Hannu Salama Philip Binham - Essay

Philip Binham

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Salama certainly does not romanticize his Tampere communists [in Siinä näkijä missä tekijä]. They are rough and tough; every second word they use is a bad one—but then Salama has long been an acknowledged and dogged master of obscenity. And his communists are unreliable—there is even a double agent.

The title of this book is an apothegm from old Finnish law which implies that there is no crime without an eyewitness. The sabotage and other disruptive activities of the Finnish communists during World War II are constantly revealed to the police. This makes the story exciting enough. And there is a certain fascination in the deathbed apologia of Jaska, the traitor who has been leaking information yet claims he has tried to protect his fellow communists. The style of this long section is rambling and Faulknerian; perhaps long-windedness is unavoidable in Salama's monumental, brick-upon-brick style of writing.

An impressive feature of this book is the author's method of revealing character. Many of the chapters are written from the point of view of a handful of central figures. This gives opportunity for contrasting—even contradictory—pictures of their own and each others' personalities. It is not a new approach, but it is masterfully handled here. One must admire the skill with which Salama has drawn the complex threads of his theme together, as well as the thoroughness, patience and courage with which he has tackled a delicate subject that few have dared to approach.

Philip Binham, "Finno-Ugric and Baltic Languages: 'Siinä näkijä missä tekijä'," in Books Abroad (copyright 1973 by the University of Oklahoma Press), Vol. 47, No. 4, Autumn, 1973, p. 801.