Finland 100: The Core of the Sun

Finland turns 100 today. Although it’s the darkest and coldest time of the year, consuming the hottest chilli you can get your hands on might not be the obvious way to celebrate. Until you read this book and understand how horribly wrong it could have all gone. Johanna Sinislalo’s Auringon ydin/The Core of the Sun, translated by Lola Rogers, is about just that. What happens when the Nordic welfare state turns into a force for evil rather than good? The efforts of eugenics enthusiasts in the early twentieth century sadly do influence Finnish policy to this day, but in this book things are much, much worse. Care slips into total control and institutionalised patriarchy. And the story starts as depressingly as you could wish, with a young woman sealing a drug deal in a cemetery… except they’re dealing in chillies:

CoreSunDeal

Vera not only loses her fix, but she ends up in court, and that’s where things start to get particularly strange:

CoreSunHearing

However self-assured and competent Vera/Vanna really is, she learns from a very young age – as a preschooler – to hide it from officialdom, to fit into the hyper-feminine role the state demands. She learns how to do it from her younger sister, whom she tries to protect from an equally young age, but always feeling like she is failing in the process:

CoreSunSister

To find out what happened to Vera’s little sister, we have to go back before we can go forward, through Vera’s letters, her partner’s memories, and official documents of the eugenicist state. When everything seems impossibly dark and hopeless, the book takes a turn towards the light; it might be possible to live well here after all – or perhaps not.

The Core of the Sun is feminist dystopian fiction at it’s best, in the tradition of The Handmaid’s Tale, exaggerating the horror to show what’s already really wrong. But it’s also distinctly Finnish; the first tragedy is faced in the sauna, the hope for a better future grows among the blueberries and lingonberries in the forest. Along with 47 other powerful translated novels like The Transmigration of Bodiesit is on the longlist for the 2018 Dublin Literary Award. Which means great Finnish literature will reach a lot more people in the year after her centenary. A friend said after Unknown Soldiers that she was extremely grateful to be living in Finland as it is, rather than as it might have been. For me, this book had the same effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in books, Finland 100, gender, translation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

advent Alice in Wonderland American And Other Stories Antonia Lloyd-Jones Arabic Argentina Barańczak Beowulf Berlin Best Translated Book Award Bible books Brazil Brazilian Portuguese British British Library Buddhism Catalan Catalonia Children's Books Chinese Christmas Carols Clare Cavanagh Clarice Lispector Contemporary Czesław Miłosz Dari David Hackston Dublin Literary Award Edinburgh Festival English Estonian Facebook Fantasy Farsi Fiction Finland Finland 100 Finnish Flemish Free Word Centre French George Szirtes German Greek Hebrew Herbert Lomas Herta Müller history Hobbit Hungarian Iceland Icelandic Idioms Illustration India international International Translation Day Italian J. R. R. Tolkien Japanese Jenny Erpenbeck Jewish Johanna Sinisalo Korean Language language learning Languages Latin Literature Lola Rogers Mabinogion Man Booker International Prize Maori Maria Turtschaninoff Moomins New Year Nobel Prize Nobel Prize for Literature Old English Owen Witesman Oxford English Dictionary PEN Translation Prize Persian Philip Boehm Phoneme Media Poetry Poetry Translation Centre Polish Portuguese Pushkin Press Queer Romanian Rosa Liksom Russian Russian Revolution Salla Simukka Seamus Heaney Second World War Shakespeare Short Stories Sofi Oksanen Spanish Stanisław Barańczak Suomi100 Susan Bernofsky Svetlana Alexievich Swedish Switzerland Thomas Teal Tibetan Tove Jansson Translation translator Translators Without Borders Valentine's Day Wales Warsaw Welsh Wisława Szymborska Witold Szabłowski Women in Translation Month words Words without Borders

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow found in translation on WordPress.com
%d bloggers like this: