Johanna Sinisalo: Troll : A Love Story

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This is my contribution to the 12th Bookworms Carnival, themed on fairy tales. I was first going to pass the carnival, but then I came up with the perfect book to introduce to the readers of the carnival.

It is Ennen päivänlaskua ei voi by Johanna Sinisalo. The English title is more straightforward Troll : A Love Story, a direct translation would be Not before sundown (which is the title of the first English edition of the book) or something like that. I'll come to the origin of the title later, it's a fascinating thing in itself.

Let's start with the book first and I'll deal with the background later. The book starts with a simple assumption: trolls exist. The book switches with the story, told by different narrators, and all sorts of fragments of literature (web sites, nonfiction, fiction) about trolls, written as if the trolls were a natural thing, an animal amongst the others.

The story is about Mikael, a young photographer, who finds something strange in his backyard. It's a troll, and Mikael takes it home and adopts it. A bond, relationships starts to form between Mikael and the troll, and soon things get complicated, when primal forces mix with modern world and culture meets nature. Add to the mix a Filipino mail-order wife living downstairs and couple of other characters and it all gets rather interesting.

It's a fascinating story, with a strong sexual tensions - it certainly is a love story, as the English title has it. Sexuality is, of course, a recurrent theme in many traditional fairy tales, especially in the original versions. I don't know about the quality of the English translation (or any of the other translations), but if it's as good as the Finnish original, this is one captivating and charming book. Sinisalo is a master writer and can craft convincing alternate realities. After you read this book, you start to believe trolls might indeed exist...

Then some background. Johanna Sinisalo is a well-loved author in the Finnish science fiction circles. She started by writing short stories and has seven times won the Atorox, the Finnish award for the best science fiction or fantasy short story of the year. She's since worked in television, writing the most popular Finnish daily TV series. She's also writing the script for Iron Sky, the new movie from the people who made Star Wreck.

Ennen päivänlaskua ei voi won the Finlandia prize for the best novel published in Finland. That is a major award, and Sinisalo was the first science fiction author ever to win the award (and only one so far). That was a major milestone for the Finnish science fiction literature, even though Sinisalo doesn't really write pure science fiction anymore - nevertheless, she mixes reality and fantasy in a wonderful way and really enhances the Finnish literary world.

The book also won James Tiptree, Jr. award in 2004.

Then I promised to tell you about the title. It's from one of the best-loved songs for children in Finland, Päivänsäde ja menninkäinen (Sunshine and a troll). In the song, sun is setting when one of the sunshines is left behind and meets a troll. The troll immediately falls in love with the sunshine and wants to take her home, even though her shining is making him blind. The sunshine refuses, saying that the darkness will kill her, and she must hurry home before she perishes. The song ends in a sad acknowledgement of how some are children of light and some travel in darkness, and never the two shall be together. It's a really beautiful, sad and sweet and song and a perfect source for a title for this book.

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This page contains a single entry by Mikko published on May 14, 2008 1:46 PM.

Maria Veloso: Web Copy That Sells was the previous entry in this blog.

BTT: Manual Labour Redux is the next entry in this blog.

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