Finnish manhood

I have just finished Mikael Niemi’s book Popular Music and I’m breathing in exhausted wheezes, I’ve been laughing so hard. It is the story of a young man’s growing up in the utmost extremity of Swedish lapland, in the town of Pajala, on the Torne river, which forms the border between Finland and Sweden. They are very far north, about 150 miles above the Arctic Circle. Strong drink and home-distilled pentecostalism are the only diversions. Men are hard and women are juicy. Do not read the set-piece contests of manliness if you are standing up, or in the hearing of strangers. You will fall over; people will look at you with pity and alarm.

The epilogue catches perfectly the endless withdrawing melancholy of summer evenings in the high north, when pleasure goes on so long it turns into an inexpressible sadness.

The hardback edition is called, in English, “Popular Music from Vittula”, which is odd, because “Vittula” is the Finnish for “cunt” (cf the Swedish “fitta”). So far as I know, this particular Finnish polysyllable never made it into any of Tolkein’s languages. But it does give it’s name to the author’s part of Pajala, “Vittulajänkä”, “cuntswamp”, not to be confused with the southerly suburb of “paskajänkä” or “shitsmire”.

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2 Responses to Finnish manhood

  1. India says:

    Yes, yes, yes! Niemi is hilarious–go see him speak if his tour brings him to your area–and the translation is excellent. (And I’m not just saying that because I work for the U.S. publisher of the book. I didn’t work on this book; I only read it.)

    For those who like to try before they buy, there’s a sample chapter online at

  2. peter says:

    try almein and thuggo. Thanks for nine killer – it really had me stumped, but I have learned a lot about the butcher bird which has added to my useless but valuable knowledge.

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