Europaeus


The life of D.E.D. Europaeus, who was born in Savitaipale 200 years ago, was full of curiosities. Photo: Museovirasto

This strange man came up with dozens of words that you use every day, and without him, Tolkien’s world-famous fantasy classic might not have been born
Europaeus, who was born on 1 December 1820, introduced over 200 words into the Finnish language and one of its most famous characters to the Kalevala
Petri Kivimäki
Yle
30 November 2020

It’s a miracle if you’ve ever heard the name David Emmanuel Daniel Europaeus.

It’s also a miracle if you have never heard or used the words eduskunta (“parliament”), harrastus (“hobby”), ilmansuunta (“compass point, direction”), mielikuvitus (“imagination”), johtaja (“manager”), tilavuus (“volume”), keräilijä (“collector”), kunta (“municipality”) or varasto (“stockpile, warehouse”).

All of these words were coined by Europaeus, or at least he published them for the first time in the history of the Finnish language.

Europaeus left us over 200 words that we still use.

Despite his strange-sounding surname, D.E.D. Europaeus was 100% Finnish. He was born 200 years ago on 1 December 1820 in a rural farmhouse in Savitaipale, South Karelia, about 40 km from Lappeenranta.

Without Europaeus, J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, would never have written The Story of Kullervo, nor would Jean Sibelius have composed his symphonic suite Kullervo. Elias Lönnrot’s Kalevala would be thinner.


The Swedish-Finnish dictionary compiled by Europaeus is on display at the Europaeus Museum. On the left is a list of words that Europaeus used for the first time in the history of the Finnish language. Photo: Petri Kivimäki/Yle

It is impossible to describe Europaeus briefly. He was a man of many hats and involved in everything: he was a Finnish-language advocate, newspaperman, pro-Finnish activist, archaeologist, teacher at a school for the deaf, lexicographer, and mathematician. He was an animal welfare officer for decades before any animal welfare society had even been established.

A man who grew up in a small country village 200 years ago, and whose impact is still audible in our lives every day, Europaeus is almost unknown.

Excited about everything
With a population of 3,400, the town center of Savitaipale looks quite similar to many other Finnish towns. There are a couple of grocery stores, a restaurant, several small businesses, a library, a fire department, and a town hall.

The handsome Olkkola estate is located a few hundred meters from the center. It was once the site of the old mansion building where Europaeus was born. His father was the vicar of Savitaipale, and his mother, the cattle girl at the vicarage.

Finnish was spoken at home, and there was a lot of multilingual literature, which Europaeus read voraciously as a boy.

There is now a small Europaeus museum next to the Olkkola estate. Inside, a big display case contains textbooks written by Europaeus, as well as copies of the magazine Suometar, which he published. On the walls, there are maps and reminiscences from his long research expeditions.


The museum is near Europaeus’s birthplace. Photo: Petri Kivimäki/Yle

A display case next to the back wall contains two human skulls found by Europaeus, which my guide has promised to tell me about soon.

A chart hung on a nail next to the skulls was used to teach the sounds of the Finnish language.

“This picture was used to teach the deaf the positions the mouth must assume to produce a certain sound,” says Eila Kajanus-Jurvanen, president of the Savitaipale Local Heritage Association.


This chart, developed by Europaeus, was used to teach the deaf to speak. Photo: Petri Kivimäki/Yle

Devised by Europaeus in 1857, the illustrated phonetic diagram was unique in Finland, because before Europaeus, no attempt had been made to teach the deaf to speak.

In his own time, Europaeus received no praise for the chart even though it enabled countless deaf people to get a toehold in the language. The chart was in use for decades: its replacement was published more than 100 years later.

“Europaeus was a special person in that he was always excited about everything new. However, his staying power in completing work was not always very good,” says Kajanus-Jurvanen.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s inspiration
When Europaeus was inspired by folklore, he naturally sought out Elias Lönnrot. Lönnrot, who was 18 years older than Europaeus, was no longer able to travel and collect oral folk poetry, but he set an enthusiastic Europaeus on the task.

