Leena Krohn

Hotel Sapiens ja muita irrationaalisia kertomuksia

“Hotel Sapiens and other irrational tales”

Teos (2013), 164 p.

Rights: Teos www.teos.fi

Leena Krohn: Hotel Sapiens and other irrational talesA strand of thread in the ashtray comes to life in the nocturnal room.  It glows blue and crawls like an inchworm. What is it? In the morning Rosa saw something strange in the creature and wanted to take it to her place of work at the museum. Her husband identifies something different in the wanderer: Normal distribution! A Gaussian curve!

Mathematical beings have continued their march through Leena Krohn’s writing for five decades now. In her latest book Hotel Sapiens the author once again approaches all kinds of life forms with curiosity. Her fantasy world, filled with mind games, surprises and challenges the reader. In Hotel Sapiens technology also acquires life: science fiction narrative meets paranormal phenomena and conspiracy theories, religion encounters other beliefs.

The book portrays the world after an ecological crisis and the fall of economy. Depending on one’s point of view, Hotel Sapiens is a prison and refugee camp or a research centre and museum that preserves something that may no longer exist. Väinö K-nen is a cloudspotter who has ended up under the insitution’s mist-shouded sky. He lives under the supervision of the mysterious Guardians and the expressionless clone-like Nuns. In the hologrammatic Reconstructions noted personalities of the past come to life again and offer the residents their teachings. This multifaceted gallery of characters includes the Everyday Woman, the Higgs Boson, the Flowerseller and Peik, who receives letters from his daughter from Kamaloka, the land of shadows. But can one be taught how to survive in a dystopian reality?

In the manner that is typical of Krohn, the characters have signs along with their names which accompany the reader’s absurd world. By this means, different phenomena and ideas meet and the dialogue supports juxtapositions. The book’s short chapters open up portals into the characters’ lives and pasts. As the narrator moves subtly between past, present and future, the reader has to remain watchful.

The author’s sentences are clear and enjoyable, they forge unexpected connections and metamorphoses. In the text, Krohn continues the discussion of the passage from the philosopher Karl Popper that is quoted at the book’s beginning. Human behaviour in relation to rationality and chance, clouds and clocks, forms the basic idea which also bears a wider comparison with the world that is portrayed in the book:

“What can the cloud and the clock have in common – with the exception of my gaze? One is born, the other is made, one is chaos, the other is order. But neither of them is free, as they cannot choose anything. One is the prisoner of chaos, the other of order. My freedom is my imperfection. I am the love child of a clock and cloud, of time and eternity.”

Leena Krohn is a unique explorer of reality whose universalist fiction has in Hotel Sapiens acquired yet another fascinating chapter.

Johanna Sillanpää, translated by David McDuff