An interview with Leevi Lehto, by Annelié Axen, in issue 5 (Juny 2007) of Kritiker, a nordic magazine for literary criticism. Introduction from Kritiker in Swedish; interview in its original English (Swedish translation published in the the magazine)

Introduction

En stor del av materialet i detta nummer av Kritiker kommer från det tredagarsseminarium som FLS genomförte i februari i år tillsammans med Nordens institut i Finland (NIHIN) i Helsingfors. Urgångspunkten för samtalen var, helt naturligt, den samtida finlänska litteraturen; men denna visade sig under seminariets gång vara allt svårare, och allt poänglösare att isolera från de omgivande litteraturerna. Iden om en “nationell literatur” visade sig, kort sagt, vara svår att försvara annat än genom en massiv mobilering av ömsesidiga terepotyper och klichéer.

Till de faktorer som utan tvekan bidrar till att undergräva “det nationella” som paradigm för den litterära offentligheten hör framväxten av en litteratur (och följaktligen offentlighet) som existerar digitalt, istället för i tryckt form. Redan de radikalt annorlunda produktions- och distributionsvilkoren för nättidskrifter och nätförlag placerar dem i terräng som inte införlivats helt i de nationella offentligheternas infrastrukturer.

Följdfrågan glir om detta har några konsekvenser för litteraturen själv. I maj i år arrangerade en av dessa norsdiska nättidskrifter, Litlive, ett seminarium på Biskops Arnö under rubriken “Alternativ publicering och litterär innovation”. På detta diskuterades fråhan med utgångspunkt i Charles Bernsteins påstående att en nyt litteratur kräver nya institutioner, och att dessa institutioner i lika hög grad är del av den nya litteraturens estetik som verken själva.

EN av de närvarande på Biskops Arnö var den finska poeten, översättaren och bloggaren Leevi Lehto, som höll ett inlägg om de finska litteraturinsituionernas historia. Jämte sin verksamhet som poet (osv) i mer traditionell bemärkelse arbetar Lehto också med de digitala publiseringsformerna som utgångspunkt för sina (mer eller mindre) konseptuella verk (bland vilka kan nämnas en Google-generator för poesi samt hans senaste verk, ntamo, ett internetförlag “för barbarisk litteratur”).

Kritiker valde att samla av de frågot som väckts under de båda seminarierna, och be Lehto besvara dem från sin (“finländska”) horisont. Svaret på frågorna fick vi på en engleska Lehto själv kallar “barbarisk” – i en from, med andra ord, som på en och samma gång synliggör det språkliha (babelska) fundamentet för själva idén om en “nationallitteratur” och gör detta svar till något av ett konceptuell verk i sig, i stark polemik med samma idé. Inflr publisering [i Kritiker] valde vi att översätta det till svenska, medan det barbarengelska originalet får leva sitt liv på tidskriftens hemsida.

1. Writing / criticism

Annelie Axén: I read the following quote in the anthology of Finnish contemporary poetry that you curated suOEmI:

” [..] while the so called traditional publishing houses (and the equally traditional diktsamling [poetry collection] format) continue to overdetermine the careers of individual poets, perhaps even more so than in other Nordic countries, the process of actual screening and gleaning of emerging poets, as well as what used to be known as atelier criticism (i. e. the real “gate keeping” function) tends increasingly to take place on a lower level, that of Tuli&Savu and other small publications, and of the rapidly developing blog community.”

In what way is the relation between and/or the institution “the writer”, “the reader” and “diktsamlingen” changing in Finland presently? What about criticism?