Ultimately, Europaeus collected 53,000 verses on his five trips, which was far more than Lönnrot did on his dozen-some collecting trips. The Kalevala contains more poems collected by Europaeus than by Lönnrot himself.


Sculptor Viljo Savikurki’s bas-relief portrait of Europaeus was unveiled in Savitaipale in 1971. Photo: Petri Kivimäki/Yle

Lönnrot’s so-called Old Kalevala was published in 1835. Lönnrot then planned a new, larger edition. Europaeus sent a message to Lönnrot that the new edition of the Kalevala should be delayed, because he believed there was still a lot of unique poetry to be found in Ingria, the area around St. Petersburg.

That same year, Europaeus went on his fourth collecting trip to Ingria, during which he made a discovery.

“Lönnrot had never been there, and he did not think there would be any Finnish poetry there. Nevertheless, that’s where Europaeus found all the Kullervo poems. It is thanks to Europaeus that the Kullervo poems are now in the Kalevala,” says Kajanus-Jurvanen.

The Kullervo poems recorded by Europaeus ended up in the so-called New Kalevala, which was published in 1849. It is the same work that we read today as the Kalevala.


The Savitaipale elementary school is named after Europaeus. Photo: Kare Lehtonen/Yle

Kullervo has inspired many artists to create masterpieces. One of them was the writer J.R.R. Tolkien, whose Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have spread across the globe.

Tolkien was extremely interested in the Finnish language. He read the Kalevala in English, but he didn’t like it. So he learned the Finnish language by reading the Kalevala in the original. Tolkien was so enlightened by this episode that its effect began to appear immediately in his works.

Tolkien wrote his first prose piece The Story of Kullervo in 1914. It tells the tale of a young man who is sold into slavery and vows revenge on a magician who killed his father.

The Story of Kullervo was published in Finnish in 2016 under the title Kullervon tarina.

Tolkien also used mythological elements drawn from the Kalevala in his other works, both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Pölkäre and pyörö
In Europaeus’s day in the 19th century, there was still very little Finnish literature. Even as a child, he wanted Finnish literature and textbooks to be available to Finns.

When he started studying at the University of Helsinki, he took it upon himself to translate a geometry textbook into Finnish. Such things did not exist yet.

For The Geometry Book (Mittauden Oppi-kirja), published in 1847, Europaeus had to invent a whole set of Finnish words. Such words as kehä (“circumference”), suunnikas (“parallelogram”), tilavuus (“volume”), and parillinen (“even”) are still in use today.

However, not all the words have survived. Europaeus translated the word “circle” (ympyrä in modern Finnish) as pyörö (suggesting a “wheel”). Lävistäjä (“diagonal”) became keskeinen (which means “central” or “pivotal” in modern Finnish), and kuutio (“cube”) became pölkäre (suggesting a “block”).


Eila Kajanus-Jurvanen knows every object in the Europaeus Museum. Photo: Petri Kivimäki/Yle

Europaeus had to develop even more new words for his Swedish–Finnish dictionary. Although perhaps not all of them were personally coined by Europaeus, he brought them to light for the first time in the history of the Finnish language.

They include enemmistö (“majority”), harrastus (“hobby”), johtokunta (“committee”), vety (“hydrogen”), osoite (“address”), pätevä (“qualified, competent, valid”), ulkomaalainen (“foreigner”), valokuvaaja (“photographer”), viehättävä (“attractive, charming”), väitöskirja (“dissertation”), yhdyssana (“compound word”) and äänenkannattaja (“organ,” i.e., an official magazine, newsletter, or similar publication of an organization)

It is estimated that Europaeus introduced over 200 new words into the Finnish language.

Human bone collector
There is a sight in a display case at the Europaeus Museum that causes many museum visitors to pause for at least a moment: two real human skulls.

They harken back to the period when Europaeus was inspired by archaeology. After collecting folk poetry, he made seven archaeological expeditions, the first of them at the age of 51 in 1872, mainly to the northern shores of Lake Ladoga.

He is still the only Finn to have explored the southeastern parts of Ladoga.

During his travels he found objects in burial mounds that are now in museums around the world.

