An encompassing and intimate intergenerational story whose events speak of the shift in Western reality from the late 1950s to the present day – and how that shift has changed us
Technological progress, the American dream, belief in a brilliant future – these are the blocks upon which the worldview of Esko, an electronics salesman, is built. The sun of device development is rising in Japan, and the road to prosperity lies wide open for anyone who is willing to put forth the effort. Man has conquered the moon, sales of televisions are brisk, and Esko intrepidly expands his business on the cusp of a recession.
Someone else who falls in love with this confidence and hope is Liisa, who is carried in Esko’s strong arms from the insecurity of youth into the roles of companion, wife, and mother of three boys. But the years pass, and the day comes when disappointments supersede faithfulness. Liisa betrays, abandons, and divorces Esko. The strange thing is, no one really seems to know why things turned out the way they did – for a long time, not even Liisa herself.
The family portrait is drawn by Esa, Liisa’s and Esko’s oldest son. A reporter who has spread his wings, he is the voice of the generation of broken dreams, whose own life seems to have consisted more of searching than finding. He tries to make sense of his parents, society, and the world, but most of all he strives, through his family history, to connect with his own daughter, Miia, who has been compelled to fly even further afield, leaving behind family, relations, and homeland. The family’s existence is sketched against a backdrop of half a century of societal turmoil: over the decades, the roll-up-your-sleeves nation of post-World War II reconstruction, where new home appliances signify progress and contentment, is transformed into a virtual reality of crises and exhausted dreams.
As familial events are rewound, much more is discovered on the jumble of VHS tapes than the highlights from the Calgary Olympics. “None of us has time to be more than a bit of a hodge-podge; life is so long, there are so many moments. On the surface, people are simple; everything gets more complicated once you really get to know them.”
A Momentary Glow is the pinnacle of Juha Itkonen’s spectacular narrative skills to date. The courses of his characters’ lives flow and furrow effortlessly, and the reader is drawn into their wake with an irresistible naturalness. This is not simply a novel about a time or an era, not solely about a single family and its fate, but about something a degree larger – perhaps even the meaning of human existence.
Press quotes from Finland
A Momentary Glow is a magnificent and ambitious family saga and five hundred pages of a good read on unique lives. – Aamulehti
Juha Itkonen has a phenomenal gift for telling a story. – Keskisuomalainen
In its humanity, details and credibility achieved with meticulous research, “A Momentary Glow” is one of the most outstanding attempts at putting into words this world of ours that is so awkward to understand. – Keskisuomalainen
Even if Juha Itkonen were to write about sadness and uncertainty, to describe the impossibility of encounters and to write of longing lasting for too long, his writing always carries hope: faith in kindness and what is right in man – and in love, unquestionably in love. – Parnasso
Press quotes from abroad
The Great Finnish novel. – Dag og Tid (Norway)
Juha Itkonen’s masterful novel A Momentary Glow [‘Hetken hohtava valo’] tells of the post-World War II economic upswing of Finland as well as that of Esko, an electrical goods retailer. It is also about the recession that Esko’s children in particular have to suffer through. Here, too, the various perspectives are interlinked, dealing with the issue of how we remember our experiences and how we deal with those memories. While Esko’s childlike excitement about modern recording media is transferred to his customers, his sceptical son Esa says, ‘We want to remember everything, and that’s exactly why we no longer remember anything.’ And while Esko looks ahead, because Finland’s economic demise cannot affect him in far-off America, Esa loses first the ground beneath his feet and then himself in the kaleidoscope of his memories, which he is unable to categorise easily.
The tremendous appeal of Itkonen’s novel lies in the fact that he also searches for the synthesis of these positions. Ultimately, Esa discovers it for himself by becoming the author of a family history for his own daughter. – Tilman Spreckelsen in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 07 October 2014
It’s about love and transience, desperation and hope. Touching! – German ELLE, October 2014
… a perceptive, hugely ambitious portrait of an era … – hr online, 30 September 2014 (Germany)
A family saga of tremendous power. – Buch Magazine, Autumn 2014 (Germany)
This celebrated Finnish author creates a sensitively observed portrait of individual figures. – JOY, November 2014 (Germany)
Itkonen illuminates the whole in a novel that is like an example of precise literary engineering; like a meticulously designed clockwork, it describes how time and the lives of its characters keep moving on. – Berlingske (Denmark)
Foreign rights information
An excerpt in English is available.
- Denmark (Lindhardt og Ringhof)
- Germany (Droemer Knaur)
- Norway (Oktober)