Johana Sinisalo - Not Before Sundown 
Wednesday, 03 .May, 2006, 05:10 - English Entries, Finland, Literature

Not Before Sundown Trolls are creatures of the Northern mythology and Scandinavian legends. They are walking upright and therefore look somehow like humans, but their fur-coat and claws remind us of their animal nature. Trolls are said to love the night, to be able to turn to stone and sometimes some of them were seen - if we believe what the murmured stories of older days tell us - as changelings, replacing human children in their cradles.

In her book "Not Before Sundown" Johanna Sinisalo translates the legends of the trolls into a modern novel. After a night of drinking and disappointment, Mikael saves a young Troll from the violence of a gang of youngsters. Mikael reacts without further thinking and takes the wounded troll into his home and life.

Sinisalos story needed the first hundred pages to get up to speed. In the beginning the troll is ill and Mikael, who is homosexual, has problems to hide his new subtenant from his boy friends. But when Pessi, the troll, finally gets well and starts causing further confusion, the book becomes funny and entertaining.

In-between the mostly short chapters Sinisalo informs about the role of the Troll in Finnish literature and history by putting abstracts from all kinds of sources - poems, extractions from novels, scientific and popular scientific articles - into the book. As an uneducated reader I was rather surprised of same of the "facts" that are elaborated in these insertions. The authors’ humor, in some cases, reaches over the borders of the novel and the reader should be careful in choosing what to believe and what not.

Towards the end we are facing more and more the wild and darker nature of the troll. Although the final chapters might seem tragic, the book never leaves is light and humorous style.

There is also the story of a desperate Philippine girl who was married by a Finnish thug out of a catolog. This character is simply not needed for the book and described in a completly cliche way. It seems that Sinisalo wanted to introduce a more serious side-story in the novel, but to my eyes failed completly with it.

In the end the book left me disappointed. The language is too clean (at least in the translation) and offers no inspiration, the characters are predictable and the intended criticism of society is not convincing.

But most of all the fantastic element - the troll - does not develop into a mystic creature and the few secrets around it taste rather constructed. By citing so many other sources Sinisalo makes clear where she got her inspiration from, but she is not able to reproduce them in a way that would deepen the understanding of the legends. She avoids carefully any chance to let the fear and fascination of the old tales shine through her story.

"Not Before Sundown" is an entertaining and humoristic novel which gives an introduction to some parts of Finnish mythology. It does not go further than that and for me did not hold as an example for contemporary Finnish literature.
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Ultra Bra 
Saturday, 29 .April, 2006, 08:54 - English Entries, Finland, Music
Wikipedia.en: Ultra Bra

Whoever lives in Finland in these days will stumble over Ultra Bra sooner or later. "Bra" means "good" in Swedish language, so Ultra Bra is something "really good", if you talk Swedish. If you talk English then this of course might have a different meaning. Anyways "Ultra Bra" is the name of a famous Finnish band, that unfortunately does not exist anymore.

I first read about them on Wikipedia, most likely whilst I was following some links from the Finish Green Party (Vihreä Liitto), of which Anni Sinnemäki was a member of the band and wrote some of the lyrics. Later on I got to listen to most of their songs from the CDs of my girl friend.

The band – who only sang in Finish language – consisted of over a dozen members and existed from 1994 to 2001. During that time it gained huge popularity not only amongst the younger generation of Finns. I'm quite sure that you can ask nearly any Finnish person today about Ultra Bra – he or she will smile and shortly after start humming one of their songs. If you put some drinks to the conversation you can even hear the person sing for the rest of the evening. They are still famous, but never became known outside of Finland.

Ultra Bras music is hard to classify. Some songs are rock, others jazz, some sound like made by a big band and then the next track reminds you of a children song (such as "Hei hoi hauki"). It's best to not think in categories here, but to let them just be Finnish. Although most of the songs are lively, there are some that express a beautiful melancholy, giving a clue of the autumn and winter side of Finnish mentality. The female and male voices go perfectly together and carry one with them.

Whilst looking for more material on Ultra Bra on the web, I found the website of the Finnish Nook where's a subsection dedicated to the band, which includes not only lots of information and pictures, but also all Ultra Bra lyrics in Finnish and even translated to English. A wonderful resource, from which one can get an impression of the big variety of issues the band sang about.

Besides love songs and unobtrusive hymns about life in Finland, they expressed very clear political views for example in their songs "Ken Sauru-Wiwa is dead" or "When I was eight years old". They drift into surreal picutres, describe a boring day or talk about the longing to journey the world. And when they sing for example "voi uhmata hurjaa heppaa" in their song "Heppa", the sound of Finish language becomes part of the artwork.

