Book Review | Annia Luise Bertell’s novel, which is a candidate for Finland, is an impressive account of Ostrobothnia and the wounds left by the war

Heiman is Bertell’s first work to be translated into Finnish. January will publish a Finnish translation of Vappu Orlov in May.


Ann-Luise Bertell: Heiman. 302 pp. Förlaget

Ostrobothnia is one of the most fascinating scenes in Finnish literature. Over the years, the lakes have stepped that way Antti Tuurin and Hannu Raittilan than Pauliina Rauhalankin readers. Finnish-Swedish Ostrobothnia, on the other hand, has also become familiar to Finnish-speaking readers, for example Lars Sundin and Kaj Korkea-ahon through works.

Ann-Luise Bertellin HeimanHowever, the Ostrobothnia that opens up in the novel is quite unique, strongly rooted in the country. At the center is the family home that has remained in the family for generations, heiman, which involves not only plowing and sowing but also mythical stories and silenced printing. The blood is thicker than water, but so is the earth: no home is left.

At the end of the day and at the end of the day can be found all over.

The weight of home and country also proves to be an obstacle and a chain in some places, a blockage of an individual’s identity and dreams.

Heiman the beginning of the First World War has just ended. Elof and Ivar’s father dies of tuberculosis, a year after his mother. The boys move to their grandparents in a neighboring village, the home’s furniture is sold at auction but the home remains in Elof’s name, his future.

A close and insightful four-generation family saga begins, dating back to the late 1980s.

Heiman is Ann-Luise Bertell’s (b. 1971) second novel, but the list of publications includes poems, short stories and drama from previous years. Debut, poetry collection Rus av gul, appeared in 1997. In addition to writing, Bertell has worked in the theater as an actor, playwright and director, and in March he was elected director of the Wasa Theater for the second time.

Nominated for Finlandia Heiman however, is Bertell’s first work to be translated into Finnish. January publishes Mayor of Orlov in Finnish in May 2021.

Of course, there is hope that more will follow. For example, published in 2016, received the Svenska Yle Literature Prize The crank is flat would also fit nicely on Finnish-language bookshelves.

War is in an important part of Heiman, although only a moment is spent on the actual battlefield. Elof faces the front, though he can’t kill it any better than a hare or an enemy. He tells himself that he is a lousy coward, not a real man at all, and the thought follows him home.

Among other things, this is combined with the image of a hare, a mystical creature leaping between two worlds, which can also be seen on the cover.

For the time being, in addition to all the relevant provisions, they may be accompanied by the same information as in the case of Gud i våra liv. In the case of a bunch of beans, the bunch of beans is tricky as long as the beaker.

The horrors of war do not end on the front, but at the end of the war, a real, seemingly endless battle begins. Like many other men at war, Elof grabs the bottle at home and doesn’t let go. Olga’s wife takes care of it in the tribe everything from cleaning and baking to caring for animals and children.

Bertell describes the alcoholism of men traumatized in the war in a touching, complex way. The dives into the minds of both Elof and Olga and the children are bright and understanding.

The description of the psychology of the characters is In Heiman great all over, though the grip is a little slack towards the end. The thoughts and feelings of the grandchildren are simply not up to the level of Elof.

Heiman according to the interviews given by the author, is based partly on the stages of Bertell ‘s own grandparents and is located in a landscape familiar to Bertell, in the village of Kimo north of Vaasa. The landscape, the world, is constantly present as real and tangible.

Bertell’s tongue transports the reader from his living barn, from the roof to the woods, in precise, airy sentences, where the local dialect is included here and there as a thoughtful spice. Heiman the place among the Finlandia candidates is definitely earned.


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