Leevi Lehto: I tend to see myself as one of the factors affecting that change so please don’t except a too “objective” a picture from me… I’d say the most important change during the last couple of years is the emerging of the blog community. Finnish “poetry blogosphere” may be the strongest in Scandinavia today. In my – presently somewhat outdated – blog roll I have some 45 Finnish poets, most of which (importantly) have still to publish their first book of poetry. Interestingly, with many of these blogs, the main emphasis seems to be on putting out new poetry, instead of announcements, criticism, commentary a la Ron Silliman, or Malte Person. At least as interestingly, this new way of publishing seems not to have annihilated the deeply felt need to have a book out, on the contrary, almost generically by now, the blog is seen as a feeding-ground for an eventual book. There are already several finished examples of this process – like Hannu Helin’s Linnumpi nyt (2005), where the poet made the entire genesis of the work transparent in his blog Work In Progress.

Both these extremes (the “advanced” Blogosphere, the imperative of “having a book out”) are, in my view, connected to the unitary character of Finnish culture. I think more than in other Nordic countries, in Finland we still have this strong (imagined) idea of a unified “public sphere”. There’s only one, i.e. monopolistic, national newspaper[1], and until very recently, having your book reviewed – favourably, of course – in it was little less than a question of life and death for most publishing writers (it still is for the novelists…). Also, again until very recently, for a book of poetry to be “real”, it had to come out from one of the traditional, big publishing houses. Even kiiltomato.net, a web portal for reviewing “small circulation literature” (they cover Finland-Swedish work as well), has been somewhat slow to start to address poetry published by the so called alternative presses – today consisting of Savukeidas, the poEsia series or poetry books, edited by myself in years 2004-2007, Ankkuri (a web based on-demand publishing house run by poet Jukka-Pekka Kervinen that has four books with zero reviews anywhere at its credit), and my emerging ntamo (of which I will have a little more to say in answer to your specific question).

In this situation, I see two main “problems” – or opportunities, depending on your point of view:

One: the “tension” between the increasing amount of “publishable” work, and number of “mature-enough” poets, on one hand, and the limited capacity of the existing presses to bring out books, combined with the rather random – and often quite uninformed – nature of their decision process, on the other. I like to stress the demoralizing effect of this situation on the evolving poetry community, as it divides poets into the “poet poets” (the “published” ones) and the “just poets” (the “unpublished”). Well, in my view, this is an opportunity, a bubble just waiting to be pierced…

Two. In all, this situation and this tension feed into and work to maintain what I’d like to call the irrelevancy of the reviewing process, i.e. criticism, to the actual development of poetry. Even in the most sympathetic or insightful criticism, one still sees this tendency toward trying to – often apologetically – “explain” the poetry to the “outside”, to what is known as the general public. While this kind of folkbildning [popular education] approach still retains some of its former validity, the bottom line is it tends to hand out the authority on the development of poetry to those who couldn’t care less – and who, it seems, cannot be brought to care more with this kind of methods. At least, not any more. (But there are others, as I will point out later…)

Of course, it may have been like this almost from time immortal, and perhaps the immediate reception (the “dagskritik”), will forever lag behind the evolution of poetry itself – and this has been the case even with all the established “strong” poets of our tradition, from Otto Manninen (1872-1952) and Eino Leino (1878-1926) to Haavikko, Manner, Saarikoski, Pellinen, Aronpuro…[2] Still, I feel there to be an urgent need for platforms and forums where poetry criticism could evolve toward being reactions to the work published, along the line of your magazine, and others.

2. The reader

Annelie Axén: In the anthology Swinging with Neighbours (reviewed elsewhere in this issue) Aase Berg says:

“De flesta poeter vet att ingen fattar vad de säger nuförtiden: det är inget möte, man blir aldrig förstådd, det är två ensamheter som snuddar vid kanterna av varandra. Bättre än så blir det inte. Det duger inte att vräka upp en Härlig Bild på boksidan. Läsaren är en jävligt otacksam figur, och det ska hon också vara – då måste poeten jobba aktivt med tvivel på själva förståelsen, tvivel på överenskommelsen om hur en text ska se ut för att betyda. [..]” [s. 795 SWN]

Could you say a few word about the Finnish / Finnish-Swedish reader?

