rising, forming small curlicues, levelling off, rising again until it folds and falls gently arching into invisibility.
Below the line darkness, restlessly stirring, swelling
Another line, vertical and motionless: a blade of grass.

The brightness is not uniform. There are dark patches in it. A slight gleam, a thin, meagre shimmer covers everything. The clouds. The sky.
The forest’s edge, the forest. The darkness splits, disperses, decreases . . earth, a breath of wind, bending grasses. Approaching, approaching: the vertical line, the grass-blade. The wind reaches it.
It moves.

In front of me is a strange, many-branched object. It rises from the surface thick and black for a while, then branches out. In three parts it continues its journey to the heights, letting a narrow branch diverge to the side now and then; slowly becomes thinner and eventually breaks into thousands of thin black segments; and finally bursts into bright bundles of fresh and delicate round, greenish plates.

Between all this there is labyrinthine room in plenty for the light and semi-twilight. A grey shimmer slowly oozes through the branches and penetrates everywhere; it is reflected faintly from the greenness, revolves around the black tissue, falls quivering along the ever thicker branches, momentarily brightening, gushes simultaneously from three directions onto the large stem; floods, growing dimmer again, slowly down it.

At intervals also a light mist, pressing deep into the labyrinth, turns the greenness soft; soft and deep.

A breath of wind: motionless the deep green cluster awaits its arrival. Unexpectedly it encounters the first one – a trace – now another flickers, a fifth, dozens .. a fluttering passes through everything, decreases slightly, quickens: now the thinnest black tissue joins in, the movement passes downwards, more violently: a sudden shiver arrives startlingly as far as the vicinity of the tri-forked branch.

It becomes quiet. The movement decreases in the middle, continues for a while further out, for a moment longer at the top, grows fainter. It is all over, all the delicate green plates hang motionless, gather into one . . parts disappear. In front of me is a single, heavy green lump from whose centre a black streak runs down to the ground.

A tree, its leaves and trunk.


The trees rise up out of emptiness.
Grass grows all around. Groups of trees spring up from it, the land’s surface undulates, rising and falling. Further away the forest’s dark green stripe surrounds the landscape.

I am walking in a foreign land. I walk slowly; the dark green of the trees glides slowly past. The trees stand out in sharp lines from the surface of the grey sky. They are completely motionless. The grass and the earth are motionless. Everywhere there are hard, unmoving surfaces, I cannot see anything else. Trees, land, forest. Sky.

It is strange to walk like this, in the emptiness, in the midst of surfaces. One cannot know what is concealed behind them. I stop. In front of me is a group of trees . . an uneven dark green wall that is supported by cold, black struts. I want to see behind it, I go round it, but on every side it is the same.

Everything is flat, I cannot see anything behind. I cannot see anything inside. The sharp outlines intersect painfully, the flat, grey plate covers everything, it is oppressively low. In the midst of emptiness . . one cannot touch anything. I close my eyes, I walk.

A smooth, green surface is in front of me, the grass. On it there is a grey gleam, nothing breaks its membrane.


Something moves . . a blade of grass, I bend down to see it better. Next to it I see another blade, a third and yet another. I get down on my knees to see them better.

The grassy area is not flat. The ground is not flat. Next to the grassy area there are blades of grass and also leaves and various small plants and stones and soil and some flower, ants run about in between, and other small creatures, a leaf.

A leaf.

It must have fallen from a tree.

I lift my gaze; in front of me is a green wall, a tree. From it one leaf stands out, another, dozens . . it does not move and yet it seems to be pushing them in every direction, it is not a wall, from it all kinds of small objects protrude on every side, and in between, on the inside only an empty space remains . . I see inside it! I see behind it.

Nothing moves and yet everything is in quiet motion, on every side all kinds of small objects protrude, grass, forest, sky, everything quivers. I try to see all the grass-blades . . there are too many of them and more and more of them and ants are running about between them. And one cannot see all the tree’s leaves, there are painfully too many of them, and behind the tree there are other blades of grass and other ants are running about between them, and they cannot be seen either, and in the new tree there are too many leaves and behind it more grass . . . trees and grasslands so many that one cannot see or count them, in between soil and moss in countless quantities . . and somewhere at last a road where the sun shines, the sand-grains glitter and they are in front and behind, side by side and one on top of one another more and more, and no one can count their number.

