New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani (2000)
“My name is Petri Friari, I live in no. 16 Kaiser-Wilhelmstrasse, Hamburg and I work as a neurologist at the city’s university hospital.I found this manuscript on 24 January 1946 in a trunk in the military hospital in Helsinki, together with a sailor’s jacket, a handkerchief with the letters S.K. embroidered on it, three letters, a volume of the Kalevala and an empty bottle of koskenkorva.”
An unconscious man is picked up in Trieste, Italy and taken on board a German hospital ship, where the doctor, Petri Friari, takes interest in the man with no recollection of who he is. Based on the name tag on his sailor’s jacket, Sampo Karjalainen, he assumes that the man is Finnish and gets him a safe passage to Helsinki.
He is not getting much help from the doctors at the military hospital in Helsinki, but he meets a priest that helps him with learning Finnish, using the Kalevala to explain the Finns’ unique position in the world. Meanwhile, the war is raging and Sampo gets to know a nurse, Ilma, but he is afraid to get involved with her until he knows whom he truly is.
This small and quiet book is one of the best I have read this year.