My favourite song of them is Minä suojelen sinua kaikelta ("I'll protect you from everything"). The song grows from soft and gentle towards a crescendo that sounds like a hymn, never losing it's simplicity on the way. It is just wonderful, like the first rays of the summer sun stretching over the horizon.

I also found a video of their song "Villiviini" (Wild Wine) at YouTube. This little movie shows so many typical and good things of Finland and the feeling of living here, it is just as amazing as the whole band.

» English Ultra Bra Pages (with translated lyrics)
» The Finnish Nook
» Ultra Bra at English Wikipedia

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Let's Start the Summer Season with some Finnish Literature: Johanna Sinisalo - Not Before Sunset  
Tuesday, 25 .April, 2006, 20:18 - Deutsche Einträge, Finland, Literature

Johanna Sinisalo - Ennen päivänlaskua ei If you looked at the comments of yesterdays post you will find that Lewis and I started a little project for which we hope that many of you will join as well. We chose one of the books from the Guardian list of Finnish literature and said we will both read it and afterwards write down our thoughts about it. And each of you who is interested in it is welcome as well.

The book we decided to start with is from Johanna Sinisalo:

I bought the German edition today at Stockmanns Akateeminen Kirjakauppa and they have it in all three languages on stock. Actually I did not know up till now that they have a whole table with Finish literature translated into English, German, French, Spanish and other languages. It's worth going there and looking through the books.

Whoever wants to join reading just posts a comment under this or under Lewis' entry. Let's start the Summer season with some Finnish Literature!
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All You Need: Finnish Literature, Sweet Food, a Restaurenat Guide and More Blogs  
Monday, 24 .April, 2006, 21:02 - English Entries, Finland, Literature, Online/Blogs

Today in a post at lewism, the blog about Architecture, Design, and Life in Finland, you can find a link to a reading list on Finnish Literature, that was compiled by the Guardian Unlimited. I am shocked, as I have not read one of the books out of the list. Once I started reading the Kalevala, but that was not a serious attempt. Shame on me! At least now I know what to do during the long summer evenings.

Cover - Books from Finland At the end of the article is a link to "Books from Finland", a quarterly journal written in English. It includes translated extracts from new Finnish books and general information about (modern) Finish Literature. I already bought some copies of this journal at Stockman and now finally subscribed to it – it is worth the 20 Euros per year (in Finland & Scandinavia – else it's 27 Euros) and they give you even a free copy for just subscribing. Thank you.

If you you are not only hungry for written words, but also for food, then I have two more good links for you. Look at the blog of "Axis of Ævil", for example at the posting from March 10th 2006. The blog is written by an American married to a Finn and living in Finland. It includes great recipes (for deserts) , decorated with pictures, that make me think whether I should not better learn to cook rather than to speak Finish. And besides this the blog offers a lot more information (not only about Finland) as well as beautiful photographs.

In cases like mine, where the inability to cook forces one to go to restaurants, the site "" is of tremendous help. It really shows all restaurants and bars in Helsinki on a map that can be zoomed. Different colours indicate whether the place is currently open and every location has a link attached to it. Incredible! Thanks to arabella, who posted this link in the Flickr Helsinki group and also blogs in Helsinki.

And last but for sure not least I recommend to read "kirsty's grapes of wrath". Kirsty has an excellent taste in music and just started with blogging her adventures in UK, which seem to become a very entertaining read. Besides this she finds time to read my stuff here – what's of course an indication for a good and strong character.

» Finnish Reading List
» Books from Finland
» Interactive Helsinki Restaurant Guide

» lewism
» Axis of Ævil
» Anabelle
» kirsty's grapes of wrath

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Spring arrived in Helsinki 
Sunday, 23 .April, 2006, 19:39 - English Entries, Helsinki, Photographs
Reflecting buildings in melted ice

On Friday I flew back from Bavaria (Germany) to Helsinki. That afternoon a colleague and I hang out for an hour in Greding, a city South of Nuremberg. The temperatures were at 23 degrees Celsius and I got afraid of returning to Finland and having to put on several layers of clothes again.

Seagulls at Hietaniemi Beach, Helsinki

Pah! There was no disappointment after the return – the sun was out most of Saturday and all this Sunday long. Everywhere people were roaming around, some of the runners and cyclists even left their jackets at home. The temperature went up to 11 degrees Celsius and the ice is melting, giving us back the sea.

Fisherman at Hietaniemi beach

For the first time I was at the graveyard in Hietaniemi, a wonderful place for walking. One of the statues on a grave impressed me – a naked woman reading in a book. Beautiful and daring.

Statue on a grave

» See more pictures of April in Helsinki
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