For a while I do not raise my head; I have covered my face with my hands.

Maisema (1949)

translated from Finnish by David McDuff

Thursday, 28 July 2011

...and in the context of the North Caucasus

«Брейвики» придут на Кавказ?

Breivik as author

Всякий, кто когда-нибудь хоть немного занимался тем, что называют наукой, например, писал (а не скачивал) добротный реферат, понимает – создать подобное без определённой подготовки или помощи «компетентных друзей» невозможно. Есть основания сделать более радикальное предположение – манифест Брейвика писал не он.
Скорее всего, данную книгу, несущую лёгкий «закос» под любительство, а на самом деле сбитую весьма профессионально, делал хорошо подготовленный коллектив. Возможно, Брейвик её читал, возможно, какие-то фрагменты вставлял сам – но слишком многое сказано не им.
Но от его имени.
От имени массового убийцы и террориста, не дрожащей рукой расстрелявшего десятки ни в чём не повинных молодых людей, от имени психопата-нациста, ещё и похваляющегося своим поступком.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Oslo bomb blast and Utøya shooting - 3

Breivik has chosen Geir Lippestad, a member of Norway's Labour Party, as his defence lawyer.

...han har snakket en del om det han opplever som motiv. Det jeg generelt kan si, er at han ønsket å ramme samfunnet, samfunnsoppbyggingen og den måten vårt samfunn styres på, sier Lippestad. (Aftenposten)

Manfred Gerstenfeld on Norway carnage and Israel (YnetNews)

The report on Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre's visit to the AUF summer camp, dated July 21.

Following Breivik's claims of links with Britain's EDL, there are also reports from St Petersburg that several Internet groups in the Russian Federation have been closed down after they published large volumes of comments in support of the killer.

The court hearing will take place behind closed doors, with all media banned.

Min venn Anders, by Peter Svaar.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Oslo bomb blast and Utøya shooting - 2

At a Norway police press conference on July 23 national police chief Sveinung Sponheim said that Breivik has made Internet postings which "suggest that he has some political traits directed toward the right, and anti-Muslim views, but if that was a motivation for the actual act remains to be seen".  During the conference the term "Christian fundamentalist" was used.

If the Oslo blast was caused by a vehicle bomb, it could not have been assembled in a private apartment, but must have been prepared elsewhere, either in the city or outside it. Vehicle bombs are widely used for terrorism not only in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East but also in the North Caucasus, which leads one to speculate that as there are several thousand Chechen and Ingush radicals living in Norway, there can be no shortage of experts in the field, and the individuals or group who organized the July 22 bombing must have got their expertise from somewhere. However, such speculation is probably misguided, at least at this stage. has posted a list of all the comments Breivik has left on its site. There is a Google-ish English translation here.

A second shooter may still be at large.

The death toll continues to mount.

Berlingske reports that Breivik gave himself up voluntarily to Norwegian police.

Oslo bomb blast and Utøya shooting

There has been a mass shooting at the AUF (Norwegian Labour Party youth section) summer camp on the lake island of Utøya near Oslo. A man dressed as a policeman who arrived by boat was reported to be firing an automatic weapon. A large force of anti-terror police was said to be on the way to the site of the shooting. Sky News reports that ambulances were unable to reach the island, as shooting was still going on. There are some 560 teenagers participating in the camp. Some tried to escape the island by swimming in the very cold waters of the lake. Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was due to speak at an event on the island either today or tomorrow.Latest reports speak of panic situation and many shot and killed. Sky reports that the shooter has now been apprehended, and interrogation will follow.

There are echoes of Beslan, Mumbai, and London. But the motive for the attacks remains unclear.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has said that "Norway finds itself in a very serious situation." A crisis meeting of ministers has been called. Is it a 9/11 moment?

There are unconfirmed reports (NRK, AP) of over 20 bodies on Utøya.