Leevi Lehto: Your basic question is a rather general one, so forgive me this somewhat elevated answer…

I both agree, and strongly disagree, with Åsa Berg’s view. First of all, I for one am all for incomprehensibility (for not getting oneself förstått [undestood])! For my own work, one of the main – constant, inexhaustible – driving forces is the need, an urge, to make the writing as incomprehensible for myself as I can. And I mean this seriously – when I say in my slogan, “Nothing That Is Initially Interesting For More Than Seven People Can Ever Change the Consciousness Of the Masses”, with “interesting”, I mean – more or less – “incomprehensible enough”. For the others, it may be just gibberish, which is only fair. It should be incomprehensible – for it to “mean” anything at all. I mean, let’s face it: the poets’ urge to “make it strange” is a healthy one, and something we should encourage, demand more, rather than lament.

Which brings me to where I disagree. I don’t have this feeling of my readers being jävligt otacksamma [fucking ungrateful]- and should I have it, I think I should thank them for it. Again, I want to be rather literal. I believe this idea of otacksam figur to be a fiction. In fact, there are no “figures” out there. A poem, quite simply, never is, primarily, geared to the readers, to “att betyda” [to make sense], it is rather a move in a certain linguistic situation, or in several ones simultaneously. Even when a poet seems to be working hard to solve the problem of hur en text ska se ut för att betyda, in the “language game of poetry” (Wittgenstein), he/she will primarily – and at the most, I’d say – come across as the one having chosen this approach (of wanting it to betyda). In the end, he may be remembered as “the most accessible one” (say, among poets in a particular reading), whereas what he “had to say” is already forgotten – since “they” new it already, otherways they haven’t had felt it to be so accessible.

The wonderful thing in what I’m proposing is that despite my emphasis on incomprehensibility and non-communication, I end up by foregrounding the person and personality of the poet. You make this or that move, and will forever be responsible for it. It’s an ethical choice – very much in the spirit in which Nietzsche, in his time, differentiated between the “slave moral” (where you think yourself better than the others – having, say, “a message to convey to them” – because they are worse than you – being “in need” for that message), and the “master moral” where, on the contrary, the others are worse because you are better, i.e., say, willing to do an effort to attain at something none of you has experienced before. We all should constantly strive to be better than the others.

Coming, finally, to your question of how it is with the Finnish / Finland-Swedish readership, let me put it this way – still being very personal: I’m yet to meet with my first Finnish reader, and when I come to see her, I except her to be a Finland-Swede. Or what about this: I don’t want to have Finnish readers, since I’m trying hard not be a Finnish poet. There was a time when I thought of myself as an American poet only writing in Finnish; today I see myself as more of a Finnish poet, only writing in – more or less “barbaric” – English. Either way, it’s been a source of inexhaustible satisfaction for me to see, over and over again, that a Finnish reader (a reader posing him- or herself as primarily a Finn), cannot even begin to understand where I am heading at.

Of course, this more or less fictive concept, “the Finnish reader”, to me, is only be thinkable in the connection of, embedded in, determined and conditioned by what is known as the institutional national Finnish literature. Or should I say “literature” – it being my conviction that nations are enemies of literature. For someone to be a reader of my work, they need have already taken a step outside that institution, to see it from aside (as a Finland-Swede would). And strange as it may sound, this peculiar logic is eminently confirmed by my experience: the further I go – say, to give a reading – from the small circle of the Helsinki literati (my young poet friends included), the better I get “understood” – if not in what I say, then in what I “do”. I’m yet to meet with an ordinary country town dweller, an engineer, a sales-representative, to ask me these questions about “why I have to be so damned difficult / experimental / elitist”. And that’s not because they’d be more open-minded, imaginative, or whatever (I’m trying hard to avoid being populist here). It’s just that they don’t share the endless normative inhibitions of the establishment (but is it poetry? are we allowed to do this? where will it lead in the end?). Something that amounts to saying that they are, already, outside the public sphere of the national literature. I will return to this in addressing your last question.

