I read something that moved me very much today. It was in Finnish, translated from the Swedish, so apologies to Merete Mazarella, the original author, if there’s too much distortion. I aim to go and find the original Swedish, but I’m not sure it’s even been published. Full credits to follow – for Finnish-readers out there.
“The only safe place in the world is the circle drawn at a radius of about one kilometre from Mikael Agricola church.” In her moving essay on life and family in Huvilakatu/Villagatan she also writes, “Safe circles aren’t self evident in any way; it’s possible they don’t exist anywhere but in a person’s mind”.
Her stories of grandmother, father, mother, safe languages and disappearing shops, changing manners and persisting icons, of interior states imprinted with a landscape, and her insight into exile as well as return, in such a tiny piece, brought a lump to my throat. The whole essay was inspired apparently by some correspondence with friends in San Francisco and Peking (as it was then) on the question of cosmopolitanism.
The text can be found in Salme Saure, Minun Helsinkini, published 1989. Below is a picture I took recently of the church, now surrounded by more cars but also more mature trees than in the picture given in the book. Mazzarella also mentions the ugliness of her circle, compared to the vibrant colours of San Francisco where she’d just been, but then goes on to draw a beautiful portrait of a beautiful thing.