Saturday, 25 October 2008

Postcard from Helsinki [2] - Helsinki Book Fair

This morning at 10.30 I was interviewed by Finnish editor and translator, Marianne Bargum, as part of the Helsinki Book Fair. The interview took place in 'Kirjakahvila' (The Book Cafe) within the Book Fair grounds.
I have been taking lessons in Finnish history since I arrived. It's all so colourful and varied that I want to learn more, and write about it. Finland appears to be caught between the devil and the deep blue sea - one is Russia, the other is Sweden :-) (Don't ask me which is which, I don't know), and both once fought a bloody battle over Finland.
Brief Summary: Finland used to be a part of Sweden. The Russians eyed it, and wanted it. Russia and Sweden fought over it. Russia won, and Finland became Russian territory, sometime in the early 1800s (apparently the Finns had greater autonomy under Russia than under 'brotherly' Sweden). The Russian revolution in 1917 freed Finland to emerge as a nation on its own.
(More details later)
The Helsinki Book Fair is smaller than Goteborg's, but is nonetheless an impressive event. As at yesterday (Fri) 17,000 people had attended, and it only started on Thursday.
Unlike the sprawling Goteborg Book Fair (the largest in Scandinavia), where I kept getting lost (my not very healthy sense of direction finally gave up the ghost, thanks to the cavernous exhibition grounds on at least 2 floors), and where there were a mindboggling number of concurrent events at any point in time, the Helsinki Book Fair seemed more manageable (speaking from the POV of a visitor). But from the book hunger evident in the visitors, no difference. People everywhere, reading, listening, stacking books up in their arms, paying for books, eating (plenty of that). You can't imagine how much I wish the Lagos International Book Fair would be that exciting.
(Note: The Population of Lagos (the City) alone would be roughly equal to that of Sweden PLUS Finland).
Heard there was an appearance by another Nigerian writer at the Fair yesterday.
The largest book store (Akateeminen Kirjakauppa) in the Nordic Region is in Helsinki. It was the first place I visited after my Hotel. I bought a collection of short stories by a well-known Finnish writer and visual artist, Rosa Liksom. Here's some info I got from WSOY's (Finnish publisher) website:

Rosa Liksom ranks among the most acclaimed and controversial writers of contemporary Finnish literature. Employing a pen name and shunning interviews, she launched her career in the mid-1980s by penning numerous collections of prose miniatures. The writing in such collections as Yhden yön pysäkki (1985;One-night Stands, 1990) and Unohdettu vartti (1986; The forgotten sentry) consists of only one or two short narratives; they resemble short stories from which either the beginning or end, and sometimes both - in other words, the unessential - has been cut.
I'm eager to read the book...
Better still, I'm OFF to read the book...

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