New Finnish Grammar

16 November 2012 Books

New Finnish Grammar

Diego Marani

This very successful Italian novel has been a long time coming for English speakers. Originally released in 2000, it was inexplicably not translated until 2011 and has only now reached Antipodean shores. The story is simple but effective: In 1943 a man is found badly beaten on the dock in Trieste, Italy. A nasty blow to the head has left him without memory and language, but there is a clue on the tag inside his jacket: the Finnish name Sampo Karjalainen. As the doctor who nurses him back to health is from Finland, he takes it upon himself to tutor the stranger in his own language, thus preparing him for the return home. Sampo, however, never feels at ease with the language and undertakes an investigation into who he used to be. It’s not giving anything away to reveal all isn’t as it seems, and even though you know something is wrong from the start, the story is still compelling. New Finnish Grammar explores the curious theme of language and how it shapes our identities. Fans of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient (1992) will revel in this forgotten gem.

Chris Flynn