Sunday, July 22, 2007

A fun Finn

Way back in this blog's very first post, I lamented the unavailability of Finland's Pentti Kirstilä in English translation, with the exception of one exceptional story. His work is no more available now than it was then, but I have found another funny Finnish writer. Tapani Bagge's Onni Syrjänen, a "not very successful lawyer, is too poor to hire a detective, so he does his own gumshoeing." That lets you know right away that something funny is going on.

Bagge's short story "The Face in the Concrete" is full of sharp description, endearing characters, clever twists on perennial P.I. motifs, and the intimate humor of a small town where everyone knows everyone else and where the possibility of tragedy always lurks. Best of all, the story has been available online for two years at the Thrilling Detective Web site.

Among my favorite snippets is this, from an exchange between Syrjänen and his two luckless cousins, Jampaa and Make, concerning a burglary that did not go as planned:

"The old man started boohooing right in the middle of cracking the safe, starting blubbering about how Granny used to send him Christmas trees we made outta paper."

"It was you?”

Jamppa nodded eagerly

“Granny did help Make a bit, he was only three, but I – ”

“I mean, was it you that broke into Riipinen's?” I specified.

“Ya think I'm lying?” Jamppa got upset.

“I didn't mean it like that. I was just wondering what you're still doing here, then.”

“Should we be off to the Canary Islands, then?” Make seemed exasperated. “Two fellas with nuthin' but stinkin' holes in our pockets?”

"I would think that a couple of million would fix just about any hole."

"Ya would, wouldn't ya?" Jamppa grumbled and swallowed what was left in his mug. “That's 'cactly why we gave ya a holler."

“Or I did," Make corrected. “Jamppa just gave me a fiver.”

“It was my last fiver," Jamppa said and looked at me gloomily, like a landlady who'd just served a sixth useless eviction notice. “We didn't get a friggin' penny outta that friggin' job.”
Finnish author and blogger Juri Nummelin reported earlier this year that he was working on a translation of one of Bagge's novels for publication by Point Blank Press. Here's hoping the project comes to a timely fruition.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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4 Comments:

Blogger Juri said...

Yeah, Tapani's funny as hell. In "Puhaltaja/The Jack" you can even laugh at someone getting shot at. I'll be busy all Fall, but I'll try to get the translation done. (It will be a rough one and Point Blank's JT can smooth it.)

July 27, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks for the note. What I liked about "The Face in the Concrete" is that the laughs are tempered by that possibility of tragedy and hopelessness lurking just beneath the surface. That gives the story a real edge; it's not all jokes.

I hope your work and then J.T.'s goes smoothly; I read what you wrote about the difficulties of the translation. And then I hope Point Blank gets busy and gets the the book out as soon as possible. I'm still waiting for them to release Frank McAuliffe's long-unreleased fourth Augustus Mandrell book.

July 27, 2007  
Anonymous Tapani Bagge said...

Thanks for your kind words of my story. Now there are a few others available online in English. You can find the links on my website: http://www.tapanibagge.com/eng_open.htm
I'd be glad to get any comment on them.

Tapani Bagge

October 06, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You're welcome. I very much enjoyed your luckless crooks and lawyer, and I'll likely post a link to the latest stories in the next few days. Thanks for reading this blog.

October 06, 2008  

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