Sami Hilvo


When I applied for a residency at the Saari Residence, I included a picture of witches being burned at the stake. That was more than a year ago. Over the course of that year, my third novel, Pyhä peto (the Sacred Beast) has seen daylight − and I have been born again. Once more. In the Sacred Beast, I explored the causal chain of ignorance, fear, hate and violence.

There is more information, more easily available than ever before in the history of mankind, but despite this − or maybe precisely because of this − we have moved to a post-information and post-truth era. Even political decisions do not have to be based on expertise any more. Laziness could be added to the list as the seed of ignorance, but it is only hate that lights the bonfires.

The smell of roasting human flesh is everywhere. What wind could make it dissipate? What rain could put the bonfires out? After all, the burning pyre is only the final image, the result of everything that went before. The topic is current, but I am not interested in topicality in literature. It is a possible by-product, not the goal. Time is not to be trusted.

The question is, what is the role of the human mind in all this? What is the spirit we so often invoke when defending humanity? Is it just matter, neurotransmitters flashing across the synaptic clefts of nerve cells? Will we ever be able to understand our own actions or those of anyone else?

The future novel is based on thematic entities I have made to collide. These encounters have created thought patterns that titillate the mind (!). What do quantum physics and Buddhist cosmology talk about with each other? Can they find an unexpected level of vibration? What if, for example, neurobiology would join the merry band? Or zen? Panpsychism?! Am I looking at a meaningful equation only waiting for a solution? Could I be the one to master that equation? The mindless mind that has adopted words as its tools and research instruments.

Ink on paper. Pixels on a screen.

Places and regions where you can sense the history of man have always made an impression on me. Kyoto. Cádiz. Damascus. When I saw that the year 1295 plays a role in the Saari Residence’s history, I was convinced that soon I would be in a place where I belong − at least for the next few busy weeks. Kyoto’s afternoon aglow with cherries, the foggy night of Cádiz, the high morning of Damascus and thousands of years of the written and unwritten history of mankind. A November day in Saari, when the eye cannot see where one greyness ends and the next begins. The year is irrelevant.

From my residency at the Saari Residence, I expect both peace and quiet to concentrate on my work and encounters with the other guests. Fortunately, we represent the most different ways of examining reality and unreality, the world and the alternative worlds around and within us.

I am also anticipating the moments when the mind will be free to roam. Or just stay blank.