Book Review | Grandfather flourished in the war, received the Mannerheim Cross, and also did something particularly appalling

Terhi Törmälehto’s high-quality warfare tries to understand Taavi Törmälehto.


Terhi Törmälehto: Taavi. Big Dipper. 298 s.

How to come as a war hero? By killing more than others.

It is told by a model novel by Terhi Törmälehto has written about his grandfather. The work is based on reality, although the author has straightened out the twists and imagined the details.

Taavi Törmälehto was a knight of the Mannerheim Cross and a little celebrity of his time. The book, which follows the stages of his life, shows how war attracts an aspen farm boy into his arms. You have to get to the front even before your turn, as a volunteer and as a minor.

Taavi becomes the breed of war. He adjusts to the service quickly, and more. In war he thrives. War is his natural habitat. When the others freeze in horror, crying to their mother or shitting their pants, Taavi shoots. The Soviets strike the country to such an extent that soon the soldier will be allowed to choose his own position.

He chooses where to get to the front line, the toughest battles.

At home to David Rose-mother draws lines in the hymnbook. One for each enemy the boy has killed. For Ruusa, they are people where Finns are, although it is not appropriate to present such ideas at local coffee tables.

The third perspective figure is David’s little brother, three years younger Lad, sensitive draftsman. He is like the opposite of a soldier. Throughout the book, Ruusa and the reader may fear that Veikko will be taken to war. How could he make it there? Taavi, who hates front-runners and duty-takers, also earnestly hopes the brother should stay home.

The narrator of the book sometimes appears in Taav’s contributions. He seeks, scolds, or encourages a boy. The solution attracts attention but does not interfere with the reading experience too much.

Sotasankarina Taavi gets to taste the sweet life. During the holidays, he travels in first class among gentlemen and rails drinks at the tavern that someone else has paid for. Sometimes Taavi remembers going to see his mother and brother, sometimes not. He returns to the front with satisfaction, ready for real action.

But war is not a permanent state. In times of peace, Taavin is harder to find his place. He is looking for it in Sweden as well, but the war does not disappear from his dreams and the fragments do not stop wandering under the skin.

When violence is acceptable, valued and desirable in some circumstances, it is a crime in others. That’s what Taavi doesn’t want to remember.

The book contains an aggravating revelation that was not systematically mentioned in the polite press stories about Taavi Törmälehto, even though it was known. Let it go untold here to maintain tension.

Terhi Törmälehto the second novel opens up the mental landscape of the passionate soldier and offers yet another perspective on a time of war that has been thoroughly penguous in our literature.

Törmälehto, who works as a mother tongue teacher, writes fluent, beautiful language, and the work does not suffer from style breaches. The structure supports the story. Everything shows how careful the work of the author has been.

He wants to understand his grandfather’s motives and perhaps succeeds in that. But it becomes clear that the killing of some deeds is not facilitated by kinship either. Rather the opposite.

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