Hannu Salakka, “Since When Have I Always Lied?”

A view of the abandoned Tiuru Hospital, Tiuruniemi, South Karelia, 5 September 2018. Photo by Living in FIN

Mietin, mistä alkaen olen aina valehdellut,
keksinyt, sepittänyt, muistanut tahallani väärin,
muuttanut merkityksiä?
Sitten siitä tuli toinen luonto,
työ,
enkä enää välittänyt tietää
mikä minuun oli mennyt.

Väsyn ihmisiin helposti
enkä välitä heistä enää,
mutta heti kun olen yksin alan kaivata
jotakin toista,
seurassa nauran, juhlin, juttelen, keksin tarinoita,
mutta heti kun tuli hetkikin hiljaista
annan sijan
sisälläni asuvalle
täsmälleen itseni kokoiselle erakolle
joka on vaiti
toreilla, ruuhkabusseissa, pääkaupunkien kaduilla;
vain jossain kaukaisessa erämaan kolkassa
saattaa törmätä kummajaiseen
joka heti alkaa jutella jokaiselle kuin vanhalle tuttavalle.

En ole nähnyt paikkaa
jossa en olisi halunnut käydä, mutta vain käydä,
jotkut muistelevat mennyttä,
suunnittelevat tulevaisuuttaan,
minä elän tätä päivää,
en mieti iltaan saakka,
se kuitenkin tulee, väsyn,
menen toiseen huoneeseen, alan nukkua,
tai kävelen kadulla,
jos minut nähdään,
käännyn jostain kulmasta ja katoan,
ei kukaan saa minua elämästäni kiinni.

I was wondering: since when have I always lied,
concocted, made up, deliberately recalled things wrongly,
changed the sense of things?
It later became second nature,
work.
I no longer cared to know
what had gotten into me.

I tire of people easily.
I don’t care about them anymore.
But as soon as I’m alone, I miss
someone else,
laughing, partying, chatting, making up stories in company.
But as soon as it has become quiet for a second,
I give way
to the loner living inside me,
exactly my same size,
who is silent
at markets, on crowded buses, in city streets.
Only in a distant corner of the wilderness
might you run into an oddball
who immediately chats to everyone like an old buddy.

I haven’t seen a place
where I wouldn’t want to go, but only go.
Some remember the past,
plan their future.
I live this day,
I don’t think until evening.
Nevertheless, it comes. I am tired,
I go to another room and sleep.
Or I walk down the street.
If I am seen,
I turn a corner and disappear.
No one catches me out in my life.

Source: Hannu Salakka, Kuin unessa viipyen (Otava, 1990), pp. 536–537. Translated by Thomas H. Campbell

Jorma Etto, “Life Is”

clouds over the vuoksi

elämä on
niin suurena niin tavoittamattomana
oli elämä edessäsi
ja sinä sanoit itsellesi
ennen kuin kaiken jätät
kaiken myös ymmärrät

nyt
kun käännyt katsomaan taaksesi
kun uskallat sen tehdä
näet elämän
yhtä suurena yhtä tavoittamattomana
ja poikasi näet
seisovan hautakivesi äärellä
pitäen kädestä jotakin konttorityttöä
(hautausmaan rauhassa heilläkin
on tilaisuus olla oma itsensä)
ja kuulet poikasi kuiskaavan
hänen suloiseen pikku korvaansa
salaisuuden jota sinä et ymmärtänyt
elämä on
(niin hän kuiskaa
ja hän tietää)
elämä on

life is
life confronted you
so great so unattainable
and you said to yourself
before you left it all
you would understand it all, too

now
when you’ve turned to look back
when you dare to do it
you see life
just as great just as unattainable
and you see your son
standing before your tombstone
holding the hand of some office girl
(in the cemetery’s calm they have
a chance to be themselves)
and you hear your son whispering
into her sweet little ear
the secret you didn’t understand
life is
(so he whispers
and he knows)
life is

Source: Jorma Etto, Suomalainen ja muut vaalitut (Oulu: Pohjoinen, 1985), p. 5. Photo and translation by Thomas H. Campbell

10 Reasons to Eat Strawberries

It is a tiny miracle that strawberries grow this far north. It is even more of a miracle that Finnish strawberries are supremely delicious, perfectly succulent and sweet.

Finns celebrate this miracle by eating as many strawberries as they can while they are in season.

They also honor strawberries by incorporating them into desserts concocted only on the most festive occasions, such as the strawberry whipped cream cake our downstairs neighbor Maija makes on her birthday, her name day, and her husband’s name day,  which all take place in July and August, during and just after the peak of the all-too-brief Finnish strawberry season.

Maija’s strawberry whipped cream cake is to die for, by the way.

But strawberries are not just delicious, they are good for you, too, as I was reminded yesterday by this placard at the pop-up strawberry stand at my local grocery store.

ten reasons to eat strawberries

10 Reasons to Eat Strawberries

  • It improves the immune system.
  • It maintains eyesight.
  • It prevents cancer.
  • It firms up the skin.
  • It lowers cholesterol.
  • It makes the joints work better.
  • It lowers blood pressure.
  • It improves digestion.
  • It helps control weight.
  • It is positively yummy.

 

Photo and translation 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.

