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New Finnish Grammar (Dedalus Europe 2011) Paperback – September 1, 2011

3.5 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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About the Author

Diego Marani was born in Ferrara in 1959. He works as a senior linguist for the European Union in Brussels. Every week he writes a column for a Swiss newspaper about current affairs in Europanto, a language that he has invented. He has also published in France a collection of short stories in Europanto. In Italian he has published six novels, the most recent being L'Amico della Donna

Judith Landry was educated at Somerville College, Oxford where she obtained a first class honours degree in French and Italian.She combines a career as a translator of works of fiction,art and architecture with part-time teaching. Her translations for Dedalus are: The House by the Medlar Tree by Giovanni Verga,The Devil in Love by Jacques Cazotte,Paris Noir:The Weeping Woman on the Streets of Prague by Sylvie Germain and Smarra & Trilby by Charles Nodier.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Prologue My name is Petri Friari, I live at no. 16 Kaiser-Wilhelmstrasse, Hamburg and I work as a neurologist at the city's university hospital. I found this manuscript on 24 January 1946 in a trunk in the military hospital in Helsinki, together with a sailor's jacket, a handkerchief with the letters S.K. embroidered on it, three letters, a volume of the Kalevala and an empty bottle of koskenkorva. It is written in a spare, indeed broken and often ungrammatical Finnish, in a school notebook where pages of prose alternate with lists of verbs, exercises in Finnish grammar and bits cut out from the Helsinki telephone directory. Some pages are illegible, others contain just sequences of words without any apparent logic, drawings, foreign names, and headlines taken from the "Helsingin Sanomat”. Often the narrative proceeds by way of scraps cut out from newspapers, repeated each time a similar situation occurs, and fleshed out by others, in a wide variety of linguistic registers. My knowledge of the facts which lay behind this document has enabled me to reconstruct the story that it tells, to rewrite it in more orthodox language and to fill in some of the gaps. I myself have often had to intervene, adding linking passages of my own to tie up unrelated episodes. Adjectives left in the margins, nouns doggedly declined in the more complex cases of the Finnish language, all traced the outlines of a story which was well-known to me. In this way I have been able to coax these pages to yield up something that they were struggling in vain to tell. Using the scalpel of memory, I carved out words which ached like wounds I had believed to be long healed. Since I bore witness to many of the events and conversations recorded here, I have been able to piece them accurately together. In this I was greatly helped by Miss Ilma Koivisto, a nurse in the military medical corps who, like myself, was personally acquainted with the author of these pages.
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Product Details

  • Series: Dedalus Europe 2011
  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher: Dedalus Limited; Reprint edition (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 190351794X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1903517949
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,016,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Memory is an individuals ability to evoke or revive specific events from their lives. Memory is thought to divide into 3 main subdivisions, these being Working memory (prefrontal Cortex), Long term memory (hippocampus) and Skill memory (Cerebellum). These all play their part in contributing to our identity, by the building of new memories and the retaining of past ones, also by providing us with scenarios that allows us to know how to behave socially. Making memory an important factor in building an individuals identity.

In Diego Marani's book New Finnish Grammar, a man is found on a Trieste quay, unconscious with obvious head wounds. When he regains consciousness he appears to have no memory, or language, to all intents and purposes he has become an empty vessel devoid of all that we would perceive necessary for an individuals identity, in fact the only thing that marks him in any way is a name-tag inside the seaman's jacket he's wearing, with the Finnish name Sampo Karjalainen and a handkerchief embroidered S.K.
He is taken to a hospital ship that is anchored nearby & administered to by a doctor who's origins are Finnish and it is he who recognises the name as that of a native of his homeland. The doctor (Petri Friari) has a troubled past with his native land due to the way his parents, particularly the way his father, was hounded by his fellow countrymen, then put to death as a communist traitor. All of this feeds into the way the doctor proceeds to help the man now known as Sampo, whom he sees as a version of himself & he takes on the task of restoring Sampo to the man he believes he is, by reacquainting him with what he perceives is his native tongue and then by repatriating him to Finland, with a letter introducing him to a fellow doctor.
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Format: Paperback
The book begins in 1943. Finland was fighting Russia as an ally of Germany, but the Germans were on the retreat and the traditional Russian enemy is poised for, and eventually launches, a new invasion of Finland.

The central character is called Sampo Karjalainen. He is found clubbed unconscious by some assailant in Trieste. That Finish name - drawn from Finnish mythology - is sewn into his seaman's jacket, but he has lost all memory of who he is and all understanding and use of language. In the Trieste military hospital he is found by the Finnish born Dr Petri Friari, who is serving in the German army: he had fled his country in 1918, after his father had been killed as a suspected communist during the Finnish civil war which was won by the Whites. Though an exile from his country, Friari still feels a profound love and identity with it. He feels an obligation to help Sampo to recover the Finnish language and begins to teach him; he has not got very far when he arranges for Sampo to be sent, early in 1944, to a military hospital in Helsinki, where, surrounded by other Finns, he hopes Sampo's recovery of his language will be speeded up. In that hospital a caring army chaplain, Pastor Olof Koskela, takes on the job of teaching Sampo. The hospital is Sampo's base, but he can spend as much of his time outside it as he likes (one of the many things in the book which seems unlikely).

We understand from the Preface that Sampo has died when Dr Petri himself goes back to Helsinki in 1946 and finds a manuscript written by Sampo. Its transcription, filled out with Petri's occasional emendations and comments, makes up most of the book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This novel is a rather profound meditation on the meaning of identity and the role that language and memory play in forming a person's sense of him or herself. As such, it is thought-provoking and definitely raises some very interesting ideas to think about. My only reservation is that as a novel, that is to say a story about actual people, it is rather dry and lacking in human drama and passion. I read on because I thought the author had some important ideas to convey and discuss. But it wasn't that much fun.

We are near the end of the Second World War. A sailor, gravely injured, shows up in a hospital in Trieste. He has lost all memory and even the ability to speak. The only clue to his identity is the jacket he is wearing which bears the inscription, Sampo Karjaleinan, a Finnish name. The doctor treating him happens to be a Finnish exile, desperately guilty at abandoning his homeland as well as acutely homesick. He begins to teach the sailor Finnish and arranges for him to be sent back to Helsinki (which itself is at war with the mighty Soviet Union.)

There Sampo meets a Lutheran pastor Olof Koskela, who continues his linguistic education while teaching him the roots of Finnish identity and culture with special emphasis on the national epic, the Kalevala. The question is, can the pastor, as well as teaching Sampo Finnish, also teach him to be a Finn? Can he restore to a man without memory a sense of personal and national identity?

Memory, the author tells us, is inseparable from words which draw things out of the shadows. The Finnish word for the Bible, we're told, is the same as the word for grammar. And Finnish grammar is notoriously knotty and impenetrable with its numerous declensions and conjugations unknown in other tongues.
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