But Europaeus was not so much interested in objects as in bones and especially skulls. In keeping with the spirit of the times, he believed that they could be used to elucidate the history of European and Russian settlement.


Europaeus apparently found these two skulls near Ladoga. The Finnish National Museum has donated them to the Europaeus Museum. Photo: Petri Kivimäki/Yle

In one of his letters, Europaeus said that he had four skulls retrieved from the Savitaipale cemetery. Later, after his research trips, he wrote that he had all the skulls he needed.

“At the time, craniometry was in vogue. It was used to determine whether people were long-skulled or short-skulled. And then this was used to determine their origins,” says Kajanus-Jurvanen.

On the basis of his skull research, Europaeus concluded that Africa was humanity’s original home.

“That idea was laughed at, and all that was said was, ‘What a strange opinion,'” says Kajanus-Jurvanen.

No fame
In the 19th century, D.E.D. Europaeus was considered a peculiar vagabond, even a ragamuffin. In his own time, he was never approved, and he is still not famous.

“Europaeus was modest and did not promote himself,” says Pertti Jurvanen, a local heritage councilor who was involved in founding the D.E.D. Europaeus society.

Juha Nirkko, an archivist at the Finnish Literature Society, also explains how Europaeus was not well liked in his own time

“Lönnrot, for example, was a respected cholera doctor and was recognized for it. Poor Europaeus, on the other hand, was considered a cholera transmitter and well poisoner. Some people can’t get a break,” says Nirkoo.


A photograph of Europaeus taken by N.I. Snellman in the mid-1870s. Photo: Museovirasto

According to Nirkko, Europaeus was a telecommuter and temp worker of his day and age. He had no family and wandered around the country in search of work.

“He enrolled at university, but his studies never progressed,” says Nirkko.

Nirkko emphasizes how much Europaeus differed from his contemporaries. He was an anarchist of his time.

“He just couldn’t adhere to the norms and conventions of his time. He was not held back by the borders of countries, continents or cultures. Europaeus was not a limited thinker. Maybe he was too unrestrained and uncontrollable,” argues Nirkko.


Europaeus’s grave is in the old section of Hietaniemi Cemetery in Helsinki. The surname was subsequently Fennicized as Äyräpää, as seen on the tombstone to the left. Photo: Rudolph Bülow/Yle

After leaving Savitaipale to pursue his education, Europeaus was, at different times, a teacher, collected place names in St. Petersburg, and went on poetry collecting trips. He may have been a private tutor in Heinävesi, and studied in Viipuri and Helsinki. In Germany, he attended political rallies.

But he often returned to his native region on holiday. There he wrote, among other things, the Swedish–Finnish dictionary and met his sister Charlotta, who was also an avid collector of folk poetry.

In the spring of 1884 Europaeus went to St. Petersburg, where in the autumn of the same year he died at the age of 63.

Europaeus was buried in St. Petersburg. After a few weeks his remains were exhumed and brought to Helsinki, where on 4 December 1884 he was laid to rest in Hietaniemi Cemetery with other great men and women.

The peace of death has been attained by one wanderer of the world whose whole life was spent in tireless searching, restless acquisition and amateur pursuits. He lived like a bird without thinking about tomorrow’s needs.
—Excerpt from an article about Europaeus’s death, published in Uusi-Suometar on 23 October 1884


Europaeus’s date of death is marked on his tombstone as 15 October 1884, which, according to archivist Juha Nirkko, is at least quite close to the correct date. Some sources claim that Europaeus died in May 1884. Photo: Rudolph Bülow/Yle

Modest celebrations
Tuesday 1 December 2020 marks 200 years since the birth of D.E.D. Europaeus. The municipality of Savitaipale had planned a variety of events for the jubilee year, but most of them have been cancelled due to the coronavirus.

A small memorial event will take place at the Europaeus monument at 12:00 p.m. on first December.

On Thursday 3 December 2020 at 6:00 p.m. in the courtyard of the Europaeus School, excerpts from the play Europaeus, which was to be performed this year, will be presented. In addition, there will be a program by schoolchildren and a light show.

Thanks to Tiina Pasanen for the invaluable heads-up. Translated by Living in FIN

10,000 Steps (International Translation Day)

In recent years, I have celebrated International Translation Day on this day, September 30, here at Living in FIN. Today, I discovered that the overarching theme of this year’s celebration is “Finding the words for a world in crisis.” It is not that I think that the world is not in crisis (or that I thought it was ever not in crisis), but having worked for thirteen years on a much more intense and exhausting online translation project that only this month has, for the first time, passed the ten thousand monthly views mark, I do wonder how much difference translation makes to a “world in crisis.”

More to the point, when you sometimes wait, as I do, for months to get paid for rush translation jobs, that is, for “real work” (not the fun I’m having here) or are offered (as I was the other day) 1,200 euros for translating a six-hundred-page book (which should cost at least 12,000 euros) you feel both inspired and then, just as instantly, let down when you read that translation is a “moral debt,” as I did a few days ago on the Facebook page of a well-known poet and translator.

A moral debt to whom? To people who think that translation is as easy as falling off a chair, a kind of menial mechanical intellectual labor? To people who cannot be bothered to learn to speak any foreign language fluently? To people hostile to the foreign tongues in their midst?

Yes, it’s lovely to share your talents by giving people access to the lives, dreams, sufferings, and joys of other people, sometimes far away, whose languages they don’t speak. But since, I suspect, most translators labor without much in the way of recognition and appreciation (and money) from anyone, including even the people who benefit from their work, it’s better to imagine that, on the one hand, translating is something you’re doing for your own sake, something you’re doing to escape “the heavy bear that goes with me,” as Delmore Schwartz so aptly called his (our) brutish inner self, and, on the other, that translators are workers, too, and should demand good pay for fair work.

So, the hell with “moral debt.” Let’s be escapists instead. Here is today’s installment of Viivi & Wagner.

Panel 1
Wagner: I’m going to circle the bed until I get to 10,000 steps.

Panel 3
Viivi: I’d like to sleep. How many steps have you taken today?
Wagner: Those two just now.

Source: Helsingin Sanomat

Almost Finns have a few pro-tips for dealing with the kaamos, the polar night or the nearly endless darkness of winter nights and days on or above the sixtieth parallel.

Turn on the English subtitles if you don’t speak Finnish. Thanks to Tiina Pasanen for the link.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Finally, it wouldn’t be a Living in FIN party without a few words of gloomy wisdom from the late great Hannu Salakka.

Elämä ei sellaista
kuin lauseiden synnystä saattaisi luulla.
Olen vain hetkeksi karannut tähän miettimään,
muistelemaan.

Life is not like that
like the way you might think sentences are born.
I’ve just run away for a while to think about it,
to think back.

Päiväkävelyllä
lapsi opettaa kävelemään
niinkuin vanhaa miestä,
pysähtelemäänkin, katselemaan taakseen.

On afternoon strolls
a child teaches you to walk
like an old man,
even teaching you to stop and look back.

Ääni,
joka ei ole iloinen eikä surullinen,
mutta täynnä tunnetta.

A sound (a voice),
which is neither happy nor sad,
but full of emotion.

Source: Hannu Salakka, Kuin unessa viipyen (Otava, 1990), pp. 419–421. Translated by Living in FIN. Images courtesy of Duolingo, the best thing since sliced bread, especially since it started teaching Finnish.

What’s in a Name?

ahmadResearcher Akhlaq Ahmad was surprised how much a name affects a job search. Photo by Henrietta Hassinen. Courtesy of Yle

A Finnish Name Gets You a Job
Yle Uutiset Selkosuomeksi
October 21, 2019

In Finland, it is easier to find a job for applicants who have Finnish names, according to a new study.

The study was carried out by Akhlaq Ahmad, a sociologist at the University of Helsinki. He sent out 5,000 job applications under names in different languages. The names were not real but invented.

The applications were filled out so the job seekers looked equally good. They also all spoke Finnish well.

The differences were great, Ahmad explained. For example, it was much harder to get a job with the name Abdirashid Mohamed than with the name Aino Hämäläinen.

In the study, companies asked more job seekers with Finnish names to interviews. Nearly 400 out of 1,000 applicants with Finnish names received invitations.

Applicants received fewer invitations to job interviews if they had Iraqi or Somali names. 134 out of 1,000 job seekers who had Iraqi names received invitations.

Somali applicants got the fewest callbacks of all. Only 99 applicants out of 1,000 with Somali names were invited to job interviews.

Akhlaq Ahmad was surprised the differences among different groups were so large.

Thanks to Tiina Pasanen for the heads-up. Translated by Living in FIN

Johanna Venho, “(Returning)”

(Paluu)

Lentokoneesta näen tutun vihreän,
havut ilta-auringossa. Oman ääneni väri,
tämäkö on maa johon minut tehtiin.
Asuin poissa kauan, puhuin särmätöntä kieltä,
nauroin vaikeasti. Tarkkailin muita.
Toista ei voi tuntea: toisen eteen
on mentävä kuin ikonin. Odota.
Joku alkaa kertoa, sana tai pari imeytyy vereen.
Kaipasin näitä ihmisiä: kuulostelua.
Kesäyövaloa silmien alla. Tämäkö on maa
johon hajoan, mullastani kasvaa
syvä, tumma kuusi. Tuuli näppäilee oksia öisin.

imatrankoski (2)

(Returning)

I see the familiar green from the plane,
Conifer sprigs in the evening sun. The color of my own voice,
This is the land I was made for.
I lived away for a long time. I spoke an edgeless tongue,
I laughed gravely. I observed others.
The other cannot be known: others
Must be approached like icons. Wait.
Someone speaks, the blood absorbs a word or two.
I missed these people, listening,
The light of summer nights under my eyes. This is the land
Where I shall decompose, a deep dark fir
Growing from my soil. The wind shall pluck its boughs at night.

Source: Johanna Venho, Postia Saturnukseen (Porvoo–Helsinki–Juva: WSOY, 1998), p. 70. Translation and photo of Imatra Rapids (Imatrankoski) by Living in FIN

Blueberry Tarte Tatin

Timjami (thyme) is my favorite word in Finnish, which is just as well because thyme is one of my favorite herbs. I have cooked it fresh countless times in traditional (apple) tarte tatin and various other dishes. I am sure it will not be out of place in this summertime pie, in which mustikka (blueberry), found throughout Finland’s extensive woodlands, replaces the apples (omenoita) usefully found in the famous French upside-down pie. {LIF}

mk0518_mika_mustikka2_preview_pSe99

Blueberry Tarte Tatin: The Summer’s Most Wonderful Pie Does a Somersault
Text: Mika Rampa • Photo: Satu Nyström
meillakotona.fi

The secret to the taste of the upside-down pie known as blueberry tarte tatin tarte is thyme, which deepens the blueberry’s woodsy flavor. Bake the little pies in blini pans (or other small ovenproof frying pans), so everyone gets his or her own individual serving.

Ingredients (4 servings)

Pastry Crust
75 grams butter (at room temperature)
1 deciliter sugar
1 egg
2 deciliters flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2–1 teaspoon cardamom

Filling
75 grams butter
1 deciliter brown sugar
8 sprigs thyme
3 tablespoons citrus liqueur*
3 deciliters blueberries

Serving
2 deciliters whipping cream (whipped)

Cooking time: 55 min {active–35 min; passive–20 min}

Bake blueberry tarte tatin as follows:

  1. Mix the butter and sugar in a bowl. Add the egg. Combine the flour, baking powder, and cardamom in another bowl. Add the flour mixture to the first bowl and mix until you have a smooth dough. Place it in the refrigerator.
  2. Add the butter, brown sugar, and thyme sprigs to a frying pan. Let simmer until the sugar has melted. Add the citrus liqueur and blueberries. Remove the pan from the stove.
  3. Press the dough on the pan or pans with a rolling pin. Make sure the pastry crust fits the pan exactly and it is on top of the blueberries.
  4. Bake the tarte tatin in an oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 20 to 30 minutes depending on the pan’s size.
  5. Put a plate over the baked pie and swiftly turn it upside down to serve.

