Paavo Haavikko (1931-2008)
October 9, 2008 1:28 AM   Subscribe

Paavo Haavikko, one of Finland's (and Europe's) foremost poets, died earlier this week. As well as poetry, his seventy or so published works included essays, novels, plays for the stage, radio & TV, and opera libretti. (via)

Unfortunately there is not a whole lot of Haavikko's poetry in English on-line. Besides the page of translations by Richard Sieburth linked above, there are a few snippets here and a few more translations here [.doc]. Haavikko's was a memorably aphoristic style, informed by a sceptical, pessimistic outlook:

'Every house has many builders, and is never finished.'

'Real delicacies are raw: oysters, salmon, and power.'

'When the tyrant is young. Everyone waits / for him to come to his senses. / Old. For him to die.'

'Don’t reminisce, / the dead / reminisce about the dead: / the flowers of Autumn, / snow-chilled, / about the flowers of Spring.'

'This is a world that will, in any case, be destroyed at some time. / Working for its destruction seems pointless. / It is impossible to save. Between these two facts, life must be lived...'

'In this cruel world it’s useless even to beg / not to be born again.'

posted by misteraitch (8 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Great post, and I thank you for introducing me to a poet I was unfamiliar with. Too bad Finnish is so little known that many of the translations are from German translations! Maybe I'll get around to learning Finnish (needless to say, I already have a dictionary) so I can appreciate his poetry; that's one of the main reasons I learn languages.

Also, that first link is amazingly thorough and readable; I don't know who runs kirjasto, but I'm always impressed by their writeups.
posted by languagehat at 6:15 AM on October 9, 2008

Thanks languagehat: for anyone interested in Haavikko, but not inclined to learn Finnish, I can recommend the translations by Anselm Hollo in the edition of Haavikko's Selected Poems published by the Carcanet Press, as well as those by Herbert Lomas in his anthology (now out of print) Contemporary Finnish Poetry. The recent translation by Hollo of Haavikko's Kalevala-inspired volume One and Twenty looks promising too: I've just ordered a copy of it.
posted by misteraitch at 6:54 AM on October 9, 2008

posted by Frankie Villon at 7:06 AM on October 9, 2008

I have a few poems of his in an anthology of Finnish poetry. Glad to find more.
posted by ersatz at 7:26 AM on October 9, 2008

He also scripted The Iron Age, epic and moody miniseries from 1982, based on Kalevala. The clip, with music from Aulis Sallinen, captures the spirit of both the series and Haavikko's poetry.
posted by Free word order! at 9:45 AM on October 9, 2008

'When the tyrant is young. Everyone waits / for him to come to his senses. / Old. For him to die.'

This is why we murder tyrants while they're still nascent.
posted by symbioid at 10:11 AM on October 9, 2008

hmm I guess I'd better think of getting a copy of a dictionary too, i might be moving there next year for grad school
posted by infini at 11:46 AM on October 9, 2008

but I must say i do like the haiku'ish flavour of some the sentences you've shared misteraitch, thanks for introducing me to a whole new world
posted by infini at 11:47 AM on October 9, 2008

« Older How We Evolve   |   Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio Receives Nobel... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments