'The Thames Sprite' (From The Series: Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful)
Originally uploaded by doublevelvet.
This question stems from reading two recently published Finnish novels. Both are praised by critics as brave and what have you. I am talking about the winner of the Helsingin Sanomat literature prize, Armas Alvari's Varmat tapaukset and rockstar-gone-novelist Kauko Röyhkä's Avec.
I don't know whether the problem is the topic or their skills. I have been reading these two books page after page and find myself thinking: I have read this before and this is so quasi-brave. Röyhkä builds on sensationalism while Alvari trusts on describing the boring life most of us live. Describing spanking or watching your daughter having sex in full detail has all been done before. And most importantly: better.
Or maybe my standards are just a bit higher after reading Finland's Charles Bukowski, Henrik Tikkanen over the holidays. Tikkanen goes through his neglecting alcoholic parents, failed marriages, sex adventures with prostitutes and his own love affairs and alcoholism in a way which is at the same time witty, sad and funny. This is one of those few books which I plan to read a couple of times. Just a short quote (sorry for the poor translation):
"Was I able to suffer? Every time I had tried suffering, I had fallen out of the role and the whole suffering had started to feel silly. My sense of humour failed me. It was difficult for me to get going the sentimental feeling, which is the basis in Finland for creating art, oppressing the women and declaring patriotism. I lacked the purity of the feeling which is the foundation of all greatness."
- Henrik Tikkanen (1976): Majavatie 11