* You can easily substitute lemon juice for the citrus liqueur.

Translated by Living in FIN

Easy Finnish, Lesson Five: Getting Home on the Slang Bus

One of the most dismaying things you discover if you study Finnish long enough is that the extremely morphologically complex and otherwise utterly alien-sounding language you have been melting your brains to get a tenuous grip on is, in fact, textbook Finnish, the literary language or standard language (kirjakieli) used in newspapers, magazines, and books, and spoken, as it were, by TV and radio presenters, politicians, schoolteachers and other professionals, and government clerks.

In real life, Finns speak bewildering combinations of conversational Finnish (puhekieli) and regional dialects (murteet). In Helsinki, the local dialect or argo is stadi (the word itself is a Finnish take on the Swedish for “city,” stad), a mind-numbing melange of Swedish, German, Russian, and English loanwords embedded in a Finnish grammatical, syntactical, and morphological matrix.

When I run head on into something that looks like slang or conversational Finnish, I often turn to the website Urbaani Sanakirja (“Urban Dictionary”). One of the things I like about the online dictionary is that it almost always provides down-to-earth examples of usage.

The website also features a Päivän sana (“Word of the day”), helpful for building and reinforcing your Finnish slang vocabulary.

Today’s word of the day is a personal favorite of mine, dösä, “bus.”

dösä

Although Finns also often use the word bussi (“bus”), it is a colloquialism; the word for “bus” in standard textboox Finnish is linja-auto, the very same word Urbaani Sanakirja uses to define dösä.

The example it supplies—Tulin eilen dösällä himaan (“Yesterday I got home by bus”)—contains another slang word, hima.

hima

Hima means koti (“home”) in standard Finnish. “Translated” into book Finnish, then, the entire sentence would read, “Tulin eilen bussilla kotiin.” That is a far cry, lexically, from our original sentence, “Tulin eilen dösällä himaan.”

What does the sample sentence supplied for hima (“Nauran heittereille matkan himast pankkiin”) mean?

“I laugh at the haters all the way from home to the bank.”

That is a slightly obscure sentence (at least, to this non-Finn: is it a peculiar Finnish way of saying, “I’m laughing all the way to the bank”? Who are the “haters”?), so let’s look at the second example provided. It, on the contrary, is a perfectly clear and typical specimen of conversational Finnish with a bit of slang tossed in for good measure.

hima-2

“Mun pitäs varmaa jo lähtee himaa” means “I should probably go home already.” Translated into standard Finnish, it would read, “Minun pitäisi varmaa jo lähteä kotiin.”

If you find this confusing, you’re not alone. In conversations with actual Finns, I rarely venture beyond the bounds of my still quite shaky kirjakieli, although often as not what I hear in return is conversational Finnish or the Karelian dialect of Finnish, spoken in parts of southeast Finland (where I hang out) and once spoken in Finland’s former second city, Viipuri (Vyborg), and the area to the south of it, known in Finnish as the Karjalankannas (Karelian Isthmus), but usually called simply Kannas or “the Isthmus” by Finns.

For obvious reasons, Kannas is a charged word in Finland, but that is a topic for another, less frivolous post.

Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, “In Finnish Class”

DSCN2106 (2)

Äidinkielen tunnilla luetaan AI, YÖ, UI.
Ei siitä viisaaksi tule, mutta valitettavasti ei hulluksikaan.
Luistinradan takana on tilaa tapella.
Niitä kiusataan, jotka uskovat liikaa
sekä Mari-Orvokkia.

Näkinkenkärintainen tyttö kutsuu jäälle paritanssiin.
Tirsk tirsk sahaamme samaan suuntaan piirin poikki.
Äidinkielen tunnilla käännetään sivu.
OI EI, AL-LI, EI VOI.

Koulun jälkeen kävelemme pakkasessa kanalaan,
kuljetamme kananmunan huopien välissä patjan alle
ja sidomme viiden villahuivin sisään.
Jonain päivänä tapahtuu: kuori kopsahtaa rikki
ja linnunpoika rääkäisee ensimmäisen kerran.