Let me try a couple of more formulations. My friend Kenneth Goldsmith is fond of saying, referring to his “unreadable” work, that he does not have a readership, but a “thinkership” instead. I’m not sure if I want to have a thinkership either. Perhaps a “movership”? A “reactorship”? Or, with the help of momentary speech defect, a “leadership”? Yes! but then not in the established sense of me leading but in one where each one “reacting” is apt to start to lead his or her own process. For me, this could almost pass as a definition of literature. Perhaps a “fleership” – in the meaning of them trying to avoid being acted at, which would require them to do something else altogether. And yes, to revisit Nietzsche, I guess much of what I do is informed by an urge to revert the ethical imperative of the Eternal Return (do only what you’d do again), or rather to perversely implement it, in an attempt to do (at least) something that cannot be done again. That could almost pass as a “definition” of poetry, couldn’t it?

3. Language

Annelie Axén: I know you have recently started a publishing house for une littérature mineur. When FSL (Fria Seminariet i Litterär kritik) went to NIFIN in Helsinki in February we were told that there are no immigrant writers working with the Finnish language. Is your project a purely formal experiment or does it also involve a critique? What position does tvångssvenskan have in relation to your projekt.

Leevi Lehto: This sounds almost biblical to me (I’ thinking of the beam in your own eye…)! Frankly, a large part of the Finnish literature establishment could never even recognize an immigrant writer, since for them to be taken as one, they had to have ceased writing like immigrant, i.e. being an immigrant. My own efforts in this field are still modest at the best, but at least I’ve been actively involved with a group of immigrant writers around Kiamars Baghbani, a refugee from Iran resident in Finland from the early Nineties – in fact one of the first publications of ntamo will be his selection / translation of poems from the Farsi tradition, starting from the Eight Century. Kiamar’s translations, while being in readable, standard Finnish, still carry an element of strangeness, a hint to his own feeling of “being strange” among us. To me, this seems the ideal way of transplanting influences from foreign cultures into our “own”. Still, Kiamar’s book may be the first attempt ever to do something like this in Finland… On a related, but converse, note, I’ve already put out my translation of Kuuskajaskari, a seminal work of the important Second Generation Finnish Modernist poet Jyrki Pellinen, from 1964, in my own English translation, which I deliberately did not have thoroughly checked by any native English reader, in order to allow the strangeness of the Finnish original[3] to better steep through… All in all, I see the immigrants, with their non-standard, and as such dynamic, command of Finnish as a great and urgently needed resource for the local poetry and literature.

As for tvångssvenskan (originally, a pejorative term referring to the compulsory Swedish in Finnish elementary schools, but one that I use to refer to the peculiar Swedish of the Finland-Finnish), for some time now, I’ve been speaking for the perspective of the Finnish poets writing in Swedish. Here, curating the SuOmEI issue of OEI came to be a somewhat revelatory experience for me, in that I realized myself “knowing Swedish without knowing it”. I still speak it with difficulty, but with help from friends like Fredrik Hertzberg and Maili Öst I believe having managed to take a decent care of some of the most “difficult” translation jobs in the Anthology of new Finnish poetry we published in the issue (not that they couldn’t be done “otherwise”, or “better”). I now think of the Swedish spoken by the Finland-Finnish as being part of the (non)family of Scandinavian languages – and one that could contribute to a new understanding of the “Nordic” – cf. my last answer.Of course, to effect that, we need to get the Finnish and Swedish poets to mix with each others – something you haven’t seen that much of in, say, a hundred years. Should we succeed in doing that, it would be a new proof of the social relevancy of poetry: precisely because of its much-talked-about marginality, it can make possible (to start to) doing things that would be impossible at the level of culture at large (where nothing happens anyway…). But we’ll see.

In all, yew, my projects does involve a critique – of the publishing and literary institutions as they stand now, of the nationalistic definition of literature (this not only in Finland: I envisage putting out, say, “native” American work to make it appear, and hopefully, later on, be influenced by, a different context of publishing. Etc.

