After The StormAvailable
Book IV of the Kalle Päätalo series.
Translated by Richard Impola
This fourth volume in the Kalle Päätalo's Koillismaa series covers the period of recovery and reconstruction in Finland after World War II. The task facing the Finns was a huge one. The war had drained the country's resources, and in the North, the Germans had adopted a scorched earth policy, burining and blowing up everything as they retreated. But more than buildings were involved: the chaos of war had invaded people's lives as well. As Maija puts it:
"We had to build our houses over again, and the same is true of our lives as well. You can't undo what's been done. You just have to begin over again from where you are."
Some describe Finland's recovery after the war as another miracle to match the accomplishments of the Finns in the war against the Soviet Union. Päätalo chooses to concentrate on the day-to-day experiences of the people. The lives of Kauko and Elma epitomize the kind of effort required to achieve the second "mircle." Their life is one of unceasing toil, complicated by material shortages of all kinds. Kosti Mäkinen's experiences as a builder make the same point.
With regard to the war, Kauko feels as if five of the best years of his life had simply been taken from him, his life interrupted when the family was just beginning to escape from the hunger years of the depression. His bitterness, and his hatreed of the Germans is increased by the fact that Elma, whom he marries, has consorted with a German officer during the war. Overworked, and apparently suffering from some kind of post-war trauma, he vents his feelings on Elma. At times, his jealousy is pathological.
One is tempted to view Kauko as a character who has never come to terms with sex. On the one hand, he tries to be a man-of-the-world, usually with ludicrous results, and on the other hand, he loathes Bull-Pekkala, who is successful at the game. His own behavior, coupled with his inability to forgive Elma's transgression, smacks of a double standard. At one point, however, he does admit that he is no better than she is with regard to sexual morality.
But this is analysis by one reader. As a writer, Päätalo does not analyze or explain, he simply presents. It is as if he has too much respect for his characters either to presume to explain their behavior or to use them to illustrate a thesis. Add to that, respect for a reader. He does not explain his characters or their actions for a reader's benefi; he presents them and lets a reader judge.
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