§§§§§

In Finnish class, we read ouch, night, swim.
It won’t make you smart, but unfortunately it won’t make you crazy.
There’s a place for fighting behind the skating rink.
They bully Mari-Orvokki
and the ones who believe too much.

A seashell-chested girl invites me on the ice for a pairs dance.
Giggle, giggle, we saw across the circle in the same direction.
We translate a page in Finnish class.
Oh no, oldsquaw, cannot.

After school, we walk to the henhouse in the cold.
We carry an egg between blankets and put it under a mattress
wrapping it in five wool scarves.
Someday it will happen: the shell smashed to smithereens,
the chick will let loose its first squawk.

—Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, Sakset kädessä ei saa juosta (WSOY, 2004), p. 41. Translation and photo by Living in FIN

Eeva Kilpi, “I Finally Plucked Up My Courage”

Finland’s 100th Independence Day is almost over, but I wanted to say happy birthday to my favorite country by exercising a little of the independence it has afforded me by giving me a whole new language, a language I never imagined I’d be learning until nine years ago, and the miracle of meeting wise, tender, witty souls in the medium of that language.

I’m especially grateful to Finland and Finnish for acquainting me with the great Finnish writer Eeva Kilpi, whose novels, short stories, memoirs, essays, and poems should be translated into more languages. They are mostly as dissimilar as two writers could be, but occasionally she reminds me of the great Czeslaw Milosz. But mostly she reminds me of herself, which is always the real sign of a great writer.

This is just the next poem from her first collection, A Song about Love and Other Poems, published in 1972 (after she was already famous for her prose works), which I’m now translating all the way through.

It’s not patriotic at all, and has nothing to do with Independence Day, but it does have something to do with independence. LIF

haarapaaskyt

Nyt minä lopulta rohkaisin mieleni,
soitin hänelle lennättimestä ja sanoin:
Tämä on Eeva Mikkelistä päivää.
Mitä sinulle kuuluu?
Minä lähden tältä kesältä torstaina.
Houkuttaisiko sinua sitä ennen
tulla vielä kerran käymään täällä?

Minulla on kiireitä, hän sanoi, ikävä kyllä,
eikö sinulle sopisi joskus myöhemmin syksyllä?

Riippuu pääskysistä, minä vastasin,
jos ne ehtivät lähteä ennen minua,
suljen ikkunan enkä enää tule.

Vai niin, hän sanoi. Mitenkähän se oikein on,
minulla hälyttää nyt valitettavasti toinen puhelin.
Mutta kun tulet kaupunkiin niin otetaan yhteyttä.

Suon kohdalla muistin miten se oli:
Laurilta laumaan, Pertulta pois.

Ja minä olin meinannut jo Maunona.

•••••••

I finally plucked up my courage.
I called him from the telegraph and said,
This is Eeva, calling from Mikkeli, hello.
How are you?
I’m wrapping up the summer on Thursday.
Could you be tempted before then
to come here again for a visit?

Sadly, he said, I’m busy.
Would it work for you sometime later in the fall?

It depends on the swallows, I replied.
If they manage to leave before me,
I’ll close the window and not come back.

Is that so? he said. Whatever the matter is,
unfortunately, my other phone is buzzing now.
But when you come to the city, we’ll get in touch.

Under my breath I remembered how the saying went.
“The birds flock on Lauri’s, and fly away on Perttu’s.”

And I was going to be a Mauno.*

* In the Finnish Lutheran calendar, Lauri’s nameday is August 10, while Perttu’s nameday is August 24. Mauno’s nameday is August 19. The equivalents of these men’s first names in English are Lawrence, Bartholemew, and Magnus.

Originally published in Eeva Kilpi, Laulu rakkaudesta ja muita runoja (WSOY, 1972). Translated by Living in FIN. Photo courtesy of Irman Kuvia

Eeva Kilpi, “A Song about Love”

eeva-kilpiEeva Kilpi

Eeva Kilpi
A Song about Love

So, one day
we shall twist our bodies round each other
and snap shut the lock, never to be detached again,
thy cervical wear and tear intertwined with my gout,
my stomach ulcers cheek by jowl with thine heart ailments,
and my rheumatism snug against thy lumbago.
Thou and I ne’er shall part.

