I was contacted by an author after he saw my series about traveling to the places you write about. He said he had recently been to Finland, and since I am of Swedish descent, it piqued my interest. The Finns and Swedes are neighbors. Below I am sharing his very interesting piece, not just about the country, but the people.
This past May of the year 2015, I took a week long trip to Finland. In the process, I saw the capital, Helsinki, and a few other small locales. It was my first time ever in a Nordic country, and indeed my first time ever with boots on the ground in Europe proper. But I–an American of questionable heritage who can scarcely speak a word of Finnish, and can barely get by in Swedish–never felt out of place or overwhelmed.
Two jokes may explain the reasons for this:
- An introverted Finn looks at his shoes when he’s talking to you. An extroverted Finn looks at yours.
- Timo and Jaako agree to go fishing on a lake. They begin at dawn, and at dusk, over twelve hours later, they remain entirely unsuccessful. Timo says, “They aren’t biting very much today, are they?” Jaako glares at him and says, “Did we come here to fish or to talk?”
My first ever published piece, Maaselkä, takes place in once Finnish, now Russian territory, and I wrote it long before I ever took the possibility of traveling to Finland seriously. But looking back on the way I wrote that piece, I think I got the Finnish experience right. The Finns are quiet people, reserved even, and their landscape is one of harsh winters and endless sprawling lakes and hills. But there is real beauty in Finland, and real brutality too, lurking just beneath the surface, and it doesn’t take much effort to be immersed in it.
I don’t know when or indeed if I will return to Finland again. But the truth seems to be that the Finnish feeling has been part of me for as long as I can remember. To continue to write horrors like Maaselkä, I don’t need to go anywhere, or do anything. All I need to do is to draw from that which is apparently an inextricable part of who I am.