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Älvan och jordanden review

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Issue number: 2023:1


Älvan och jordanden. En biografi om Mirjam Tuominen och Torsten Korsström

(The Fairy and the Earth Spirit. A Biography of Mirjam Tuominen and Torsten Korsström)

by Tuva Korsström
reviewed by David McDuff

Tuva Korsström’s loving yet hyper-aware analysis of her parents, their work and their marriage combines several literary genres. In essence the volume is an autobiographical essay that expands into a double biography. While the story contains a wealth of psychological and material detail concerning its protagonists, it is dominated by a central perspective: the third view provided by its author, the quiet observer who emerged from it and who later researched and recorded it all, both from documents and from personal memory.

As one critic has noted, the marriage of Mirjam Tuominen (1913-1967) and Torsten Korsström (1909-1964) ‘lasted [in practice] only a little longer than the Winter and Continuation War. In it, the daughters Kyra and Tuva were born.’ The marriage reflects the social turmoil and political contradictions of the war years in Finland, a state of dissension that official Finland later tried to suppress and was clearly a major factor contributing to  Mirjam Tuominen’s existential and personal torment. The book’s calm exploration makes sense of the internal and external conflicts, and the reader gains a unique acquaintance with Mirjam Tuominen’s writing – a body of work that vividly and painfully forms an essential part not only of Finland’s literature, but also of its history.

Woman with peppery grey bob smiling at camera
Tuva Korsström. Photo: Cata Portin.

Älvan och jordanden. En biografi om Mirjam Tuominen och Torsten Korsström

Schildts & Söderströms, 2018

450 pages

Rights: the author

Tuva Korsström is a Finland-Swedish writer, journalist and literary critic. Over her career she has been awarded a number of prestigious prizes, most recently the Samfundet de Nio's Special Prize in 2019.