Thou, dear, shalt forget thine arrhythmia, shortness of breath,
and the necrosis
lodged already in thine heart,
and I shall forget my catarrh, restless legs,
and the incessant chafing on my left side,
come frost and misfortune and whate’er else.

My breasts are empty and flat.
Take them in thy hands, dear,
as one day when thou lookest they shall sag.
Wilt thou love me then,
hey diddle diddle all the day?

Lord, teach us to accept old people’s love,
young people’s love, middle-aged people’s love,
ugly people’s love, obese people’s love, poor people’s love,
poorly dressed people’s love,
and lonely people’s love.
Teach us to accept love.
We are so afraid of it.

Thou shalt take my breasts in thy hands,
my flat, stretched breasts,
and touch the wrinkled tips with thy lips.
The cataract in thine eye whilst thou wait for a hospital bed:
thou shalt fumble thy way to me blind,
grope me with thy mind’s hand.
Grope away:
beneath all these wrinkles it is me.
Life has finally forced us into this guise,
my Arctic bramble, my snow bunting, my swallow.

My lumps shall nestle in thy pits,
Thy crinkles in my grooves,
and alongside thy miseries I shall pray silently for thy death.
Bright are the day and the eve.

•••••••

Laulu rakkaudesta

Ja eräänä päivänä
me koukistumme toistemme ympärille
ja naksahdamme lukkoon emmekä irtoa enää,
sinun kulumavikasi minun kihtiini kietoutuneena,
minun mahahaavani sinun sydänvaivasi vieressä
ja reumatismini sinun noidannuoltasi vasten,
emme erkane konsana ei.

Ja rakas, sinä unohdat rytmihäiriösi, hengenahdistuksesi
ja kuolion
joka sydämessä jo on
ja minä unohdan katarrini, levottomat jalkani
ja sen alituisen kalvamisen vasemmalla puolella
ja tulkohon hallat ja harmit ja muut.

Minun rintani tyhjät ja litteät
ota käsiisi rakas
sillä eräänä päivänä kun katsot ne riippuvat pitkinä,
rakastatko minua silloin
tula tuulan tuli tuli tei?

Herra, opeta meitä hyväksymään vanhojen rakkaus,
nuorten rakkaus, keski-ikäisten ihmisten rakkaus,
rumien rakkaus, lihavien rakkaus, köyhien rakkaus,
huonosti puettujen rakkaus
ja yksinäisten rakkaus.
Opeta meitä hyväksymään rakkaus,
me niin pelkäämme sitä.

Ja sinä otat käsiisi minun rintani,
minun venyneet litteät rintani
ja kosketat huulillasi kurttuisia nipukoita
ja kaihi silmissäsi sinä sairaspaikkaa odotellessasi
hapuilet sokeana luokseni,
tunnustelet minua käsimielin.
Tunnustele vaan:
kaikkien näitten ryppyjen alla se olen minä,
tähän valepukuun elämä meidät viimein pakotti,
mesimarjani, pulmuni, pääskyni mun.

Ja minun kyhmyni painautuvat sinun kuoppiisi,
sinun ryppysi minun uurteisiini
ja kärsimystesi äärellä minä rukoilen hiljaa kuolemaasi.
On kirkkaana päivä ja ilta.

Originally published in Eeva Kilpi, Laulu rakkaudesta ja muita runoja (WSOY, 1972). Translated by Living in FIN. Photo of Eeva Kilpi courtesy of Janolehti

Couch Potato

couch potato

Panel 1
Viivi: Father and mother are going to marry me off to some rich brat.
Wagner: Great!

Panel 2
Viivi: How’s that?!
Wagner: You’d be rich again. You gave away the inheritance, after all.

Panel 3
Viivi: What about you?!
Wagner: I’ll be lying on this couch as always.

Translated by Living in FIN. Originally published in Hesari on October 25, 2017. Written and drawn by Juba (Jussi Tuomola)