If you were transported a hundred years back in time, what would life be like? What would the relationships between people be like? Or language? I’m pretty sure there’d be quite a bit more difficulties than often is presented in time travel fiction. Maria Jotuni’s book is not about time travel, but reading it now was a journey to the past.
Author: Maria Jotuni
Publisher: SKS 1998
Original language: Finnish
Helmet Reading Challenge 2017, number 3: Finnish classics.
Maria Jotuni (1880-1943) was a Finnish female writer, who described the relationships between men and women in a way that the public was not accustomed to in the early 20th century. This book contains Jotuni’s short stories. The writing style varies and is at times quite experimental. Some of the stories lean on the overtly artistic side.
Most of them are however quite brutal in their view. This is the bread and butter of the Finnish prose nowadays too – If you’d familiarize yourself with Finland just by reading Finnish contemporary literature, it would be very hard to believe the polls telling Finns are among the happiest people in the world.
Relationships, Love tells about the dark side of the ordinary life. Jotuni’s writing flows easily, but her use of dialogue is at times overwhelming. What’s interesting is to compare the language of the beginning of the 20th century to the language of today. It was sometimes difficult to understand what Jotuni’s characters were saying, because of the old-fashioned way they use the language. Unfortunately, it also distances the reader from the text so much, that the story becomes more of a curiosity than something to immerse oneself in.
When these stories were first published they were perceived as modern and ground breaking. Jotuni brought the new ideas and philosophies of her time into her stories’ world. She wasn’t preaching; her stories were built on a worldview that was just budding at the time.