4. Prose

Annelie Axén: When FSL (Fria seminariet i Litterär kritik) went to NIFIN in Helsinki in February we were told that the Finnish / Finnish-Swedish prose is mostly preoccupied with national inheritance and gender(stereotypes). When I read your anthology at OEI get a very different picture of Finnish poetry, where transnational issues seem more important. Why do poets get to have all the fun? Do they?

Leevi Lehto: I think they do – and I’ve heard about the Finnish novelists complaining about it! It’s actually one of the most beautiful paradoxes I know of: despite his often wide “accessibility” and supposed “relevancy” to the important questions of the day, the generic Finnish novelist (and with due respect to the exceptions I know there to be) seems to live in his own peculiar ivory tower, not only without real living contacts – interaction – with his peers, but also (both in his public statements and in his actual behaviour when close to others), as a correlate to this isolation, often also embodying some of the worst values in culture: an overt contempt to, even hatred of, the common man, cynicism, arrogance, etc. This – almost never spoken-of – phenomenon has some old roots, in the male-chauvinistic tradition of much of our “realistic” prose, in the anti-intellectuality of the literary culture, in the power relations between critics and writers (still today, it is almost impossible for your ordinary Finnish newspaper-reviewer – himself often another incarnation of the same cynicism – to write about new prose without looking down to the writer as an inferior nature child…), etc. I offer this as a passing remark only – wanted to make since I believe these things not be foreign to other Scandinavian literary cultures either.

On the other hand… I am obsessed with questions of nationality and national heritage – and I believe the new Finnish poetry (in spite and precisely because of its eventual “transnationality”) to be that too, less evident as this may be to many of those involved. As a corollary, I would claim the opposite: our contemporary prose is not “preoccupied with national inheritance”, only with certain stereotypes of that. Superficially, it may seem it’s “addressing” questions of national importance, in reality, much of that may be just entertainment set in that environment, and in a calculated way at that – counting on it being familiar (“accessible”) to the readers. I believe most of the celebrated recent volumes of that prose could be easily transferred to happen in other countries, inscribed in different histories, etc. – which is to say they may not have that much to contribute either to the national, or to the world literature.

Let me take a daring example, with the help of which I will also try to sketch some avenues for the contemporary criticism. I haven’t read Kjell Westö’s new book so I’ll skip it (it may actually be quite decent a work); instead, I have studied Myyrä (The Mole) by Jari Tervo, shortlisted for the Finlandia Award in 2004, and want to present a very quick analysis of it – treating Tervo as the quintessential contemporary Finnish novelists. Let’s start with the question of language: Tervo is known and widely acclaimed for his use of (sort of Faulknerian) interior monologue (or aspect) techniques. Yet the language of his personae never varies – and never is “that” of the protagonists, either, being “his own” instead (but no, not his own, but one uncritically adopted from the supposed masters of the mid-Twentieth-Century Realist “masters”, like Hannu Salama, and made somewhat “rougher” by journalistic overtones). This again, secondly, has certain interesting consequences for the “picture” of reality his work is supposed to give us, like in this opening sentence[4] of Myyrä that merits more than one close reading (my translation):

I remember that day in May when I became a murderer at the Hamina ramparts.

Why “I remember”? For me at least, the phrasing initially suggests a possibility of forgetting that day, and thus a peculiar, perhaps pathological, case of personal psychology – or alternatively raises expectations for a treatise on the functions of memory, perhaps against a rare case of amnesia. Both approaches indeed are relevant to a discussion on Finnish national history and collective consciousness and memory, maybe even to the individual physio- and psycho(pato)logy of the former long-time Finnish president, Urho Kekkonen (for the protagonist uttering the sentence “is” no other) – should not the case, with Tervo, be very much the opposite. Instead of being a thought-out wording to start addressing “difficult” question, I suggest the sentence be viewed as a generic formula to “tell” the “reality” in the book (and in Tervo’s other work too): “I remember” being a placeholder for everything been known already (known but not said aloud – except in lowest level scandal magazines, where indeed the “political” “thinking” in the book derives its inspiration), and “that day”, again, marking a gesture of evasion: although the manifest “content” of the statement is the somewhat strange fact of “remembering one’s first murder” (note: not the murder, not the “fact” of former President having been a murderer), in reality we are only given information about the day of the murder: the fact of the murder being shrouded in this – at least double – gesture of insinuation, which has the benefit of allowing the writer to say anything without never saying anything.

