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Philip MacCann   ::   Paradox in Paradise [Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize winning article]

But outside, little old ladies would hobble through the market stalls apparently murmuring to themselves - until I spotted mobile phones. It was some 1930s vision of Utopia. Tiny joggers moved effortlessly across a flat recreation park. And up on fierce glacial crags that line many streets glass towers seemed to teeter: new centres with names like Electrocity and Datacity where you can send satelite-email or learn how to make clay pots in an evening course. These buildings owe much to a tradition of decades of Finnish utopianism. Local modernists believed that architecture could establish paradise on Earth.
Anders told me that two Finns can meet and spend an evening together bonded by silence. He knew that I had not managed to strike up with any of the taciturn Finnish speakers that I knew. I told him how they seemed to me like tragically bleak characters. Tall, masochistically shy, they gave me the impression of dying tree-trunks freezing over. They were able to speak excellent English, but I was convinced they had no motivation to communicate their desolate feelings to a single soul. Anders was certainly feeding me prejudices about a people he viewed as a seperate race.

'If you ever manage to penetrate this unknown "Finn Finn" mentality,' he said with what I took to be restrained agression, 'perhaps you will find it only silent, and mysteriously inexpressable - even to the Finns themselves!'
Finns are just too literal-minded for their own good, I thought; morally simple too, naive, sheltered by the overweening, paternalistic state. Perhaps, like children, they are easily frightened, easily confounded by life's paradoxes. But on the other hand they are remote from the cynicism of the West.
'If I can choose the place for my death it will be on a lonely Finnish island, somewhere in the archipelago. I will be a mere ten minutes by motorboat from civilisation, close to home and yet so very remote from the judgement of others. I do not want some kind of huge mini-drama. I will simply cease to exist, without the slightest fuss.'
books i've read..
2013 [12 read]
2012 [36 read]
2011 [5 read]
2010 [6 read]
2009 [5 read]
2008 [21 read]
2007 [31 read]
2006 [37 read]
2005 [37 read]
2004 [32 read]
2003 [18 read]
2002 [52 read]
2001 [43 read]
2000 [7 read]
1999 [25 read]
1998 [3 read]
unknown year [65 read]

read over the years