Better and more beautiful, the world of the cephalopods…
Kustannusosakeyhtiö Pääjalkainen, Cephalopod Publishing Ltd in English, was founded in Turku, Finland, 2017. It is a very independent and quite a small publishing company, but its aims are high. Pääjalkainen might be small in size, but it doesn’t want to be minor or marginal. From the very beginning, Pääjalkainen has wanted to bring something new and different to the literary scene in Finland.
Pääjalkainen wants to publish meaningful literature. However, meaningful doesn’t mean, that it would only publish literary novels or “future classics” (whatever they might be). Entertainment, like well-written, ambitious detective stories, can be meaningful also (and sometimes the best vehicle, when you want people to start thinking about some particular issues).
Pääjalkainen is strongly against the present-day trend of letting individual books live fully for only a couple of months, then throwing them to the bargain pile. That is economically and ecologically foolish. Besides, good books deserve much more. Books deserve a lot longer lifespan. Otherwise it might be better, not to publish them at all.
Pääjalkainen loves especially books for children and young people, also the so-called young adult books (where the genre is often fantasy in its different forms). Right now, it doesn’t publish picture books for children, but hopefully that day will come. Children’s books are the most important section of all fiction. It is often the books that we read when we are children, that make us what we are, and can become.
This far, Pääjalkainen has published five books, and a few more are on the way right now.
The first two came out late in 2018.
Luopumisharjoituksia (~ “Exercises in letting go”) is a novel by Heli Hulmi, who lives in Helsinki. Heli Hulmi has been writing passionately all her life. She also teaches writing, especially autobiographical writing. Before that, Heli Hulmi worked for YLE (the Finnish Boadcasting Company) as a radio documentarist. She has published short stories, a novella and non-fiction. Luopumisharjoituksia is her first novel.
Ailitza eli Kävelevä maailma (~”Ailitza or A Walking Universe”) by Elina Koivunen, is a fantasy / speculative fiction novel written for teenagers. However, it deals with themes and questions that appeal (or, alternatively, might irritate) adults of any age. It is a story of fourteen-year-old girl, Ailitza, who suddenly finds herself as an outcast from her native town, the oddly rigid town of Peri-Sokia. The town’s name comes from peripheries of Finnish mythology. Not so universally known Peri-Sokia (~ “quite blind”) was the name of a mythical Cyclops. In the same manner, people in Peri-Sokia are fairly smart in some ways – and totally blind in some others. As Ailitza is pushed away, she starts to seek her mother — who was thrown out some thirteen years earlier, as Ailitza now finds out to her great surprise. On the way to her mother, Ailitza is accompanied by her Granddad (or at least someone who introduces himself as her grandfather).
The second storyline is about eating meat. In Peri-Sokia people don’t eat other animals. The taboo of eating other feeling and thinking creatures, is so strong, that Ailitza never knew, that there are carnivore humans. When she realizes, that that sort of people really exist, she’s horrified.
To eat or not to eat animals, is not the only question, as Ailitza is to find out. That happens when she gets to know another character in the story: a plant from the family of yarrow (Achillea millefolium). It has no name, as plants are not really individuals. A yarrow is only one small part of the totality of all yarrows.
And plants can also mourn, when they are picked and devoured…
Ailitza eli Kävelevä maailma is meant to be the first part of a trilogy, that deals with connections between humans, (other) animals and plants. If things go as planned, the second book will come out in 2021 or early 2022. The storylines for both the sequels are set, but as writers well know, new and interesting subplots may arise on the way.
In 2019 Pääjalkainen published two books.
Elena Ferranten salaisuus ja muita esseitä (~ “The secret of Elena Ferrante and other essays”) by Elina Koivunen is a small selection of essays that deal with writing, philosophy and cannibalism, to mention just a few of the topics. The main essay is about the mysterious Italian best-seller writer, Elena Ferrante. The book is illustrated by the author.
Oranssia ja sitten pimeää (~ “First something orange, then comes darkness”) by Alina Vaatturi is a detective story set in the town of Turku. As a crime book, it is an old-fashioned puzzle with a twist. On the surface, it looks like the very old story of a missing schoolgirl. In this case, the girl is called Aime Taljamo, and she comes from a prosperous, privileged family. Below the surface, there is quite another kind of story, as Verne Pörninen and Helinä Reunanen, the not-likely non-detective amateur duo will eventually find out. Verne happens to be Aime’s uncle, Helinä is a female parson, and both are single. As it happens, Aime’s disappearance brings them together — although they might not realize this yet.
In this book, Turku is like one of the characters. Turku was founded so long ago, that nobody really knows when (probably in the 13th century), and for a long time it was the second largest town in the kingdom of Sweden (only Stockholm was bigger). By the time that Finland eventually became independent in 1917, Helsinki had surpassed it (because during the Russian regime era, Helsinki was closer to St. Petersburg, while Turku was far too close to the old master, Sweden).
But even if Turku has never been the nominal capital of independent Finland, it has kept its flavor and soul by the Aura river and close to the fascinating Finnish archipelago that starts almost from its town center. Alina Vaatturi’s detective story is celebrating that fact, among other things.
In 2020 Pääjalkainen has published one book, this far.
Kuinka kirjailijaksi tullaan is the Finnish translation of Dorothea Brande’s American classic from the 1930’s, Becoming a Writer. Brande’s book is wise in many ways, as it deals with the problems and challenges of creative writing.
Pääjalkainen, PL 21, FI-20101 Turku, Finland