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Old 18th-January-2009   #1

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Join Date: May 2008
Location: Holland
Posts: 10

Finnish Literature

I could not find a thread about Finnish literature. Nowadays many Finnish books are available in translation, and there are great books among this.

Meidän Maailma

Meidän Maailma is the third book by Marko Kitti. It was published in August 2008. The novel is nominated for the Runeberg Award.

Meidän Maailma means ‘our world’. This book is about the life of two little kids in the suburbs of Turku. Lauri from about 5 years old and Janne, his older brother (around 7). The storyteller is Lauri, who looks back on his life as a kid.

That life is terrifying, totally insecure and unpredictable. Their world is mostly confined to one room, the sleeping room of both boys. Lauri is not going to school yet, and has no winter clothes, so only in summer he is allowed to play sometimes at the yard in between the flats. The rest of the year he is alone in his room, and plays often with a few stones he found, the stones represent his family, and also act like his family (this is Lauri’s ‘stone world’).

Their totally unpredictable and cruel mother has a room in the house that the kids call ‘mother’s nest’, it is strictly forbidden to go in there, though the boys often hear strange sounds in there. The mother abuses the kids both mentally and physically. Because the kids are totally locked off from the world, they do not know, that this is not a normal treatment.

The boys have a photo album hidden under their toy cars, and every now and then they watch the photo’s and Janne tells about the pictures. Many of these stories are very funny, because of the excellent kids logic.

Janne goes to school already, but hardly ever tells anything to Lauri, who is dead curious about the world outside. He thinks Lauri is too little to understand and also that Lauri cannot keep things secret.
Janne does however tell Lauri that their mother touched him when he was very ill. Both boys talk about it, and Lauri wants to feel that too. He convinces himself that he is ill. When their mother finds out that he is pretending, a very nasty and painful scene follows. At the end of the scene their mother gets into labor (none of the kids know or understand anything about what happens, they did not know she was pregnant). In the time their mother is at the hospital, the scared kids are taken care of by an older neighbor. That ‘grandma’ does in fact nothing special, but that time is heaven to the kids.

When their mother returns, the kids hear often crying from ’the nest’. One day their mother puts a ‘bundle’ and a strange looking bottle of milk in their room. The boys are scared at first, because the bundle moves and makes strange noises, but then they find out it is a baby and they feed her. Their mother goes out more and more, and leaves the kids alone.

Sometime later both boys are outside, it is one of the last days of the summer, and they leave the yard. Janne gets hurt severely by neighbor kids and breaks his leg. Lauri has no clue what to do, so he does nothing at all. Janne’s healing is painful and slow and he turns literally his back to Lauri and hardly talks to him anymore. Janne also gets more angry against their mother and resents the treatment they get. Lauri grows lonelier all the time.

A woman from the child care visits the family after the leg-incident, but the boys are instructed well, and the woman leaves again without taking any action.

One evening when they are alone again, because their mother is to a pub, the little baby needs a clean diaper, even though that is strictly forbidden. Lauri removes the diaper and is totally upset about the baby not having a penis. He thinks it is lost somewhere in the diaper. Janne comes at last and laughs his head off. But later that night the kids run away from home, and take the baby with them in the icy cold winter…

This book is not easy on the reader. It is a hard story of a distorted life. It also has some very humorous parts, mostly pitch black humor. This book lets you wonder how it can be that even people who more or less knew what was happening, did not do anything.

I admire the utterly logical way the story is told and constructed. Even to the reader many things remain unclear, because the view angle is from a little kid, who fails to understand what happens and why. F.i. the many in black or grey suits dressed guys that enter the house/nest… what are they doing there? I can guess, but I do not know. What really happened to the kids fathers? Is there no other family? Why is the mother like this? What will become of the kids, how much damage is done? This book grabs you much longer than the time you need to read it.

Most touching is the very clean and innocent way Lauri tells about his terrible childhood. It never gets sentimental or overdone. Still I shed quite some tears while reading. My sympathy for Lauri is huge, still I am very happy that he does not exist for real.
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