Some reports indicate that the Utøya gunman is a male of Nordic appearance - but the significance of this is unclear. It will be recalled, for example, that Alexander Tikhomirov (Said Buryatsky), killed in 2010, was an ethnic Russian convert to Islam who recruited and trained terrorists in Russia's North Caucasus.

The official Utøya death toll has now risen to at least 80, and the events appear to constitute a large-scale massacre.

The man being held by Norwegian police on suspicion of carrying out the shootings is 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik, a member of an extreme right-wing organization, Aftenposten reports. English-language link here.
A representative of Norway's Police Security Service (PST) has said that a violent action of this kind by right-wing extremists has long been feared, noting that there are links between Norwegian extremists and groups elsewhere in Europe, including Russia.

In the comments at Harry's Place, Dorthea has posted a quick translation of an article from Verdens Gang:

A childhood friend of Breivik tells VG Nett that Breivik became right-wing in his late 20’s, and posted a series of controversial opinions on Facebook. His profile was deactivated after a while.

Anders Behring Breivik marks himself in online debate forums as well read, and one with strong opinions about Norwegian politics. He promotes a very conservative opinions, which he himself claims to be nationalistic. He also expresses himself strongly opposed to multiculturalism – that cultural differences can live together in a community.

Breivik once had many posts on the site, an Islam-critical site that publishes news and commentary.

In one of the posts he states that politics today no longer revolves around socialism against capitalism, but that the fight is between nationalism and internationalism. He expressed clear support for the nationalist mindset.

Anders Breivik Behring has also commented on the Swedish news articles, where he makes it clear that he believes the media have failed by not being “enough” Islam-critical.

Six days ago he released his first and only message on the social networking site Twitter, where he laid out a famous quote by British philosopher John Stuart Mill. “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100 000 WHO garden only interests.”

On Facebook Breivik stated that he is the director of his own company Geofarm. Breivik established firm GeoFarm in 2009, and stated that the company should engage in the cultivation of vegetables, roots and tubers. The company in this industry you can get access to large amounts of fertilizer. He claims he has an education in finance and religion, but does not disclose what universities he should have studied at. The only school he gives are Oslo Handel – listed as his high school.

The 32-year-old is among other things registered as a member of Oslo gun club and the Masonic Lodge. Among other interests he expresses his admiration for Winston Churcill, classical music and Max Manus (Norwegian movie about WW2).

The 32-year-old man has been active in video games and has been involved in the online game World of Warcraft. In connection with this game, he posted a picture of a gun.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Poems from The Pelican

by Tommi Parkko

"So long as a man rides his hobby-horse peaceably and quietly along the King’s highway, and neither compels you or me to get up behind him,—pray, Sir, what have either you or I to do with it?"

Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy


It was that time, the bear was lowered from the mouth of heaven,
a yellow helmet, on it a red cross and a bird,
the ropes passed from the groin to the shoulders
from the tops of the trees deep into the stomach.

You were by the side of the highway, the land opened up before you
its shipwrecked tale:
asphalt and grass, a stone's helplessness, a ploughed acidic field.

The stone was newborn, and the fontanel,
the voice bounced on the bones of the skull, the mill ground
salt, in the grains of the wheat an abyss, an abyss
for disputes and thundering.

On the road that led to the edge the elks and the birds
confronted one another,
you saw it all and it was good,
stone and flesh intertwined like milk round coffee,
you can isolate the limit! Your axis round everything,
the stars, the child's skin smelt fresh.


You have not been given your voice, you
and three others.
You were too late, the alarm clock stopped, the train left,
you read the book by chance, the round form,
the sounds had already been assigned.
Not good enough for you the noise,
the whir of the cypress or the swishings of the whale.

You have not received a voice
from anyone, no rattle
of tongue or creature
though you asked and asked.

Your friends took the boom of the thunder,
the tinkling of the waterfall and the cry of the pelican.

you listen your ears
hopeful, starry bright,
there is nothing yet:
do not turn your back on a world
that does not give you your voice.


The police band accompanies two thousand
dachshunds into town, coffee pots drift on the tide
noses outstretched.
My illness is not a medicine, but one must
dive into the river all the same.

I wait for the darkness that on my eyelids is like a paper margin,
the air’s victory over the land,
a rainbow sucks the water of the river
to rain it down elsewhere. The word is mist
and pouring rain in the library.
I wear out the wooden walls and the newspapers with my open eyes.
It is all from the sky, the frogs,
the slow steps of the ice to the airplane and
the programming that is called maturity.

[From Pelikaani, Savukeidas, Turku, 2011]

Translated from Finnish by David McDuff

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Picnic, a Prelude

by Pia Tafdrup

If my grandmother had been an architect,
which as a young bricklayer’s apprentice she           
aspired to be,                                           
until my grandfather got other plans
for her future
within the four walls of the home,
  Copenhagen would have 
been a different city today
and "architect" more
than a capsized word in her mouth.
  If my mother had been employed
as a receptionist at the desk
of Hotel Trouville in Hornbæk
guests from all over the world would have
received the best service,
   which did not happen,
because my father found a better solution
                                 a brand new baby
which would be cared for
within the four wings of the farm.
- "Is home not good enough for you, then?” 
   Letters from my mother reached me
in a straight bird-line –
No matter how many wing-beats, I was gone.
Like that
I felt at home
wherever I arrived.
White envelopes with her
unmistakable, circular handwriting
  scrutinized and deciphered in many countries
letters about my brother, my father and sister
and all her cats
"Your father has sown the field to the east
and I have been to the hairdresser’s."
I slit the letters open
                   and out poured out the sun.
–  “Take me with you,”
they said between the lines
to me who was involved in seeing
  how others lived,
seeing icebergs in Greenland, sniffing around
in Hanoi’s little shops, sending my tentacles out       
in Bogotá, confronting myself
with Australia's wildlife
but quite often encountering
beggars, robbers, swindlers and those
who were worse, men who asked:
– “Do you want to get married?”
I said no, because I was married,
at least on paper.
– “What are you doing here, then?             
Go home and look after your children!”
How could people in other cultures
understand my desire to travel?
What was I doing in the West Bank?
Or why was it important
to cross Chicago's no-man's land?
   Who ever had a grandmother
who taught one to travel
even though one was running a fever?
  A picnic was cancelled because I was ill
instead, with my sister and me
she wandered up and down
the moss-green carpet in the passage, told us      
of all the gnarled trees in the woods,
of the mushrooms we were going to pick
until at last we
flopped down with the filled basket
                             and held a picnic on the grass.         

translated from Danish by David McDuff

Sunday, 10 July 2011


The seventh full-length album from Icelandic singer Björk is called Biophilia. According to the singer herself, the album springs from a wish to explore the structures of nature and music, to find out where they meet, and then to write the songs about it. One track, Crystalline, was released on June 27, and the whole album is expected to appear on September 26. The album has been recorded as a series of IPad apps as well as a standard CD, and also involves the use of At the present time it's not clear who wrote the lyrics of some of the songs, though Icelandic poet Sjón (Sigurjón B. Sigurðsson) is the author of 'Solstice', featured earlier in this blog.

Björk is currently introducing songs from the album at the Manchester International Festival, and the live performances include the use of images and back projections. According to the Wiki,
Björk will be performing "Biophilia" tracks and music from her back catalogue with a small group of musical collaborators, including an Icelandic female choir. The show will feature a range of specially conceived and crafted instruments, among them a bespoke pipe organ that accepts digital information and a pendulum that harnesses the earth’s gravitational pull to create musical patterns. Stephen Malinowski designed some animations on the show, creating videos that changed and fitted according to the music produced by the iPad: the animations are displayed for Björk to see them as a teleprompter, and also another animation is shown to the public created by the music produced by the iPad. Malinowski also designed the iPad apps animations, every song in the album has an animation within the app.

Saturday, 9 July 2011


For some time now, I've felt that the focus on Nordic literature could probably be widened to include writing and translation from other parts of Europe, so I have started yet another blog (it may eventually end up being more a conventional website than a blog) - not a successor or alternative to the Nordic Voices blogs, but maybe a supplement and/or addition to them.

Sinikka Langeland

Norwegian folksinger, kantele player and composer Sinikka Langeland has recorded a new CD album with the title The Land That Is Not, based on poems by Edith Södergran. The album will be released on the ECM label in the autumn, and adds to the already considerable list of recordings by this unusual artist, who combines the kind of sound one associates with the singing of Joni Mitchell with "the oddness of  Björk", as one publicity handout puts it. There are samples of Sinikka Langeland's work in several places on the Internet, including this Myspace site.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Vinduet 2/2011

The new issue of Norsk Gyldendal's literary magazine, Vinduet, is now published, and as its leading editorial proclaims it's something of a mixed bag (the phrase is used in English). The atmosphere of the magazine is as curious as ever - in the articles and associated graphics and photos there are occasional eerie cultural echoes of the 1960s and 70s, and one sometimes has the impression that in literary terms, at least. Norway has a secret hankering for that ground-breaking but also traumatic period in the country's history.

Britain's Poet Laureate (in Norwegian this becomes hoffpoet) Carol Ann Duffy is the subject of a fairly long article by author and journalist Jostein Sæbøe, who recently published a Norwegian translation of Duffy's collection Mean Time, and there's a version of her poem 'Oslo'. Dag Solstad, who is 70 this year, receives extensive treatment from several  authors, including Trond Haugen, who contributes an interesting  review of Espen Hammer's  Solstad monograph. For Hammer, Haugen suggests, Solstad's progression from the literary absurdism of the 1960s to the Marxism/Maoism of the 1970s was not a major break, but in some senses merely represented an extension of the 'absurd' into the political realm. There's a tribute to Gunvor Hofmo, who is now 90, and a long feature on the Iranian writer Mahmoud Dowlatabadi. Christopher Hitchens, Lorrie Moore and Russian novelist Andrei Gelasimov are the focus of other prominent items in the issue.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Concerto grosso

by Lassi Nummi

to this tone,
tone of these days, this grass, these stones.
Tone of people, words and gazes
tone of the gazelle, of tiger, fallow deer and lark,
tone of streams, of a dark quiet room, of a distant forgotten fragrance..
Hear the tone of a dark room, of warmth – of icy brightness, of firm rising steps
tone of frozen seas, of breaking ice floes.
Tone of muscular bridges, of deed that is liberated into its realization
of movement that releases into its beauty,
of bow and arrow, of cloud and lightning, of avalanche, of echo
-- of steed bounding into a gallop.
Hear the tone of submission and defiance, of the hard cold and grey landscape
-- of misty cliff, of burning forest,
of boulders rising from foam
Listen to the tone of silence.

Hear the tone of opening lips – do not slip past it,
let your hand slip over the hair and hear its tone.
And hear the tone of steely weakness, of glassy strength,
and hear the tone of mirrors, be reflected, vanish, and be ready
at the moment of your birth, as you hear it,
tone of shattering mirrors:
tone that senses its form, tone of strength being liberated into its firmness:
Be born, step outside your mirrors and the shards of your mirrors and be free!
And be ready, and stretch out your hands to meet the hands that wait in the darkness.

So listen to what is left: the flowing tone of days and nights.
Hear the happy days and the mist and the wind and the rain and the clouds.
Do not forget the tone of affection, touch, of simple joy and the caressing gaze.
Do not flee the tone of death. The tone of death is bright, exhausted and free.
Leave the rest - leave the rest, and seek only the tone of silence
and build your dwelling beside it. When it is ready, when you stand in its doorway,
let the silence be silent, and let new voices ignite on the borders of muteness:
you listen to a new tone, all the voices of the world resound in it.
You are listen. You listen to every voice, you listen to every voice
and yet hear only one, -- distant, -- near, -- through them all.
No nights, no days, no love, no pain – no longer. Only a flowing tone
No beginning, no end. You are dead, you are alive. Take your crown, release your gaze
and listen, with forehead raised.

[from Tahdon sinun kuulevan, 1954]

translated from Finnish by David McDuff