Hannu Salakka, “Reflections”

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Mietteitä | Reflections

Se mitä tarjotaan ei ole sitä, mikä on tarpeen, vaan yleisen edun vuoksi; niinkuin mies, joka saa muuttaa pois, vuokrata huoneen ja tehdä työtä voidakseen asua sen huoneen.

What is supplied is not what is needed but in the public interest, like a man who can move away, rent a room, and work to live in his room.

Vaihtoehdoilla on pakon luonne, en suostu kuuntelemaan, opettelemaan, puhun omin sanoin, omin silmin totean.

Alternatives are compulsory by nature. I’d rather not listen and learn, but speak my own words and note things with my own eyes.

Käytännöllistäkö järjestelyä se, että ihminen sinällään ei enää riitä, että tarvitaan jokin tunnustus?

Is it a practical arrangement that the individual as such is no longer enough to need any recognition?

Kun kuuntelee ihmisiä yhdessä ja erikseen, ei ole enää puhe samasta asiasta.

When you listen to people together and separately, they are no longer talkinga about the same thing.

En halunnut puhua heille enkä osannut välttyä; nyt he haluavat kuulla ääneni osoitaakseen olevansa välittämättä siitä, tietääkseen miten asiat hoidetaan vaikenemalla.

I didn’t want to talk to them nor could I avoid it. Now they want to hear my voice to show they are ignoring it, to know how things are done by keeping one’s mouth shut.

Vanhaa taloa purettiin. Jätin patsaat katselematta sillä niiden olemassaolon ainoa tarkoitus on, että ne pysyisivät aina näkyvillä.

The old house was demolished. I left the statues without looking, because the only point of their existence was they would always be visible.

Äänien sekasorto; kaikki haluaisivat sanoa, kukaan ei kuuntelisi, vain joku suostuisi puhumaan itsekseen.

A babel of voices: everyone would like to speak, no one would listen, only some would be willing to speak to themselves.

Kun ihmisestä tulee tunnus, tietoja lomakkeella, häntä itseään ei enää kutsuta kuultavaksi asiasta.

When inviduals become IDs, data on a questionnaire, they will no longer be asked to hear their dossiers.

Näillä totuuksilla, ulottuvuuksilla ei ole tarpeeksi etäisyyttä, syvyyttä, vain se minkä ovat ennalta alitajunnassa tulevat askeleet.

These truths and dimensions lack distance and depth. They are only preliminary future steps in the subconscious.

Maisema ei ole alakuloinen vaan mieli, jonka silmät sitä katselevat. Sanotaan ajan olevan sellainen, että palaajan mieli halaa siihen maahan, josta hän on lähtenyt.

A landscape is not melancholic, but rather the mind whose eyes regard it. They say time is such that the returnee’s mind embraces the land he has left.

Kuoriutua kerros kerrokselta, kunnes jää vain yksi ainoa lause: mikään ei ole merkitykseltään vähäinen vaan mitätön.

Hatch one layer from the next until only a single sentence remains. Nothing has little meaning but nothingness.

Miten erilaiset ilmeet, kun hymyilee tai on vaiti.

How different your expression is when you smile or keep quiet.

Niin monilla sanoilla on kuolleen arvo, musta arvokas kyyti.

So many words have dead value, a black valuable lift.

Päämääriä ei ole muita kuin se mitä meille näistä päivistä jää.

Goals are nothing other than what remains of our days.

Usein asioissa on hyvää juuri se että ne kuin huomaamatta jäävät kesken.

Sometimes, it is good when things are left imperceptibly unfinished.

Vain pienet hetkelliset ajatukset ovat todellisia, kuolemattomillla ei ole käytännön merkitystä.

Only tiny fleeting thoughts are tangible. Immortal thoughts have no practical meaning.

En näe tätä kaikkea, tai jos näеnkin, jokin minussa ei sitä nimeä.

I can’t see all of it, and when I can see it, I don’t have a name for whatever it is.

En puhu enää maani kieltä enkä toisilla kielilla; ajattelen itsekseni.

I will no longer speak my country’s language or another language. I will think myself.

Milloin puhun, en puhu omia puheitani, niin syvälle en itseäni tiedä.

When I do speak, I won’t speak about my own words. I don’t know myself so deeply.

Kädestä käteen kiersivat itselle kirjoitetut viestit tapaamatta vastaanottajaa.

They circulated messages by hand to themselves without meeting the recipient.

Ottaisi osaa keskusteluun; odotettaisiin sanovan asioita, joita muut puhuvat.

If you took part in a discussion, you would be expected to say the things the others are talking about.

