Now the tetralogy is complete, although I doubt Kjell Westö planned writing a series when he started his first novel set in Helsinki, Drakarna över Helsingfors ('Kites over Helsinki,' 1996). The second, Vådan av att vara Skrake ('The misfortune of being a Skrake,' 2000), is my favourite. The third Där vi en gång gått ('Where we once have walked,' 2006), won the Finlandia Prize, probably for dealing with the Civil War from a new perspective, but I found it a bit superficial, not quite internalized. Historical novel is a more difficult genre than is commonly thought, which in part also goes for the fourth, Gå inte ensam ut i natten (lit. 'Don't go alone into the night,' 2009). As a whole I find it the weakest of the four, slightly tired. I suspect Westö won't be writing about young men in Helsinki for a while.



















Drakarna över Helsingfors









Vådan av att vara Skrake




Där vi en gång gått













Gå inte ensam ut i natten

The approximate timeline

The first two, and why not also the latter part of the last, are nostalgic for me, redolent of familiar places, names and phenomena, although I was as much an outsider in the 1970s and 1980s as I am now. However, I lived in that world at a receptive age.

Gå inte ensam ut i natten ties the books into a series by bringing in characters from the other books in minor parts: Riku Bexar from "Kites," Jinx Muhrman from "Skrake," and even Lucie and Cedi Lilliehjelm from "Where once." And of course there are similar characters by different names in each book, the young observer, whom one tends to identify with the writer, the self-destructive and artistic one, the independent woman, the upper-class young man, etc. Typically Westö is writing the same book over and over again, with Där vi en gång gått an exception because of its wider scope, but still having the same themes against the historical background. He, however, always views his characters with a great warmth.

Compared with the novels of his contemporary, Monika Fagerholm, (with the exception of her first one) those of Westö are traditional, straight-forward stories, while hers are linguistic constructs, more complex and mysterious. I suppose this is part of the reason that I find it easier to respond to his books in spite of the fact that Fagerholm's main character's are young girls. And although both happen in approximately the same temporal and geographical framework, time and place are essential for Westö while largely meaningless for Fagerholm. It is possible that her work will prove more lasting when we who have lived in the latter part of the 20th century are gone, but for the time being, I find what Westö writes more enjoyable.