Eeva Kilpi, “The Forest Is Joy”

IMG_3072

Metsä on iloa.
Siksi jätän teille kallioita, poikani,
ja metsää niiden ympärillä.
Kallioilta näkee Karjalaan
ja sinne, kuusenlatvojen taakse
voi kuvitella äidin lapsuuden
ja mummin ja vaarin lapsuuden
sinne voi kuvitella
myös teidän lastenlastenne lapsuuden,
se on luvallista
se on sallittua
se on mahdollista
“ei silmä ossaa ota”
ja vaikka ottaisikin
se olisi oikein.
Siellä ovät teidän vaarinne metsät
äitinne rannat
ja rantapolut
laitumet joilla hän paimensi lehmiä,
lähde jonne nappuri upotti mehupullot
ja ne säilyivät siellä yli talvisodan,
yli välirauhan ja uuden sodan.
Ja kun hän kolme vuotta myöhemmin
kesällä neljäkymmentäkaksi
palasi ja upotti kätensä lähteeseen
ne tervehtivät häntä ehjinä, sileinä, raikkaina
kuin kärsivällisesti odottaneet
piilotetut lapset.
Ja mehu oli hyvää.

The forest is joy.
I shall thus leave you the rocks and crags, my boys,
and the forest in their midst.
Karelia can be seen from the cliffs
and there, beyond the tops of the firs,
you can picture Mother’s childhood
and Grandma and Grandpa’s childhood.
You can picture
your grandchildren’s childhood as well.
It is legal,
it is permissible,
it is possible.
“It’s not the eye that takes part.”
Even if it did take,
it would be right.
Your grandpa’s forests are there,
your mother’s beaches,
the shoreline paths
where she herded cows to pasture,
and the spring where the neighbor submerged juice bottles.
They were preserved there over the Winter War,
over the truce and the new war.
When, three years later,
in the summer of forty-three,
he returned and plunged his hand into the spring,
they greeted him intact, smooth, and fresh,
like hidden children who had been waiting patiently.
The juice was good.

Source: Eeva Kilpi, Perhonen ylittää tien (WSOY, 2000), p. 451. Photo and translation by Living in FIN

Eeva Kilpi, Six Poems

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—Minä elän nyt niin että kuoltuani
jumalakin itkee sitä
että loi ihmisen ainutkertaiseksi

“I am alive now that I am dead.”
Even God bewails the fact
He made man unique.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Neitseestä syntynyt,
he sanoivat
ja ajatella, se meni läpi.

Ja nyt kun virhe on tehty
ja me elämme siinä yhä,
ei voi muuta kuin kuvitella
miten toisin olisi kaikki,
jos he olisivat nostaneet totuuden kunniaan,
sanoneet:
—Ole siunattu, avioton äiti.

Born of a virgin,
they said,
and to think it got through.

Now the error has been made
and we live with it still,
you cannot help but imagine
how different everything could have been,
if they had done credit to the truth
and said:
“Blessed art thou, o unwed mother.”

 

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Tänä iltana minulle selvisi heijastuksen tarkoitus:
Mikä muu saisi kuun lumpeitten joukkoon?

The purpose of reflections was made clear to me this evening.
What else would make the moon go into a patch of water lilies?

∴∴∴∴∴∴∴∴∴∴

Minä olen vain episodi elämässäni
niin kuin kaikki muukin,
avioliitto, miehet, lapsetkin.
Minä haluaisin päästä ja takaisin
siihen ykseyteen
johon alunperin synnyin.

Jos tämän vain olisi tiennyt:
että kaikki on vaiheta, välikohtauksia,
että mikään ei jää lopulliseksi . . .
Niin mitä sitten?

I am only an episode in my life
like everything else:
marriage, the men, the children.
I would like to go back
to the oneness
into which I was originally born.

If only to find out this.
if everything is a phase, an incident,
if nothing remains final,
what, then, is the big deal?

IMAG4661

Huono tie ja pitkä heinä,
polulla rupikonnat, omat ruppanani,
vartioimassa pihaa.
Kivijalassa valppaina kyyt,
toinen musta, toinen vihertävä,
portailla avuliaat nokkoset.
Yössä lepakkojen armeija.
Ja kun kirjoitan, ylpeyteni,
kolme karhunputkea
turvaavat selustan ikkunan takana.

Lukevat salaa olkapään yli
mita kirjoitan heistä.

A poor road and long grass,
toads on the path, my own blood cakes,
watching over the yard.
The vipers in the plinth are vigilant.
One is black, the other greenish.
The nettles on the stairs are helpful.
There is an army of bats at night.
And when I write, my pride,
three angelicas
guard the rear from behind the window.

They secretly read over my shoulder
what I am writing about them.

 

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Japanilainen vieraani
käsitti vaivoin, että Suomessa ei ollut
neljäkymmentä miljoonaa asukasta.
Neljätoista miljoonaa hän olisi juuri
ja juuri jaksanut ottaa vastaan.
Mutta neljä ja puoli miljoonaa
oli hänelle liikaa.

Me vaikenimme kohteliaasti.

A Japanese guest of mine
realized painfully Finland did not have
forty million inhabitants.
He would have barely had the strength
to accept fourteen million.
But four and a half million
were too much for him.

We politely held our tongues.

—Eeva Kilpi, Terveisin (WSOY, 1976), pp. 92, 72, 28, 116, 19, 83. Translations and photos by Living in FIN