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The Core of the Sun
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2016 alt.TOB (#2) The Books > The Core of the Sun

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message 1: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1739 comments The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo

About the Book: (source: a webpage devoted to Finnish Literature)
The Core of the Sun invites readers to take part in a thought experiment: What if a few minor details in the course of history had set things onto a different track?

If Finnish society were built on the same principle of sisu, or inner grit, as it is now but with an emphasis on slightly different aspects, Finland in 2017 might be a ‘eusistocracy’. This term comes from the Classical language roots eu (meaning ‘good’) and sistere (‘stop, stand’), and it means an extreme welfare state.

In the alternative Finland portrayed in The Core of the Sun, individual freedoms have been drastically restricted in the name of the public good. Restrictions have been placed on dangerous foreign influences, so all mood-enhancing substances such as alcohol and nicotine have been eradicated. Only one such substance remains in the authorities’ sights: chilli, which continues to make it over the border on occasion.

Vanna, the book’s protagonist, is hooked on chilli – or more precisely, the capsaicin contained within chillies. She needs ever-larger doses to feel a proper ‘hit’. In order to ensure a regular supply of chilli fixes, Vanna becomes a dealer. No one would suspect her of committing a crime, because she is an Eloi, a woman ‘who is active in the mating market and for whom the promotion of all aspects of male well-being is key.’

Johanna Sinisalo’s satire is bitingly on-target in the scenes where the Eloi's education is reminiscent of dog obedience classes. The image of a country where the Health Authority decides what people require is pure black humour – it would be hilarious if it weren’t so frightening. Sinisalo is a social critic, but her writing is very tangible, appealing to the senses. It makes for a unique reading experience: highly immersive, almost breath-taking.

One day Vanna gets hold of a fresh chili. She has never seen such a thing before. Its trail leads her to a mystical cult, known as Gaianism. Vanna investigates how the Gaianists are developing the world’s hottest chilli variety, called the Core of the Sun. Vanna also comes to realise why chillies have been banned in the Eusistocratic Republic of Finland.

“The Core of the Sun” is part of the rule-breaking ‘Finnish Weird’ genre. The text consists of rhythmic segments, various text passages including genuine historical documents. One of these, an article on eugenics, was published in a Finnish magazine in 1935. Johanna Sinisalo demonstrates that ‘weird’ is never very far from everyday reality.

About the Author: (source:
Johanna Sinisalo (b. 1958), a leading writer of the ‘Finnish Weird’ genre, is one of Finland’s most original and successful authors on the international scene. Her books have been translated into nearly 20 languages. Auringon ydin (“The core of the sun”) is her sixth novel. Her debut work, Ennen päivänlaskua ei voi (Tammi 2000, UK 2003: Not Before Sundown, US 2006: Troll: A Love Story) was awarded the Finlandia Prize, Finland’s most prestigious literary award. Sinisalo has also published a children’s book, a collection of short stories and dozens of stories in anthologies and journals. Besides her prose fiction works, she has written film and TV scripts as well as graphic novel storylines and travel literature

About the Translator: (source:
Personal Statement - Translator from German, Swedish and Finnish into English. I translate full-time and hold professional translation qualifications in all three of my language combinations.

Particularly interested in translating contemporary colloquial language, slang, humour and popular culture. Fiction and non-fiction.

Translator of I Am Zlatan by Zlatan Ibrahimović and David Lagercrantz, which was shortlisted for the 2013 William Hill Sports Book of the Year award - the only translated book among the 17 titles on that year's longlist.

If you would like to chat about this book, or this author, here's a place to do so!

Happy reading!!

message 2: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1739 comments reading now... so weird but I'm loving the mini-chapters with the state training that seems so satirical and yet scarily familiar.

message 3: by Judy (new)

Judy (wisdomkeeper) | 80 comments I just picked this one up from the library today. It looks like my kind of book!

message 4: by Megan (new) - added it

Megan (gentlyread) | 67 comments I finished this today--I thought it was a realistic and enjoyable mix of dark satire (though like Amy said...scarily familiar) and compelling suspense, and I'm a sucker for a book with sisters at its center. I enjoyed the mix of narrative, letters, legal documents, and academic papers. In fact, the structure of The Handmaid's Tale (that it's a recording, and that it ends with an academic lecture outside the frame of the story) is my favorite thing about that book, and I loved that The Core of the Sun was built along similar lines.

Darryl (audibleclicks) | 12 comments Google Books has this one available for $10. A third of the way through and really enjoying it!

Caroline   | 150 comments This feels like a VERY 'Tournament of Books' kind of book, and I say that in a value neutral way.

message 7: by Jan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jan (janrowell) | 1104 comments @Caroline, haha, love it!

Heather (hlynhart) | 324 comments I'm about halfway through this and I'm really enjoying it much more than I thought I would based on its description.

Jason Perdue | 632 comments Tearing through this book. Enjoying it and I added an extra large dose of chili sauce to my dinner. I'm very suggestible.

Heather (hlynhart) | 324 comments I consider myself a "spicy food athlete" so the worship of chilis is something else about this book I could really get behind.

Caroline   | 150 comments I just had a couple slices of jalapeno + the soup I made last night, which was already pretty acidy (tomatoes, lime juice) and my body has been mad at me ever since. I definitely envy Vanna's constitution at times like this.

Jason Perdue | 632 comments Love the ending. I didn't find it predictable or tidy. It's like a superhero origin story.

Sherri (sherribark) | 358 comments Translated, feminist, weird-fiction, science-fiction thriller -- my new favorite genre :). And now I'm going out to buy my daughter a shiny red firetruck and stack of books.

Caroline   | 150 comments Sherri -- Are there more writers you know of like this? because I want more of this in my life.

message 15: by Sara G (new) - added it

Sara G Elisabeth Vonarburg perhaps.

Jason Perdue | 632 comments Google Finnish Weird.

Caroline   | 150 comments I saw there's an anthology - two in fact! Super cool.

message 18: by Jan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jan (janrowell) | 1104 comments Just finished this, and am blown away. What a surprising book!

message 19: by Lark (last edited Sep 11, 2016 12:18AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lark Benobi (larkbenobi) | 136 comments I just finished this tonight and it left me a little cranky, and I'm almost certain it's because of my deep love for Troll: A Love Story by the same author, which is way WAY more "Finnish Weird" than this novel felt to me--this novel felt instead like a Global Feminist Dystopian Not-Very-Weird novel, a crowded category including Walk to the End of the World and Herland and The Handmaid's Tale and others. I love these books but didn't feel this one advanced the genre as much as I would have liked.

message 20: by Drew (new) - rated it 4 stars

Drew (drewlynn) | 425 comments I made some too-hot curry last night. I was struggling to eat it when I remembered this book and decided just to surf the waves of endorphins. It worked!

message 21: by Lark (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lark Benobi (larkbenobi) | 136 comments Drew wrote: "I made some too-hot curry last night. I was struggling to eat it when I remembered this book and decided just to surf the waves of endorphins. It worked!"


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