At Swift’s Door

Original title: Swiftin ovella

Published: 2011

Publisher: Tammi

Class/genre: Literary

Pages: 269

Lennart Beren, having just spent five years in Ireland, gets a phone call from an old friend, Johannes Kelps, who will be dying soon. ”I want you to finish my book”, Johannes says. After the death of Johannes, Lennart moves into his house, as agreed. There he discovers a secret room with a strange device, and suddenly Lennart finds himself back in Ireland. But he has also travelled back in time, and has become Watt, a man-servant of Jonathan Swift. Soon he – and the reader – is initiated into the life of the famous satirist.

This highly inventive novel is a dramatic tale of ill fate and a brave fight against injustice. The drama unfolds in part in a fictitious Finnish setting, in part in Ireland in the 18th century. And the drama ends, finally, where it all began: in the house of Johannes Kelps, once a famous scientist who withdrew suddenly from the academic world and bought an old, remote house in the country. Why? What happened to him?

Jyrki Vainonen

Jyrki Vainonen (b. 1963) is an award-winning Finnish author who is renowned for his Finnish translations of the works of Seamus Heaney, Jonathan Swift and William Shakespeare. His debut work, collection of short stories (Tutkimusmatkailija ja muita tarinoita, Loki-kirjat 1999 ) Vainonen received the Helsingin Sanomat Debut Book of the Year Award in 1999. Vainonen has lived in Ireland and wrote his licentiate thesis on Jonathan Swift’s Irish pamphlets.

“Vainonen, an award winner in his native Finland, debuts in English with seven selections from three of his previous collections, introduced by Finnish fantasy powerhouse Johanna Sinisalo. Opening with the absurd—a husband vanishes on an ill-fated expedition into his unfaithful wife’s thigh in “The Explorer”—the book then delves into questions of identity (“Blueberries”) and transformation (“The Aquarium”). Sex is mutable (“The Pearl”) and comforting truths are revealed to be false, while faint suspicions prove terribly true (“The Refrigerator”). The author shows an easy comfort with the odd and disturbing, and sympathy even with his less sympathetic protagonists. The translators have done a masterful job of presenting his work with clarity. The one shortcoming of the collection is its brevity; at a scant hundred pages it seems too short to function as a proper introduction to the author. (Oct.)”


Jyrki Vainonen

The Towers

2009, Literary

Jyrki Vainonen

The Explorer & Other Stories

1999, Literary

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