The Book of Life / Elämänkirja

Tammi, 2006.

Elämänkirja by Esko-Pekka Tiitinen.

From the Elina Ahlbäck Agency/Tammi Publishing foreign rights guide:

The Book of Life is a refined, yet intense novel about Marja, a 17-year-old girl,
and the summer during which she has to let go of her old home and way of life.

Esko-Pekka Tiitinen — The Book of Life — Translation Sample (PDF)

I was seventeen then.

When I called out from the edge of the field, the cows stood up from resting and followed after me. I could have walked with them even as far as the village; I could have made my cows stand in the middle of the road, made them moo true culture at the residents of Shallows; I could have gotten my cows to ruminate on the football field, but I led them to the barn where each in turn donated its milk to the tank. The udders gave nourishment: milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream. I was, with the cows, an important part of the food chain.

I was very aware and proud of my necessity.

We lived in the village of Shallows, in the eastern heartland, right where the fells began to rise up all around like great walls. To me those walls were safe and protective. Eighteen columns of smoke rose between the fells; from my window I could see everyone’s fields and houses. On cold winter nights I looked down into the valley and could see the lights in each living room. They would be extinguished one after another. I was the last awake.

In the village of Shallows I tried to achieve the level of sensitivity that animals have, and I succeeded. I felt like my hearing had become as sensitive as a dog’s, my eyes became as sensitive as an owl’s, and my skin, like the crust of the earth, could feel the changing of the weather.

I saw. I was compelled to see, but it was a pleasant compulsion. Such a beautiful landscape could not but be admired. And the darkness of the evenings! It was beautiful. Dangerously beautiful to others who had become numb to everything, who had gotten used to getting up and going to their beds dreaming of trips abroad, of stone-free fields, dreaming of something that they could not see with their eyes.

To me it was precisely seeing that was most important. No one knew that in my eyes this landscape was the only reality I believed in, the landscape I loved. And although it was the same landscape every day again and again, I never tired of it.

After the last lights were extinguished, I was alone. And I saw even more. I saw behind the darkness and in that reality moved wolves, bears, hares, and the lynx. And when I stood in the darkness in the yard of our home and listened, I heard the frigid cold snapping a limb in two and the snow crunching under my feet, but I also heard myself saying things to myself that I could not tell anyone about:

I was told:

“You have the spirit of the land, the spirit of silence; stay here; this is your place.

Leave a Reply