Thursday, January 12, 2006

Finnish Fantasy and Mozart

A review of The Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy, edited by Johanna Sinisalo from The Independent caught my eye. The reviewer notes that

the stories have two common denominators: nature and war. As editor Sinisalo explains, Finland is a sparsely populated country with enough room for its citizens to form close ties with nature; and, throughout its history, the country has been torn between the empires of Sweden and Russia, both of which took their turn to dictate the language in which fiction was written. "Wolf Bride", by Aino Kallas, is set in the mid-17th century. Aalo, a woodsman's wife, hears someone call to her while she is watching a wolf hunt. Later, she can't resist an urge to join the wolves in the forest and becomes a werewolf. At night she runs with wolves, by day she plays the part of a devoted wife. It's an eerie tale with an unexpected ending.

Tove Jansson is best known for her Moomintroll stories, but her piece here is definitely for adults. Following an unspecified disaster, a wife "shops" for her injured husband by climbing through shattered windows and looking for food among the wreckage inside. When her husband complains that he is not able to protect them, she rounds on him: "Did it ever occur to you that in my whole
life I've never been able to take care of matters and make decisions about things that are important?" The editor's own offering, "Transit", tells how a young autistic girl speaks for the first time in 14 years and persuades a drunken hellraiser to help her steal some dolphins. These excellent stories share an edginess that's quite distinct from the quirkiness many contemporary English writers prefer to celebrate.

The library doesn't have this on its shelves yet, so I shall be going in on Saturday to request it from them as it sounds like an interesting collection.

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In other news the BBC reports that a digital version of Mozart's musical diary has been put online by the British Library to help celebrate the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth. The digitised diary allows users of the Turning Pages project to click on and hear music from the opening bars of many of the works it mentions.

I confess it's taken years of listening to Mozart's music on Classic FM for me to come to an appreciation of his music, and this aspect of the Turning Pages project sounds as exciting to me as "The Original Alice" must do to fans of Lewis Carroll !

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