Thursday, 18 May 2017

Metsäjätti - Miika Nousiainen

'Ennen Valtio-niminen yritys tarjosi vakaan mutta kapean leivän. Nyt valtion firmat ovat palmioita, destioita ja postikin mikä lie itella. Kun posti lakkautetaan, Jarmo saa potkut. Se on tragedia. Mutta kun Itella reagoi markkinaympäristön muutokseen niin se onkin paljon nätimpi homma, ja mahdoton ymmärtää.'

'In the past a company called The Nation provided a steady but narrow livelihood. Now firms of the nation are palmios, detias and the post too is some sort of itella. When the post is shut down, Jarmo gets fired. It's a tragedy. But when Itella reacts to the market environment changing it's a prettier thing, and impossible to understand.'
Sorry about the book being in the edge here but look at
that amazing tea!!! It was super!!!


I don't know if I mentioned, but when I was still doing my exams, I really wanted them to be over so that I could read more books. I feel like I'm making good on that wish now! Mum read this book from my shelf last autumn and has been telling me to read it since. She recently read the author's new work, Juurihoito ('Root Canal'), but I've only read his first one, Vadelmavenepakolainen ('Raspberry Boat Refugee'). Anyway!

Metsäjätti ('Forest Giant') is Miika Nousiainen's third novel, and it's mostly from the point of view of Pasi, who's left his home town Törmälä years ago and has to come back and make the plywood factory that's the heart of it more efficient. That is, to fire a lot of people. He has to try and make peace with his nagging conscience while firing people he grew up with and people who knew his family. The other POV is his old friend Janne, who, despite the fact that he's an alcoholic (maybe a recovering one though) that hasn't done much with his life, turned out to be a decent fellow. 

In Metsäjätti, Nousiainen does well what he does best; dark humour and pessimism. It's not as manic as Vadelmavenepakolainen (in which the main character really, really wants to become fully Swedish and leave his Finnish roots behind), but it also lacks some of the joy that mania brought with it. In Metsäjätti, I felt like there were very few silver linings to be found, and it made me think of how I really want some balance in my novels. Pasi and Janne often reminisce about their childhood in their separate parts, and all the people who were not happy then and are not happy now. Really the two of them seem to be the only people who have some hope in Törmälä.  

Nousiainen's works, while extremely caricaturic, are also excellent in their honest portrayal of the Finnish people. I don't know how to properly put into words something that you would have grown up with, something no one talks about but everyone knows. It's amazing that someone would actually put it into words like this, and I love that. It's novels like this that I often find myself wishing could receive an English translation, but I also understand that their beauty suffers without touch with the culture.

Also something I enjoyed, though in a reserved manner, was the finance stuff in this book - because of course I would. The book is divided into quarter years, and Pasi is an economist working for a big multinational wood company. At one point he comments on how in an emergency you wouldn't be asking for the help of a business person, and while the self-irony on his trade may have hit a bit too close to home for me, I could still appreciate the humour in it.

Törmälä is a municipality of just over 2,000 people where the people are dangerously pessimistic, afraid of change and really anything different. Many families have alcohol problems and depression just because it's how things are. And this place? It's the architype of a Finnish municipality, except even more depressed than life actually is (I hope). I'm sure at least anyone who's grown up in the Finnish-speaking areas outside of Helsinki will relate to it, and it reminded me of my home town too. Although we don't have a plywood factory, we have a plastic factory. Pipes and the such.  

'Nykyisistä asukkaista jollakin tapaa lahjakkaita on kenties seitsemän. Hyvä itsetunto on kuudella, mutta valitettavasti niiden joukkoon ei kuulu kukaan seitsemästä lahjakkaasta.'

'Out of the current population talented are maybe seven. Six have a good self-esteem, but unfortunately within those are none of the seven talented.' 

I've always thought that Nousiainen's books are very hit and miss. This one, while skilled and all, was neither for me. I gave it a 3.5/5 rounded down because I didn't like it quite as much as Vadelmavenepakolainen, and that one wasn't perfect either. Maybe that skewes the curve a little, but anyway. It was an easy, amusing read, even though it wasn't quite what I wanted. I'll most definitely continue reading his works in the future. For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 27: A book about a place where you live (or you come from)!

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