“In the Blackest Depths Hope is Reborn”: Views of Nature and Minority Positions in the Novels of Göran Stenius
Torsten Pettersson, University of Uppsala
Göran Stenius (1909–2000) was a Swedish-speaking Finn who, while forging a successful diplomatic career, made a name for himself as a writer of novels. Four of them are set in Carelia, two (as well as an unfinished work) in or around Rome, reflecting Stenius’s double identity as a Carelian and a Catholic. This article argues, firstly, that the theme holding the seemingly disparate novels together is a concern with nature in relation to a Christian worldview; and, secondly, that this existential theme can be seen as a strategy for rising above the pressures of marginalization on regional and religious grounds.
More specifically, Stenius’s first novel Det okända helgonets kloster (1934; The Monastery of the Unknown Saint) paints a bleak picture of nature as something unknowable, chaotic and inhuman. In Fästningen (1945; The Castle) that view reappears, but in a less pronounced form. In Klockorna i Rom (1955; The Bells of Rome) nature inspires considerable appreciation but its beauty is still seen as a form of wordliness. Brödet och stenarna (1959; The Bread and the Stones) then presents the most appreciative view, partly as a change of heart in the character of Juha Poutanen, partly as a quotation from St. Francis of Assisi praising “sister Earth, our mother”. Thus nature is in the end the omnipresent centre beyond all pressures of marginalization.
Helsingfors, 2014. no 3