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Archive for the ‘Finland’ Category

Frans Eemil Sillanpää (Finland, 1888-1964)

The following is from the book Christmas in Scandinavia, edited by Sven H. Rossel and Bo Elbrond-Bek and translated by David W. Colbert:

A Farm Owner’s Christmas Eve

Finnish novelist Frans Eemil Sillanpää received the Nobel Prize in literature in 1939. Sillanpää gained international recognition with the naturalistic novel from the bloody Finnish civil war of 1918, Hurskas Kurjuss (1919: Meek Heritage). His following novels are characterized by a more poetic mood. They are set in the countryside, and the narrative, often focusing on love and sexuality as the ruling forces of human life, is framed by sensitive descriptions of nature.

Visti-Mina, an elderly woman and mistress and owner of the freehold farm Visti, assessed at 0.003 of a holding, had been awakened by the cat’s mewing, and in letting it out she noticed that it was rather cold in the room; even without looking she could tell that the water was frozen in the water cask by the door. And how might the poor little girl be doing, then? But she was still sleeping soundly in the middle of the bed under half the quilt. It had been necessary to move her sleeping space farther down, away from the right side of the bedstead. If Mina had her lying right alongside her, then she would kick all night against Mina’s sensitive midriff. She is Ida’s daughter, Mina is the child’s maternal grandmother. God only knows where Ida herself is gadding about …

These dry sticks and twigs up in the chimney vault were really true treasures on a winter’s morning; they were almost like edible delicacies. When you put them on the hearth under the trivet, they caught fire at once, and with their help you could then also get the damp firewood smoldering. And the coffee simmered, its fragrance filling the room, which was warmed bit by bit. The windowpanes, which just now were coated with a thick crust of ice, were already beginning to thaw on their uppermost edges; while the coffee was settling Mina could peer through the thawed-out spots to the yard, where a reddish-yellow December morning had just dawned. From the farms the smoke was rising straight up to the sky, and she thought she heard the crunch of sleigh runners. Now look how long I’ve slept.—Well, and then it’s Christmas Even, too, by golly!—Up with you in a hurry lass!

From under the covers two little eyes were opened and aimed at the room and at Mina, whose familiar features quickly dispelled the memory of the tangled splendors of the child’s dreams. The blazing fire in the fireplace, the frozen windowpanes, and the confidently puttering old woman gave the child’s mind full compensation, auguring a long, clear day with thousands of adventures.
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