Kun ongelmat käännetään ratkaisuiksi, ostetaan kaikki mitä myydään.

When problems are translated, everything is up for sale.

Vakiintunut ja tavanomainen tuovat aina väistämättä mieleen henkisen köyhyyden; elämä on siellä missä tunteet aina ylittävät järjestykseen.

The standard and commonplace inevitably bring spiritual poverty to the soul. Life is where the emotions transgress order.

Auringon paistaessa ajattelen; miten se myisi kuvana, menestyisi, kuin tämä aika mittaan arvon sille mistä pystyy luopumaan.

As the sun shines, I think how would it sell as a picture, would it be successful, as this time is measured by the value of what it can abandon.

—Hannu Salakka, Myötäisien tuulien risteykssesä (Otava, 1978), pp. 39-44. Photo and translation by Living in FIN

Hannu Salakka, “No One I Meet Here”

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Kukaan,
jonka täällä tapaan,
ei ole täältä, enkä minäkään.
Vieraat ihmiset vain kulkevat ikkunan ohi
niinkuin aamut tuoden vastustamattomasti päivät,
viholliset
joita ei voi tappaa yhtä kerrallaan,
kasvoista kasvoihin,
ja yhdessä ne ovat voima
jolle ei voi mitään.

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No one
I meet here
is from here, and neither am I.
Strangers just walk past the window,
as the mornings irresistibly bring the days.
Enemies
who cannot be killed one at a time,
face to face,
while together they are a power
to whom nothing can be done.

—Hannu Salakka, Myötäisien tuulien risteyksessä (Otava, 1978), p. 70. Photo and translation by Living in FIN

For the Union Dead

Their monument sticks like a fishbone
in the city’s throat.
—Robert Lowell, “For the Union Dead”

On her always surprising blog Found in Translation, Kate Sotejeff-Wilson, a translator based in Finland, has recently reviewed Tiina Lintunen’s Punaisten naisten tiet (Red Women’s Paths).

Ms. Lintunen has traced the lives of women in the Pori area who fought for the Reds during Finland’s brief civil war (1918) and the aftermaths of their decisions.

As Ms. Sotejeff-Wilson writes in her conclusion, Ms. Lintunen’s book seems to be a perfect candidate for translation into English, especially in this centennial year. (Finland is celebrating 100 years of independence this year.)

“The immediate consequence was often months of waiting—if not dying—in near-starvation conditions in prison camps before their case went to court. The daughter of one woman, Katri, remembers the story of how her mother stole fresh bread from her own mother’s kitchen and was hysterical when her little sister wanted to leave the house with red ribbons in her hair. Katri was sure that her sister would be arrested for openly supporting the Reds. Another woman remembers her teacher knocking a boy’s head against a brick wall for taking 1 May, the international workers’ day, off school.”

In my adopted semi-hometown of Imatra, there is a war memorial, seemingly leftist in its aesthetics, and twelve headstones at the city’s cemetery. They sit cheek by jowl with the clearly delineated, amply identified part of the cemetery where the “real” Finnish war heroes lie, i.e., men who died fighting the Soviet Union in the Winter War and the Continuation War.

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“Leftist” memorial and gravestones to the twelve “non-heroes” of the Finnish Civil War, Tanionkoski Cemetery, Imatra
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The section where those who fought and died against the Soviet Union lie in rest is much better looked after and more clearly identified.  Tanionkoski Cemetery, Imatra

Until quite recently, all the names and dates of the dead and brief details of their deaths were listed on large laminated sheets of paper, hung behind glass in a information stand situated midway between the two memorials.

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“Tainionkoski [Cemetery] War Graves.” This schematic is keyed to the lists of the war dead, most of them local soldiers and officers who fought in one of the two wars against the Soviet Union from 1939 to 1944. The twelve graves situated perpendicularly and at a distance from the main mass of war graves are marked on this schematic, but the men and one woman who lie in those graves are no longer listed on the information stand, although only a few years ago they, too, were deemed worthy of inclusion in this list of war heroes.
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All the local men who perished the Winter War and Continuation War are still listed on the information stand, as are their dates of birth and death, as well as their exact location in the “heroes” section of Imatra’s Tainionkoski Cemetery. But you will find no information about the war dead buried nearby, eleven men and one women, who were most likely executed by the Whites during the waning days of the Finnish Civil War.

Then, about a year or two ago, the names of the twelve—who most likely were Finnish Reds executed during late April and early May 1918 at Ruokolahti, near present-day Imatra, if my memory serves me as to what was written on the old lists—were mysteriously removed from the stand.

