The many faces of Finland
“Only someone who has lived through the dark depths of a whole Finnish winter can claim to understand the country well,” writes Michael Szurawitzki in his new book Die vielen Gesichter Finnlands. Szurawitzki, Professor of Germanic Linguistics at LMU Munich, has survived a whole series of Finnish winters. He spent 15 years of his life there, and has drawn on his experiences to produce a portrait of the country as seen from the standpoint of cultural studies.
Michael Szurawitzki, who has held different teaching posts in Finland, and last taught at Vaasa University until 2011, wrote the book with the intention of stimulating a new and more objective interest in, and engagement with, Finland. Szurawitzki’s mother is Finnish, and he was brought up in a bilingual household. His goal was to provide a realistic picture of the country that would act as a foil for what he regards as the all too positive image that Germans in general have of Finland. He therefore does not pass over the darker side of Finland, which encompasses more than the fact that the country is swathed in cold and darkness from October to March each year. Among the issues the author deals with in this context is the poor infrastructure to be found in the countryside, and the wholesale flight from the land. Young people raised in rural districts head for the larger cities or emigrate altogether as soon as they have completed their schooling, because they have no career prospects at home. Szurawitzki also looks at other urgent social problems that the country faces. Thus, although Finland’s educational system has been widely praised internationally, the author writes, for instance, about young people who nevertheless fail to qualify for a career and are unable to support themselves, as well as about adults who slip through the gaps in the social welfare system.
The sociocultural observations detailed in the book are interwoven with details drawn from Szurawitzki’s personal experience. He describes his childhood summers in Lapland, his military service, his year as an exchange student at Turku University and his interactions with his Finnish neighbors.
“Die vielen Gesichter Finnlands” (“The Many Faces of Finland: Cultural Reflections”) appears in the series “Studien zu Fach, Sprache und Kultur” and is published by Frank & Timme.
Die vielen Gesichter Finnlands
Frank & Timme, Berlin, 145 pages (pbk.),