Well, I may as well be just kidding – of course the sentence I quoted is of the kind an ambitious but not necessarily as talented participant to a Creative Writing class would start his first writing assignment with, of the “It was a dark and stormy night” quality, except that here it is used without any evident irony or detachment. And (and here I come to my point) necessarily so: this being the patent formula that enables the writer to pose as “tougher” compared to the next guy, ever more “shocking”, i.e. ever more complacent toward the supposed need of the “reading public” to get more of the same.

In Myyrä, this formula has made Tervo to “invent” this somewhat incongruous “theme” of the former Finnish President having been, not only a murderer, but a Russian spy as well. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not at all offended by the suggestion[5], he may well have been that – but so very what? Unless expanded on metaphorically (leading, perhaps, to an allegoric – if not yet very interesting – treatment of the Finnish national history), or contra-factually (perhaps a more interesting case), the “theme” here only serves to label the book as a “thematic” one, and to enable the critics to go on with their endless hairsplitting about what the “topics” of “Finnish literature” are… forever the same.

Well again, perhaps I’m not so much speaking about Tervo and Myyrä as about the general structure of the traditional literary public sphere today[6]. I see it as a vicious circle where the felt need to address as many readers as possible leads – to repeat – to saying only what everybody already knows (as the “knowledge” of Kekkonen having been a spy is part of the general Finnish political folklore), and what nobody, for that reason, in reality is not really interested in at all. It’s a circle embedded in the formal, economical, power, gender, and other structures of all national literary institutions. I’m not sure if it’s ever gonna be possible to shake us free from it entirely, or even about the necessity of this – and I try to harbour a lot of tolerance vis-a-vis the kind of writing I’ve been criticizing here. It’s not going to vanish any time soon – what needs to be shaken, anyway, is the self-sufficient way almost all criticism, at least in Finland, continues to welcome it as “real” or “topical”.

5. About the word “public sphere”

Annelie Axén: Some literary critics have been preoccupied with finding a proper analyzes of how the public spheres are transforming, when the public and private spheres are merging. Do you oppose Mikkel Bruun Zangenberg’s analyzes of the Danish literary sphere from the last issue of Kritiker? In what way does your Finland and Zangenberg’s Denmark differ. What is your Denmark and how do you imagine Zangenberg’s Finland?

Leevi Lehto: I liked Zangenberg’s article a lot, and hope to have addressed some of its themes already. It should be evident that I’m deeply suspicious about some of what Zangenberg’s reports Tue Andersen Nexø having said in that discussion – though I sympathize with his ethos: with the “her mener vi at” [taking stances] spirit. Of course my view of the “alternative” space allows for and would largely be based on Martin Glaz Serup’s “her can alle yttre sig” [freedom of expression] imperative. Based on my experiences – so far rather limited, although greatly expanded by and in the recent all-Nordic seminar on “Alternative Publishing / Literary Innovation” in Biskops-Arnö, Sweden, I’d say there is a new “Nordic” literature space emerging – except I wouldn’t be that eager to localize it: with the inclusion of Finns, we already have the question about the Estonians, the Russians, etc. I doubt if the new literary space can – or should – be localized in any way[7], and this may be a place to warn about some dagers in the “her can alle yttre sig” attitude as well. I mean, who are the “alle” [all] in any given situation? Even “alle” can always turn into a “all present here and now”, into a restrictive arraignment based on this or that status quo. There are always “others” to include, and to me, this is very much what the new space is all about. And I don’t only mean geographically, but also socially, culturally etc. Above all, perhaps, we should try no to view the possibilities for the new space as a generational thing, or only an academic one, or even one (just) bordering on the Academy. For instance, in the Finnish context, I’m fond of speaking about our own “backwoods avantgarde”, and I see similar phenomena in other Nordic countries as well. Etc. The point is to maintain the spirit of constant “opening up” – perhaps of building a (new kind of) “grand democracy of Forest Trees” that John Keat wrote about in one of his letters.

