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writers in residence
In Residence
December 2010 — May 2011

Olli Jalonen



Zurich is privileged to be able to invite Finnish writer Olli Jalonen to be its first Writer in Residence. His first book to be translated into German, 14 Knots to Greenwich, has recently been published by Mare Verlag, presenting to a German-speaking audience a writer who has already inscribed a secure place for himself in the Nordic hemisphere with his calm and subtle narratives. His spare narrative style opens out spaces for the reader which are located in everyday life but gradually develop into dystopic scenes of alienation as the narrative progresses, with mind games and scenarios from an extreme inner situation that we explore in the course of reading.

In 14 Knots to Greenwich, for example, Jalonen brings together four characters who are left to their own devices in a very small space as they sail around the Greenwich meridian towards Greenwich. The abyss opens and masks fall away as humanity is revealed pared back to the core of its existence. Jalonen was born in Helsinki in 1954, studied Social Sciences in Sweden and lived for some time in Ireland. He now lives in Hämeenlinna in Finland with his family. His wife, Riitta Jalonen, who is best known in Finland for her children’s books, is coming to Zurich with Olli Jalonen.

Olli Jalonen is one of Finland’s most important contemporary writers and, among other distinctions, he was awarded the renowned Finlandia Prize for his work in 1990. His many books include novellas and other short prose, covering the full range between novels and works of criticism, including a book of travel writing. /// As of November 11, 2011

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A Short Passage

“Vierzehn Knoten bis Greenwich”

“In den windgeschützten Sonnenflecken war es so heiss wie in Finnland im Frühsommer. Fliegen kreisten über den Hinterlassenschaften der Hunde, und der Wind brachte den Geruch von Öl und Rauch mit. Ich fühlte mich fremd und allein, hier in diesem Nirgendwo, auch so kann das Leben vergehen.”

— From “Vierzehn Knoten bis Greenwich” (Hamburg, Mare Verlag 2010), translated from Finnish to German by Stefan Moster