Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Like swimmers into cleanness leaping

I only too rarely read Finnish literature. I had my fill of the classics very early on and have barely kept abreast of the contemporary scene. Though those books that have made an impression have made a strong one. I’m now in the middle of Sofi Oksanen’s “Puhdistus”. Grim, grim text – the immediate context being the introduction of Stalinism into a civil society, the violence against women, the horrible scars that history leaves. Amazingly well written, such economical, beautiful language. While reading the first pages I was struck by the universal theme of loss of innocence that also began to emerge from the story.

This is of course something that concerns all of us: we all are hardened, at least to a degree, we all get cynical, at least to a degree, we all get callous, at least to a degree. But beyond this ordinary coarsening in this fundamentally harsh world there are whole categories of experience that we modern Westerners have largely escaped, that we scarcely believe possible. This does not mean that we would be immune to them, or that we, or our descendants would have a guarantee of never encountering them. We have been lucky in the blind accident of our historical moment. That is all.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful post! I think it was really cool that Sofi Oksanen got the Finlandia Prize. I certainly hope to have the time to read the novel one day.

stockholm slender said...

I would absolutely recommend it. She has really emerged as an authentically authoritive voice among our otherwise fairly toothless and irrelevant cultural elite.