Johanna Hulkko on Nokialla asuva kirjailija ja kirjoittamisen ohjaaja.

Säkeitä Pietarista in translation: Verses from Petersburg

A fascinating debut novel about the love of books, the poet Anna Akhmatova and Petersburg

Verses from Petersburg reflects on and dispels the myth of the city of writers and czars.

A telephone call in the middle of the night awakens memories of Andrei – a lover from the past – his scent of iron, perspiration and the one and only brand of Soviet soap. Anna decides to quit her job that she loathes and return to her dissertation on the Russian Silver Age poet Anna Akhmatova. The poet’s biographies that Anna bought in her student days in obscure second-hand bookshops come to life and reveal more secrets. Returning to St. Petersburg is inevitable – her husband, daughter and best friend cannot change her mind.

The reader enters the Soviet Union on the verge of collapse: an empire where Finnish student loans are fortunes that whisk you past queues but cannot protect you from leaking nuclear plants or cockroaches. The book also transports you to Paris in the early 20th century as well as a humble cottage in the Carelian hinterlands, where Anna Akhmatova is faced with her past and the wretched secrets it holds.

“I have never been a slavophile, but I have become one since reading this.”
Heli Rintala, Oulu Gazette, 20th December 2009

“Johanna Hulkko’s narrative in her debut novel is beautiful and insightful.”
– Seppo Paajanen, Etelä-Saimaa Gazette, 11th February 2010

“Johanna Hulkko’s debut novel, Verses from Petersburg, is both a splendid novel and an inspiring travel guide to St. Petersburg. – – Although the author’s approach is light and delicate, she deals with the hushed up episodes of Russian history and the fundamental constituents of the Slavic soul in a revealing way – –.”
– Reija Palttala, Keskisuomalainen newspaper, 8th October 2009

“When a debut novel begins with Anna Akhmatova’s poem The last toast (1934), you anticipate Slavic melancholy, but you are in for a wonderful surprise!” Accurately sketched events, skilful shifts of voice and smoothly flowing narrative.”
– Tuija Halmekoski, Anna magazine, issue 38/2009

“An extremely interesting new book – – . Hulkko’s text is at times epigrammatic and poetic and at times bitingly ironic. The novel is worth a second read, because the intriguing, almost detective story-like plot contains subtle hints and clues that go unnoticed by the unwary reader.”
– Pirjo Hämäläinen, Kansan Uutiset newspaper, 4th September 2009

“The narrative of her debut novel is fresh and unforced, beautiful and easy. – – Both those who loved the old Leningrad and those who adore the current St. Petersburg will love it.”
– Reija Ypyä, Metro gazette, 31st August 2009.

Translation: Elina Tuisku