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THE FINE ART OF FINNISH MELANCHOLY

THE FINE ART OF FINNISH MELANCHOLY

Published August 6, 2004

And despite Icelands latitude being right in the centre of Finland, the climate is somewhat different. Whereas Finns have to deal with long, cold, monotonous winters, which lead to a lot of introspection followed by depression, Icelanders have to deal with endless amounts of wind and rain more likely to result in frustration. Perhaps this explains why Icelanders always try to deny their melancholy, telling each other they are always “hress” and “í stuði,” whereas the Finns celebrate theirs.
A wonderful example of the latter is Arto Paasilinna´s book Glorious Mass Suicide, about a group of rejects who travel through Finland on a bus with the aim of driving off a cliff on the Arctic coast. They then turn around and decide to drown themselves off Portugal instead.
The book does not at first glance seem as if it would lend itself to dramatisation, but this is the ambitious task embarked upon by the newly founded thespian group Landsleikur. For a play that mostly takes place on a bus, the production is imaginative, particularly with the utilisation of a multi-purpose black box that is often the centrepiece of amusing scene changes, such as the drunk metamorphosing into a statue. The dramatisation quite sensibly cuts the journey down, ending in Norway, and staging off bus highlights. The humour is stressed, as it should be for a cast this young, and is mostly funny if occasionally laboured. However, a mistake is made in keeping the original ages of the protagonists. One has to overcome the obvious inconsistency of the middle aged characters of the text and the 20 year olds on stage. Making the characters younger would bypass this as well as broach the dark subject of teenage suicide. Still, you can´t fault a cast for its age, all actors play various characters and Karl Ágúst Þorbergsson particularly shines as Colonel Hermanni. For their parts the actors took lessons in Finnish tango, and the tango music that sets the atmosphere is a particular joy. In a melancholy sort of way, of course. The tango in Argentina celebrates sensuality, but in Finland it seems to celebrate sadness. That´s something we Icelanders should do more often.
Glorious Mass Suicide is on tour.



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[Continued from Ungoo: Part VIII] Combined, these faults admittedly sound like the joke about that restaurant: two friends go out for dinner; one complains that the food tastes terrible to which the other replies: yes, and the portions are way too small. The like-button is probably the greatest invention since the billboard, and just as inattentive to thinking. Facebook is fast, whereas most sources seem to agree that depth is slow. If Facebook is the way we converse and, thereby, think, then yes, our culture is probably pretty shallow. Our, as in: yours too, wherever you are from. We are

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[Continued from Ungoo: Part VII] Which brings us back to Facebook. You may or may not know that a government agency called Promote Iceland has based whole marketing campaigns on encouraging the country’s inhabitants to employ social media to lure visitors. If those plans received any criticism at all, most of that probably appeared as Facebook posts, which were then drowned in more life-affirming messages. Nonetheless, debates take place on Facebook. If an interesting article appears elsewhere, whether on Starafugl or in Fréttablaðið, Facebook is still where most of the following debate will take place. Facebook is a radically new

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[Continued from Ungoo: Part VI] The most recent attempt to create a common venue for cultural commentary and debate is Starafugl, a website started and edited by author Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl. It’s been around since last winter. As I have been involved in various ways, I am liable to be considered biased when I claim that Starafugl has had a convincing first few months. I claim it, all the same. Starafugl ran into trouble a few weeks back, when it received its first ever invoice. The invoice charged Starafugl for a photograph, that had been used to illustrate an article

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“The president will not discuss statements made in an election campaign, during his term in office.” So said the President’s spokesman in response to RÚV’s attempt to ask President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson about his statements in 2012, that, if elected, he might seek to leave office before the end of his term. His fifth term, to be exact. The spokesman’s response has the structure of a reasonable, if not self-evident, principle, something any member of a functioning democracy would surely understand. Meanwhile, the content of the sentence may be considered somewhat less than democratic. In other times, the same content,

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