When I last visited the cemetery again, a week or two ago, the graves of the twelve “traitors” seemed to have been spruced up a bit. The names and dates engraved on the headstones had been outlined in white to make them more legible, but their bearers were still absent from the laminated list of heroes in the information stand, and there was nothing but the memorial behind them that would suggest to anyone who they were and what side they could have fought on.

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This is all Imatra’s Tanionkoski Cemetery has to tell us about Amanda Knutars, who was, I seem to remember, executed near Ruokolahti (which in the administrative toponymy of that era, before Imatra and Ruokolahti were incorporated as full-fledged municipalities, could have been almost literally down the street). It also strikes me as odd that the modest headstones of her and eleven companions in death are marked with crosses. Were they Reds or Whites? Or is the current generation to modest to tell us plainly, passing off Reds shamefacedly as “good Christians”?
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Meanwhile, nearly all the gravestones marking the final resting places of the “real” heroes bear traces of the German Junker aesthetic that has been all too prominent in the insignia and symbolism of the Finnish Army, even to this day.

I am sure the memorial to the twelve, by the way, is no longer legible to the younger generation, i.e., people born after 1991, just as the motto etched on its base, something about “brotherly sacrifice” has long been overgrown with moss.

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The only real clue to their identities is the fact that members of the Finnish Social Democratic Party march to the Tainionkoski Cemetery very early in the morning every May first and place a wreath at the memorial before going to have their Mayday coffee and roll. Next year, I’m marching with them.

Text and photos by Living in FIN

Eeva Kilpi, “Sweating as I Drink My Tea on a Hot Morning”

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Hikoillen juon teetäni hellepäivän aamuna
nauttien joka pisarasta.
Löyhähdän olemassaoloani tähän maisemaan.
Hyttyset ja paarmat rakastavat minua,
juovat mahansa killalleen,
hoippuroivat humalaisina verestäni.
Ja kun “Metsäkukkia” soi
tanssii sieluni harjulta harjulle,
pyörii kuusien päissä,
liitää pitkin lammen pintaa korennon selässä.
Mutta aina se hupsu palaa
tähän ruumiiseen.
Mikä kuolevaisuudessa viehättää?

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Sweating as I drink my tea on a hot morning,
savoring every drop.
My existence wafts into the landscape.
The mosquitoes and horseflies love me.
They drink their bellies to bursting.
Drunk on my blood, they stagger.
And when “Forest Flowers” plays,
my soul dances from one ridge to the next,
twirling on the tiptops of spruces,
soaring along a pond’s surface on a mayfly’s back.
But the silly one always returns
to this body.
What is mortality’s charm?

—Eeva Kilpi, Terveisin (WSOY, 1976), p. 18. Photo and translation by Living in FIN

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Olavi Virta’s 1952 recording of “Metsäkukkia” (“Forest Flowers”)

 

Eeva Kilpi, “Fart Hard in Your Own Hut”

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Pieraista kovaa omassa tuvassa.
Joskus sitä on valmis epäröimättä
uskomann kapitalismiin.

* * * * * *

Fart hard in your own hut.
Sometimes it is unhesitatingly ready
to believe in capitalism.

—Eeva Kilpi, Runoja 1972–1976 (WSOY, 1978), p. 40. The poem was chosen using the True Random Number Generator at random.org. Photo and translation by Living in FIN

* * * * * *

The photo, above, is of an empty “fish restaurant,” built near Ukonniemi Beach on Lake Saimaa in Imatra, South Karelia, by the city government and their favorite private contractors at great expense to the once-beautiful natural environment and local taxpayers.

Although no restaurateurs had agreed to lease or operate the future restaurant when the project was mooted and approved by city planners and city councilors, the constructionn of the “fish restaurant,” which involved felling hundreds of trees, building black-topped car roads where once there had only been soft footpaths, and dozens of other kinds of deviltry disguised as “landscaping” and “improvements,” went ahead anyway.

The initial phase, the destruction of the original, gorgeous landscape, ran into considerable cost overruns, and project managers found themselves asking the city for more money to keep up their wave of mutilation.

Several years later, no one has emerged operate or lease the restaurant, although the building is ostensibly ready to fry up fish fingers and put them all in a line.

The restaurant would be a great opportunity for any shyster who wants to go in and out of business in less than a year, because the wonderful Nuotta Restaurant and Smokehouse, located on the other side of Ukonniemi Beach, has been doing land-office business ever since it added a rooftop terrace last summer.

The food and atmosphere at the Nuotta are nonpareil, as all its regular and irregular customers know, and its view of Imatra Harbor and Laimassaari is stunning. On a warm, sunny day, I could sit there for hours, just sipping a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.

