Jim Haynes newsletters

Newsletter No. 117
Lahti Writers' Reunion 1987
Literature and Exhibitionism
30 June 1987

Two years ago I attended my first Writers' Reunion in Lahti. When Juhani Seppänen invited me to come again, I did not hesitate to accept. It was such a delightful event in 1985, I could only imagine 1987 would be better. And it was. Depart Paris Saturday the 13th of June via Finnair. Smooth flight. Read an article, "On Language", by Jörn Donner. Collect Tim Steffa's keys from the Finnair City Terminal and a letter of welcome. Tim and Lisa are in the country. Make a number of local calls and get either no answer or answering machines. Go out for a long walk about Helsinki. Meet three wonderful women in Esplanadi Park and we four have drinks in café Manta. Later they take me to the café Socis and we talk until it is time for their train (1.30 AM). Go to bed about 2 AM, feeling great. Thanks Taina Penttilä, Ulla Rauha and Tarja Wikström.

Juhani calls Sunday morning & tells me about the PEN party. Go out for breakfast. Change money at the train station and walk to the Esplanadi. Stand next to a woman who has a Marimekko black bag exactly like my own. After I draw her attention to this fact, we discover we are both on our way to café Manta and decide to join forces. Her name is Helena Engström and she, too, is a visitor. (She is from Vasa.) A young woman from the American Embassy in Moscow sits next to us. We exchange tales. Again, café Manta is fun. At 7 PM, Antti Majander, the secretary of Finnish PEN Centre, greets me. Olli Alho warmly welcomes me to another Reunion. Soon Tuula Kervinen, her beautiful daughter Karin and I are embracing. Tuula reports that her beautiful press assistants will all be attending the Reunion again. This will make everyone happy. (Minna Castren is one of Tuula's assistants and she is very beautiful. She certainly contributed to my happiness.) Anna Heinama tells me she is now a married woman and living in Moscow. (We last met at Julia and Martin Walker's apt. in Moscow in Sept '85.) Tim Steffa arrives, looking fit and healthy. He is writing the great Finnish-American novel. He will not be going up to Lahti. He and I walk to a restaurant called "The Sea Horse". A young couple asks if they can share our table. He is a librarian, she teaches school. After our dinner, call Susanna Luoto. She collects us and we go to her place. Her fella, Michael Frank, is involved with an animated film project with Richard Stanley and a film studio in Teheran. Richard and I met in London in the 60s at my old Arts Lab. We talk about the old days and they show us some of their video clips.

Monday, 15 June: Over coffee, Tim reads excerpts from his novel. Late morning head for Stockmann Dept store, and purchase lipstick for Barbara Hoff in Warsaw. Lunch, restaurant Kosmos. Sit with Olli Alho, Graham Swift, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Kenji Nakagami, Chimako tada and Juhani. Discover two friends: John Fowler, the Arts Editor of "The Glasgow Herald" and Jaime Sarusky, a writer from La Habana. I see John every August during the Edinburgh Festival. Jaime and I last met some 23 years ago in Edinburgh. At 13.30 we attend a cocktail reception given by the Finnish Broadcasting Company. I introduce John Fowler to Heikki Etelapaa. Heikki writes about theatre and cinema. Talk with Mirja Bolgar, a neighbor in Paris who writes for a Finnish newspaper. See Bo Akermark's friend, Vvokko Niskanen who asks about Bo and my Sunday night dinners. Meet Ann-Christine Salonen, an editor with Otava Publishing. (I promise to give her a copy of Workers in Lahti. Later do so.) I see old friend, Päivi Tapola, and she tells me about her new young boyfriend. Congratulate her. I am, like all the other delegates, interviewed and photographed. All very flattering. On the way out, get led astray. The delegate from Athens, Philippos Dracodaidis, his wife, Natacha and I find ourselves in a strange corner of the building. I boldly start opening doors and lead us out to the front door. Bump into old friend. Rober Shure. I produced a play of his in the Traverse Theatre in 1965. He is in Helsinki to record an LP. He introduces me to his colleague, Heikki. Ride to Lahti with Bitte Wegterlund and she catches me up to date with her life and adventures. After checking into my room at Mukkula, go downstairs to chat with the other delegates. Meet Anna and Andrés Sorel from Spain. He is a writer and a journalist. They will attend the Iowa University Writers Workshop after Lahti. Also meet Gloria Naylor, a novelist from New York City.

