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New Finnish Grammar

by Diego Marani

A badly injured soldier, suffering from amnesia and unable to speak, is nursed to recovery and repatriated to another country. Following his agonising search to discover his roots, we discover the importance of story and language in shaping personal and cultural identity. With the backdrop of wartime Finland and forays into Finnish mythology, the novel explores themes of loss, alienation and the madness of war. One for serious reflection.

Extract

Finnish is a solid language, slightly rounded at the sides, with narrow slits for eyes, like the houses in Helsinki, the faces of our people. It is a language whose sounds are sweetish and soft, like the flesh of the perch and trout we cook on summer evenings on the shores of lakes whose depths are covered in red algae, the colour of the hunters' houses and the berries which bead from the bushes in summer. Finland is a cuttlefish bone, a great concave stone within whose sandy womb trees sprout like mould beneath the endless northern light ... If you were once Finnish, at some point you will find all this within you, because all this is not stored in your memory, it cannot be mislaid. It is in your blood, your guts. We are what remains of something which is bigger than ourselves and is not of this world.

Parallels

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
 

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