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

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