My Danmark? I hope I will some day write a book in Danish – and that preferably before I come to spoil my senses with too good a command of the language and the vocabulary, to contribute to the tradition of Barbaric Danish. Zangenberg’s Finland? Once it comes about, I wish it not to be Finland as we now know it now.

Notes

1 This situation is bound to create many problems, in connection to which I won’t hesitate to talk about “structural corruption”. For instance, until very recently, two of the three members of the Finnish National Council for Literature (a body deciding over the most important grants) where at the same time two of the three regular poetry reviewers for the monopolistic paper. So while the reviews there could be seen as the only effective “post production control” for those decisions , they were written by the very same persons having made the decisions. And most people didn’t seem to see anything strange in the situation either…

2 Otto Manninen, famous for his early translations from Homer and others, wrote poetry that was widely appreciated but less read, and only started to get serious critical attention a hundred years after its publication. As for me, I take a certain proud in my 1997 “Dantean-Dadaistish” book of sonnets, Ääninen, to have gotten zero newspaper reviews at the time of its publication – something I envisaged in the book by writing: “Jeers welcome. We mesure in years.” (Quote from my Lake Onega and Other Poems, Salt Publishing 2006, that features my complete English reworking of the book.) Unlike Manninen, I only have had to wait ten years for the critical response to start coming along…

3 Note that I’m not saying, “strangeness of Finnish“. It’s come to be my conviction that in much of conventional translation of poetry, where the emphasis is on the translator’s skill in the target language, much of what is strange (or outright “incomprehensible”) in the original comes to be smoothed over by the translator’s need to “understand”… This works similarly to the “apologetic” criticism I mentioned above, where too the “explaining” often comes to mean “explaining away”. Of course, I’m not excluding the possibility of these kinds of translations to produce other, interesting results.

4 In basing an analysis of an entire book on its first sentence, I’m perhaps echoing the even more daring gesture of the late Pentti Saarikoski, who reportedly said about Täällä pohjan tähden alla by Väinö Linna, the seminal work Finnish Mid-Twentieth Century social-realistic novel: “I haven’t read it – how could anyone read a book with dash in its first sentence.” (“In the beginning, there was the marshland, the hook – and Jussi.”)

5 Should I add that I’m offering this criticism as someone who, unlike Tervo, has some “real” experience of being involved in the Finnish Communist politics – as an activist and functionary of the Euro-Communist wing of the Finnish Communist Party, I may have ranked quite high in the shooting-list to be implemented should the Soviet-backed “Revolution” have come true one day…

6 It is perhaps evident now that I tend to see this structure as one bearing the distinct stamp of the “slave moral” I spoke about above – coming complete with all kinds of mechanisms of submission, humiliations, contempt etc.

7 I’m not sure if we can place the perspectives for new literature space(s) in the context of the emerging new private ones, either. On the contrary, perhaps we should see what we are doing as a farewell to both the notion of nation, and that of the private (including private voice), the latter being perhaps more linked to the former than we tend to think. I discuss some of theses question in my essay for the seminar on “Poetry in Time of War and Banality”, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2006, where I propose a new concept of World Poetry, “Plurifying the Languages of the Trite”. In the Biskops-Arnö seminar, there was a fruitful (start of a) discussion on “privacy” based on Hubert van der Berg’s talk