Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Helsinki, Friday, 28 August 2009

A café, the University of Helsinki, and beyond

This morning I had an appointment to meet one of those rare creatures: a fellow dedicated scholar of nonsense. When I started this trip, I didn’t realize just how many of us there were (look back through the blog in astonishment at our forces, growing daily in number!), and even though our collective mass would not fill the head of a pin, there is some comfort knowing that we are not alone tilting against the windgills (from which the obscure amphibious plum pudding flea breathes, alternately). About a block from my university accommodation at the coffee shop Entré, I met Sakari Katajamäki, an editor at the Finnish Literature Society and, as I was to find out, not only an expert in nonsense literature, but also a musician, teaching musicians how to read literature (of all the absurd things). If he had only had a mysterious mustache, I would have embraced him like a brother, but as things stood, I shook his hand warmly as we recited the secret Nonsense Semi-Fictitious Felicitations, known to only those who detract this dark art. Sakari has published several articles on nonsense, including something in the brand new Nonsense and Other Senses: Regulated Absurdity in Literature, a volume resulting from a nonsense conference at the University of Warwick in 2006 which, somehow, Kevin and I missed, dagnabbit. I haven’t been able to read the volume yet, but it is very international-minded and sure to be a significant addition to nonsense scholarship. Sakari has worked extensively on Lauri Viita and other figures, and we had a fantastic nonsense conversation for a couple of hours, until he had to go to another appointment. He has offered his continued services for the Anthology, for which he shall find, forever henceforwardly, a hallowed place in the Nostalgic Nether Regions of Nonsense Numenescence.

After the meeting with Sakari, I met up again with Kaisu Rättyä, and after lunch, we went to a different library, one that specializes in books only from Scandinavian countries, where we looked at some more possible material. Kaisu knows Finnish children’s literature inside and out, after having directed the Finnish Institute for Children’s Literature in Tampere for many years, and she was able over these two days to go deep into the many nonsense possibilities of Finland. She also was kind enough to show me around the city a little and make me feel at home in Helsinki. From Scotland to Canada to Finland ten years later, and here we are.

No comments:

Post a Comment