Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Finns are close to nature while Brits are obsessed with the weather

This morning I finished another of my Helsinki airport buys. In her book, which I'd loosely translate as 'You Were Never With Me', Leena Lehtolainen weaves an intriguing story about a marriage slowly dissolving into complete non communication. The narration is largely confined to two sets of diaries by husband and wife.

When the wife realises the husband is reading her private journal, she starts to fake her entries. She makes her life appear happy and contented whereas it's all but. Eventually the husband disappears and everyone presumes he's drowned himself. (This book is set in Helsinki, the Capital of suicides).

While the tragedy of the marriage is seen through the intimate notes made by the couple, seasons change. The diary entries in the novel often start with a note about the progress of spring, the first snowfall in winter, or the fading light in the autumn. The characters spend great amount of time outdoors: they ski in the winter, jog in the woods when there's no snow and sail in the summer.

Finns use the woods and lakes and sea surrounding them as some kind of vast leisure park. Yet they suffer extreme weather, even in Helsinki you can have temperatures below -20 C in the winter and above +20 in the summer. And everything else in between.

I was left pondering how differently the Brits live. There are many more of us (you) per square metre, and the seasons aren't so changeable. And it rains a lot. I also thought in a similar British novel the diaries would note whether it was warm or cold, rainy or dry, windy or calm. In the Finnish novel the actual weather was hardly mentioned.

Funny old literary world.


Anonymous said...

The weather ensures we do not talk about anything that really matters. My recollection of Finns is that they say nothing at all until well oiled!

Christina Lindsay said...

I'd like to read this novel in English if it were available. I'm enjoying your blog very much by the way. Best wishes, Christina x

Helena Halme said...

Christina, I'm afraid her books are not (as yet) translated into English. I've never quite understood why as they are found in German, French, and Chinese among others.

I'm glad you're enjoying my blog, it's become quite an obsession. xx