Friday, August 20, 2010

From the shadow of the factory

I have been reading the excellent literary biography of Toivo Pekkanen by Matti Mäkelä. To write about this is of course very esoteric on many levels. But first and foremost because of the subject matter. Pekkanen is probably the most remote novelist imaginable to our current middle class consumer society. He emerged from the poorest working class in the early part of the 20th century, knew actual hunger and wrote in the context of a rigid and deeply divided class society. Mäkelä makes a very good point that the fact that Pekkanen is remote and unknown today is partly due to his own significant influence. He rejected the hate filled dichotomies and despite being resolutely non party political was a most social democratic writer, compromizer, integrator. He pointed, mapped out, the way to the future. These days he is obscure, but these days also serious literature itself is obscure, seriousness, I suppose, is obscure. Having so thoroughly immersed myself in literature and literary culture, I am a walking anachronism in this amnesiastic, hedonist society. Is there anything meaningful to say about this state of affairs? I suppose our postmodern answer would be, no. Can't help it though. A writer writing about a writer, intelligently, penetratingly, skillfully is such a joy, and not only a joy: long vistas are opened, thoughts provoked. Mäkelä is playful but his playfulness hides a fundamental - and, yes, anachronistic - seriousness. Strange to be concerned, moved by such long forgotten things.

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