The third instalment of the #FinnCultBlxBookshelf series features Olli Jalonen’s Miehiä ja Ihmisiä (2014).
A coming-of-age story in the summer of 1927 in small-town Finland – let’s see what our resident book critic thought of it.
Olli Jalonen: Miehiä ja ihmisiä (2014)
“Book number 3 from the FinnCultBlx Bookshelf is by Olli Jalonen, a very decorated and prominent Finnish author. I am slowly getting less ignorant about modern Finnish literature and Jalonen is probably someone whose books you should read. Miehiä ja ihmisiä (2014) is available at least in German, but his other books have been translated to many other languages as well.
The title of the book was immediately recognizable as a reference to John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (in Finnish Hiiriä ja ihmisiä). And some of the themes in the books are similar, but only some. Jalonen writes about the summer of 1972 in the life of a young boy – or rather maybe already a young man as he is about to turn 18. He remains nameless, but his first name might begin with an O… He finishes school in the spring, starts a summer job, and hangs out with his friends connecting with the world by DXing (look it up!).
It is a summer of a lot of firsts: learning to drive a car and motorbike, getting drunk, having sex, having a girlfriend of sorts, just to mention a few things. But it is also a summer of realizing that he must start thinking of his future and that his life can be changed fast by other people and events. Learning how real men behave is very much part of the story. Our hero observes and learns and tries to apply what he sees and hears, but the proper male ways don’t always come naturally to him.
The events take place in Southern Finland, in the small town of Hämeenlinna and its surroundings. The pace of the book is slow which fits the stereotype of the Häme tribe of Finns: slow and steady. At first, I felt a little bored by it, but the story grows on you stealthily and by the end, I found it hard to put it down.
Jalonen creates a distinctive voice for the hero and gives me reminders of the world of my childhood – I was a little kid in 1972, but some of the Finland described was still there when I grew up.”
– Eeva-Maria Viitanen (Eppu)
Olli Jalonen is a Finnish author known for his short stories, novels, and drama writing. He has been awarded the Finlandia-award twice, in 1990 for his novel Isäksi ja Tyttäreksi, and in 2018 for Taivaanpallo.