Palace of Wind
She is calm because she is full of emotion. She is perfectly focused because she is overwhelmed. She will not open her arms for a generous hug, or kiss me on the cheeks, or give me a high five. I step closer, and we breathe in unison for a moment. Our shoulders are rising and falling. She closes her eyes. I close my eyes. Though surrounded by the Delhi Airport, we are together at the Palace of Wind. Continue >>
Stories in ink
Many of my therapy clients have fascinating tattoos.
When I was working at a substance abuse treatment clinic for young people in Helsinki, I asked the members of my therapy group to share the stories behind their tattoos. Tattoos are definitely much more than ink on the skin. I have eight, each carefully thought out and meaningful to me. My most recent one is a deer on my right upper arm. Continue >>
A television production company called about a short story I had promised to write. I had been asked to write a script about an old kitchen table, but I never did, because I forgot. I often wonder how many laundries and shoe repair shops have things that I never remembered to pick up. It is an ordinary kitchen table—not the talking kind. I hate stories told by dogs or slippers. Or tables. Continue >>
Finding mercy in mistakes
The late Christer Kihlman (1930–2021) was always one of my literary idols, and he also became a friend through his daughter, who translated my first novel into Swedish. He once admitted on a talk show that he had made many mistakes in his life, been selfish, and hurt his loved ones. The hosts were confused: apparently, his calm and unvarnished honesty was not “good television.” Continue >>
I was born in late spring. I have never believed in astrology—but by all accounts, I’m a typical Gemini: my personality and my body of work are characterized by dualisms. My works can be divided into two categories, based on life-changing events, such as the birth of my children and my mother’s death, and content and style: fact and fiction, polemics and poetics, pathos and humor, intuition and intellect. Continue >>
40 years later
Forty years ago, I was nervous as hell. I had been working on my manuscript for seven years, and my first novel was scheduled for publication in October 1981. The book came out, and my life was never the same. The book provoked the full gamut of emotions, from joy and delight to annoyance and rage. The feedback varied widely, and I was delivered not only roses, but also shit in a packet. Literally, believe it or not. Continue >>
The Cretan patient
Those close to me know that I always carry a copy of The English Patient with me, and I mean always. The original version, at the very least, accompanies me on longer journeys in my purse or backpack or rolled up in my pocket. In most cases, I also take the Finnish and French translations with me. At home, I always have the book at hand on a desk or a nightstand or the bookshelf in the dining room. Continue >>
On the fate of Camille Claudel
Camille Claudel (1864–1943) was a French sculptor known for her beautiful work in bronze and stone. At the age of 19, she was introduced to Auguste Rodin, who was 24 years her senior. Rodin became her mentor and lover. Described as “torturous,” their relationship lasted for ten years. After their breakup, she continued to work independently, but it was difficult for her as a woman to secure funding for her art. Continue >>
Play it again, Sam
Recently, on a tram in Helsinki, I overheard four young women talking about audiobooks. They recommended to each other novels they had last listened to. Then they started to talk about slowness. Apparently, reading a physical or digital book is not an option. Too slow. But how to deal with audiobook narrators who speak so unbearably and infuriatingly slowly that you must speed up the book? Continue >>
Mother insisted that I take the red carnations with me. I tried to resist, but she was adamant. I shoved the carnations into the bottom of my travel bag. On the plane, I pushed the bag under the seat in front of me. I had never given anyone flowers, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to say. What kind of expression should I wear? What kind of smile? For a British lady—a complete stranger to me. Continue >>
10 misconceptions about love
Love is blind? Love is the opposite of hate? Love is different for women and men? Love endures all things? You cannot love two people at the same time? We’ll always have Paris? Anja Snellman writes of how 10 beliefs about love have proven wrong in her life. “Falling in love is always an experience of renewal. When two people fall in love, they are offered an opportunity they can either seize or lose.” Continue >>
Decades of love
In Continents: A Love Story, Anja Snellman compares each stage of a relationship to a continent. Relationships evolve over time, and people grow and change. We asked the author how she thinks love changes with age, from your twenties to your sixties. “In my early twenties, I had no idea what a loving relationship means. My parents’ marriage cannot really be described as a loving relationship.” Continue >>
Sex and the (Nordic) city
I am an author, but I am also a psychotherapist and sexual therapist. What do my clients want to talk about? The mismatch of desires in a relationship, sexual identity, polyamory, sex in the busy years of life, sex and porn addiction. Sex and loneliness—something slightly reminiscent of what Carrie Bradshaw felt in Sex and the City. But without the glamour of Manhattan and a group of wonderful friends. Continue >>
How far have we really come?
How far have we really come in the fight for equality, nondiscrimination, human rights, and feminism?
My take is: two steps forward and only one step back. As a writer, I want to make a difference, but I know that change takes time. However, change is taking place, all the time, in people and society alike. This I have the privilege to witness daily, as an author and also in my work as a therapist. Continue >>
A letter to my younger self
I was born long after my sister, when my parents were already older. I was shy and wild at the same time, with a vivid imagination. My nickname as a child was Patent, because I came up with all kinds of tricks and gimmicks and new games all the time. The world of books and the arts was also very important to me. I took up classical ballet, loved drawing, and was good at sports: sprinting and skating. Continue >>
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