Even my dog thinks Nuotta is the cat’s meow. He once forced me to go there, after a long walk through the forest, so we could sit there for half an hour and just inhale the view. I had to order a cup of coffee and a doughnut to justify our odd-couple presence on the veranda. My dog was immeasurably pleased.

So why would such a tiny harbor need another fish restaurant? This isn’t “innovation,” as the current so-called bourgeois Finnish government would call it. This is sheer stupidity that was egged on local decision-makers by the construction lobby, who are always trying to drum up new projects for themselves, whatever cost to the built heritage, environment, and taxpayers, and whether their dubious improvements are really needed by flesh-and-blood, paying customers and townsfolk or not. LIF

 

Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, “We Open the Gift Package”

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Avataan lahjapaketti, ahmitaan suklarasia.
Nuolaisen ennen kuin tipahdan.
Kieli on kylmä lusikka kieltä vasten,
taipuu kun taivutan,
matolla minttuliköörin soma lemu
ja finni nenänpäässä,
yksi kukkavihkosta ilmestynyt nätti orvokki.

Nipistän ihon pintaa ja siihen herahtaa mustelma.
Mikään täällä tuskin on unta,
Jon Bon Jovi vilkuttaa seinällä silmää
kun puen farkut,
pyyhin viimeiset kärpäset suupielistä.
On liian myöhäistä
nukahtaa nyt,
ripustan rintaliivit kattolamppuun.
Ja lamppu sammuu.

Ekakerta on merkittävä, muista ei niin väliä.

Katson käsivarttani kuin kannibaali satukirjan sivua,
otsa nojaa vasten eebenpuuta,
lumi putoo punaiseen katuun.
Vaikka miten päin kääntäisin päätä, suipistaisin suuta,
lyhtypylväät seisovat suorassa rivissä, niin suorassa
että pää tulee kipeäksi.

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We open the gift package, wolf down the boxes of chocolate.
I lick before I drop.
The tongue is a cold spoon against the tongue,
it bends when I bend.
The sweet stench of mint schnapps on the carpet
and a pimple on the nose’s tip,
one cute pansy popped from the flowery notebooks.

I pinch the skin’s surface and a bruise wells up.
Hardly anything here is a dream,
Jon Bon Jovi winks on the wall
when I put on jeans,
I wipe the last flies from the corner of the mouth.
It’s too late
to fall asleep now,
I hang the bra on the ceiling lamp.
And the lamp goes off.

The first time is important, don’t mind so much about the others.

I look at my arm like a cannibal looking at a page in a storybook.
The forehead leans against an ebony tree,
snow falls on the red street.
Whatever way I turn the head, I purse the mouth.
The lamp posts stand in a straight row, so straight
I’m going to get a headache.

— Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, Sakset kädessä ei saa juosta (WSOY, 2004), p. 17

Photo and translation by Living in FIN

Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, “The Quiet and the Blessed”

 

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Hiljaisia ja autuaita ei valita pesäpallojoukkueseen,
me lähdemme uimaan pitkää matkaa.
Päivät solahtavat kyynarpäistä, iho tummuu
ja menee kurttuun. Meidan vaihtoehtomme
ovat vähäiset: tarttua puukkoon tai pudota.

Me olemme vedenneitoja jotka heittävät terän aaltoihin,
emme uhraa ketään, emme peri edes omaa sydäntämme.
Syvyyden päihtymys ei meihin ulotu eikä kiiman kaipuu.
Mutta tiedämme, miten liu’utaan kasvot pohjaan päin.
Miten niellään suolaista vettä ilman oksennusrefleksiä.

Laulamme yhteen ääneen yhtä ääntä, aina ihanaa,
päät nousevat laineiden keskeltä, keltaiset pyöreät pallot,
joita rannalla etsitään. Pinnalla kaikki on hyvin.

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The quiet and the blessed are not chosen for the baseball team:
We head out on a long, long swim.
The days slip off the elbows, the skin darkens
and wrinkles. Our choices
are few: catch the knife or fall.

We are water nymphs who toss the blade into the waves.
We sacrifice no one, we do not even inherit our own hearts.
Nitrogen narcosis does not get to us nor do we miss being in heat.
But we know how to glide face down in water.
How to swallow saltwater without gagging.

We sing in unison at the same volume, always marvelously.
Heads rise amid the waves, the round yellow balls
sought on shore. Everything on the surface is fine.

— Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, Sakset kädessä ei saa juosta (WSOY, 2004), p. 12

Photo of a swimmer in the Puulavesi and translation by Living in FIN