Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Marskin Keppi - Tapani Bagge

Marskin Keppi / Tapani Bagge

Short stories. Male buddy comedy. Christmas.

STORY; This collection includes 6 short stories and one longer length short story. Every story features the same two characters, Koskela and the unnamed "minä" narrator. In the stories, normal, mundane events such as changing a tire and fixing a roof go from ordinary to extraordinary with lots of laughs and chuckles. Two Christmas tales feature, which are sure to give an insight into Finnish Christmas culture and traditions, while also providing entertaining reading. The longer "Marskin keppi" (Mannerheim's baton) is a mystery, action, adventure story all wrapped up in one.

Tapani Bagge is a well-known author, having written dozens of books for adults and young adults and is well known for his crime novels. This is his second selkokirja for adults, his first, Alligaattori, features the same duo as in this book.  

LANGUAGE:  The stories in this book are all told in first person format from the narrator's perspective. Most of the short stories are 10 pages or less and include half page and full page illustrations that aid the story. The "Marskin keppi" feature story is around 67 pages in length and is broken down into smaller chapters of 5 pages or less. 

The appeal of a short story collection is that the reader can choose to read any or all of the book. While the 125 page length may be intimidating to some selkokirja readers, the 67 page length feature story alone is worth reading. Alternatively, the two Christmas stories in this collection make ideal reads around the holiday time and are short enough to be read in an evening or two. The four other short stories in this book are excellent to pick up and read over a few sittings, the perfect opportunity to improve the reader's Finnish skills and have a laugh at the same time.

A word of caution to this collection, is that the vocabulary is advanced and there may be many words in a single sentence that require looking up. This may also be followed up by paragraphs that can be read effortlessly, striking a nice balance. Unlike lower level books, where the same vocabulary words are often repeated through the book, this book uses many different words to describe similar items or situations. Based on this, I would classify this is a B2 - C level book, ideal for those already with a firm grasp of the language and looking to expand their vocabulary and comprehension skills. That being said, a B1 reader would be perfectly suited to reading individual stories from this book, though reading the book as a whole may be overly challenging. 

CHARACTERS:  The two stars of this book, Koskela and the "minä" narrator are lovable and laughable male buddies in their fifties, who get themselves into trouble and adventures that leave their wives shaking their heads in disbelief. "Marskin keppi" contains a wider range of side characters, all listed in the cast of characters at the beginning of the book, but for the most part, the two main characters are the star actors in this buddy comedy.

This pair may just be Finland's answer to Jack Lemmon and Walter Mathau. 

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: This is an ideal short story collection to pick up and read a story here and there, without having to sit down and read a 125 page book in at a go. The Christmas stories are ideal to be read every year at holiday time and will keep the reader laughing every year again and again. The "Marskin keppi" feature story is a nice novelette ideal for upper level readers yet not overwhelming at 67 pages. This book is ideal for anyone who enjoys classic male buddy comedies (Grumpy Old Men, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, etc.) and also for the male reader. This is a great choice for the Finnish learner looking to make the leap from B2 to C level. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Avioliittotest - Veera Nieminen / Johanna Kartio

Avioliittotesti (The Marriage Test) - Veera Nieminen / Johanna Kartio - 2019

Romance. East meets west. Family.

STORY: While studying at university, Aino, who is from eastern Finland falls in love with Jussi, who is from western Finland. They decide that she will come to his family's farm and live with them for one month over the summer. Aino is put to the test adjusting to life and manners in western Finland and so is their relationship. In addition to these new challenges, the couple must decide what will happen when the month is up.

This is a selko version of the original book, Avioliittosimulaattori (Marriage Simulation) published by Tammi in 2013. The original was nominated for the Helsingin Sanmoat Literature Prize in 2013 and has been called the most entertaining romance novel of 2013.

LANGUAGE: The stand out language point of this novel is the use of dialect. While adjusting to life in western Finland, Aino faces challenges sometimes understanding what Jussi's relatives are saying! Many Finnish as foreign language readers will empathize with this challenge. But never fear, the author presents the new-to-Aino vocabulary in humorous ways that are explained to the reader at the same time as Aino.

The story is told in diary format, with each day representing each chapter. At 32 days, this translates into 160 pages, which is quite a cut from the original version's 260 pages. Aino tells the story in first person perspective, so reader's follow along from her perspective as she attempts to navigate Jussi's home world. The book is set in modern day, which is a refreshing change from many selkokirja, and includes the use of cell phones and video chats.

Based on the length and dialect used, this book is ideal for a B2.2 reader. However, if a B1 reader is up to the challenge and willing to put in a little more time to look up words and grammar, this is an excellent step into contemporary Finnish fiction. This book will particularly appeal to readers who already enjoy reading contemporary romance novels in their own language.

CHARACTERS: Aino is in her 20's and in the middle of her college career. Her parents are divorced and she keeps in touch with both. Jussi is her most serious relationship. Originally planning to spend the summer with her friends in their summer cabin, she boldly takes the risk of spending one month on a farm, outside her comfort zone just to be with him. Jussi is around the same age and attends the same university as Aino. Unlike her town upbringing, Jussi grew up on the farm with his father, uncle and younger brother. Aino is also his most serious relationship and he helps as much as he can to help her adjust to his family.

The book comes with a handy character guide at the beginning.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: While many selkokirja are originals written by a single author, a welcome trend is the selko-translation of many contemporary Finnish books. This adds an element of integration mentally to the foreign language reader, being able to understand what other native Finns are reading and discussing on the bus or in the newspaper. As a much talked about book when it was first released, this selko published version allows it to enter the spotlight once again, thanks to the adaptation.

5/5 stars

On a side note, I attended a selkokirja event at Oodi library in Helsinki on September 18, 2018 and had the opportunity to listen to Johanna Kartio speak about this book and her work as a selkokirja author. If you ever have the opportunity, I highly recommend attending these kinds of events in the future!