Kicking off the cosy season, we bring you a new series “From the FinnCultBlx Bookshelf” with Eeva-Maria Viitanen (Eppu), Our Head of Administration. As well as her great admin skills, Eppu has also brought with her a great passion for reading and has decided to challenge herself with the selection of Finnish literature on our shelves. Each month she will be reading and reviewing a different book for us. You can also follow her series on instagram.
First pick from the shelf is…
Riikka Pulkkinen: Vieras (2012)
“My new workplace, has a small library including quite a lot of Finnish language literature. As books in Finnish are somewhat difficult to find here in Brussels, I decided to explore our shelves.
The first one was by chance Riikka Pulkkinen’s Vieras (2012). The title can be translated as ‘stranger’, ‘visitor’, or even ‘strange’, but ‘stranger’ has been used as a title for translations (available in Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, and Dutch). Pulkkinen is a prominent Finnish author, but I must confess, I had not read her books before.
Vieras is about Maria, a Finnish priest, who one day decides to board a ferry to Sweden and take an indefinite break from her life. She lands in New York City, the ultimate city for strangers of all kinds. Maria’s life story is full of difficult events and the break is about dealing with those periods which can feel easier in an environment where no one knows her. She finds a place to live and rekindles her dancing hobby (hence the cover).
One of Maria’s traumas concerns her always being slightly different, Finnish and not quite Finnish – her mother comes from somewhere else. Pulkkinen describes Maria’s experiences with sensitivity, and I felt they were realistic, but I kept wondering what kind of reaction the book would have received if it had been published now.
I liked Pulkkinen’s writing, though the book is perhaps trying to discuss far too many big themes at the same time (identity, race, religion, and body image among others). The story also resonated with me, as I have just moved to a new city and a new culture, redefining myself in my new surroundings and among new people.
Will read more Riikka Pulkkinen.