We all board the buses again to ride to the Lahti City Hall. At the welcome dinner, I find myself seated next to Sun Axelsson (a poet from Stockholm and a friend of Susan Ludvigson's), Hanne Marie Svendson (a novelist from Copenhagen & a friend of Susan Brøgger's., Eva Demski ( a novelist from Frankfurt and a friend of Claudia Honneger and Ulf Matthiesen's). After dinner meet Gerold Späth, a novelist from Zurich and we have a long talk about Blaise Cendrars, a Writer's Reunion he attended in North Korea and his novel that was published in English by Little, Brown & Co. Heikki Talvenmaa, the Director of Cultural Affairs for the city of Lahti, invites me to an unusual event; i.e. Ladies Night at a local disco. Lea Vanajas joins us. Tonight the ladies invite the gentlemen. I love it. Eija keeps asking me to dance. Music is provided by some superb musicians from England. Later, the singer, Emma Hall, and one of the musicians, Paul Cresswell, visit our table. Late to bed…

Tuesday, 16th: Breakfast with novelist from Tokyo, Kenji Nakagami. We discover a number of mutual friends including Yoko Ono. Mia Berner, a writer from Sweden, sits near us. She and I talk about Jane and Anselm Hollo. Later Mia promises to cook at one of my Sunday night dinners.
At 10 AM, the opening session begins. Subject: Literature and Exhibitionism. Tsabua Amiredžihi reads an open letter. Gloria Naylor follows with an impressive talk. Two and a half hours later we break for lunch. I sit with Sara, Päivi, Olli and Juhani. In the afternoon session, I give a short statement. Over dinner, a long, philosophical "argument" with Bodil Lindfors, a poet from Turku. Fredrik Lang, a novelist I met in 1985 in Mukkula, observes. Later, Jaime Sarusky and I catch each other up to date. He suggests I attend a film festival in Havanna in December. Try to go to bed early but Gerold Späth pulls me back for a beer and a talk about the joys of Finland's contributions to civilization: the sauna. He and I wander back to the hotel around 2AM with Eva Demski.

Wednesday, 17th: Breakfast with Jaine, a Finnish/Spanish translator, Jyrki Lappi-Seppala, and Pia Tafdrup, a poet from Copenhagen. Go to Press Room and give Tuula a copy of T.F.C Rain means we shift to a revival-like tent for the morning session. Lea Vanajas interviews me "live" for Finnish radio. Later I make a short intervention to point out non-creative factors that can shape an autobiography, ie number of pages is a marketing and pricing consideration and the role an editor can play (for good or ill)….. Ingrid Wendt, a poet and teacher from Oregon, gives an excellent talk on American women poets. This ends the morning session. Miss part of afternoon session; two interviews for Swedish radio. After dinner, a poetry reading in Lahti City Theatre. At Midnight, The Rest of the World beats Finland, 4-3, in football.

Thursday, 18th: Make a brief intervention, end it by inviting everyone to visit me in Paris. Suddenly it's over. Sit and talk with Irina Zorina from Moscow. Congratulate the interpreters. Farewell party that evening. In the bus ride to Mukkula exchange sexual fantasies with Bodil. Tom Laxal and his ladyfriend spill beer on me. An appropriate ending.

Friday, 19th: Bus to Helsinki; everyone too tired to talk. At 7P: to Pirkko & Lassi Nummi's farewell party. Food is wonderful. Our hosts divine! A great evening! Talk a long time about life and death with Richard Christ, a novelist from Berlin. Talk with Anne Garrétaabout John Calder and Samuel Beckett. J.M. Coetzee and I discuss Baltimore. Pail-Erik Rummo, a poet, talks about his home in Estonia. Anna Heinamaa introduces her husband, Aleksej Leppanen. Explain fullering to Marja-Liisa Toivanen and Jaakko Ahokas. Aleksander Petrov invites me to Belgrade in October. We talk about Makavejev and Moma Dimic. Another Lahti Writers' Reunion…

Even better than '85! Thank you, hosts, one and all. Come to Paris.
I extend my warmest welcome to you all.
Love and hugs, Jim.

 
Jim Haynes
June 1987

Atelier A-2,
83 rue de la tombe Issoire,
75014 Paris

 

 

 

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