Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

I am a North person. Not only am I from North, but it is also my preferred holiday destination, or direction, rather. There is no explanation to this. I have tried Greek and Spanish islands, even Mexico. It took some doing, but I have come to accept that these places do nothing for me. I’ve found my True North, and it’s not South.

Thus you can imagine my delight at the prospect of traveling to Helsinki during the darkest time of the year, something that I generally try to avoid, as some things are too much even for the hardiest of us. Daylight is a “blink and you’ll miss it” -deal. Weather is inexcusably bad. On a positive side, spending all day indoors and not talking to people is perfectly acceptable. Ordering hot toddy as an aperitif is basically encouraged. Blissfully many department stores and cafés have decided not to play background jingles, and most Finns prefer not to speak to each other in any case. It is thus very quiet, especially as it was snowing this morning.

Admittedly good things can come out of harsh conditions. Finland’s new government just swore in few hours ago. Multi-party coalitions are a Nordic norm, and this time it’s a whopping five of them in the government of Finland. All five party chairs are women. Therefore, historically, the country’s government is led by an all female leadership, which includes the world’s youngest prime minister.

This chunk of good news must be relished. There are only three weeks left of this decade and next year again will be very taxing, as far as international politics are concerned. And when I say international politics, I specifically refer to the U.S. election campaigning, which I am sure will manage to up the game from 2016, which so far carries the mantle of being the most disgusting political campaign ever. I just finished Amy Chozick’s (award-winning reporter at the New York Times) book Chasing Hillary, a depressing but absolutely brilliant account of the 2016 campaign. Especially brilliant because it paints a superbly minute picture of the relationship between a candidate/ journalist and politics/ media in the U.S. An absolute must-read for any policy-wonk with a penchant for PR and communications.

I took with me an aptly named collection of short stories to read in Helsinki; Things We Say In the Dark by Kirsty Logan. She’s a Scottish writer who wrote some of the book’s stories during writing retreats in Finland and Iceland. Her style is very close to that of Angela Carter, and there’s something very, well, dark and mystical in her pieces. With a strong feminist undertone, the stories include some mild witchery (with Scottish folkloristic references, such as summoning a kelpie) and partly sheer horror and dystopian fantasy.

Things We Say in the Dark is no easy-read, even if short stories are often considered as something that can be swallowed whole at quick intervals. It is possible that I have a Finnish bias when I was reading the book (there’s a story set in a Finnish forest), because Finns are obsessed by finding out what non-Finns think about us, or indeed our forests. I also have a personal bias for Scottish writers, because Scotland is an important place for me. So yes, very niche, I guess, in case you are neither Finnish nor Scottish, but if you do enjoy modern feminist folklore/horror fiction/dystopian fantasy, this could be your jam.

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