The Slow Death of the Spirit by Jim Thompson

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This is the third installment on my ongoing series about racism in Finland, as told through the eyes of the foreigners who experience it, and in this instance, a letter from a Finn who feels disenfranchised. I’m splitting the series between websites and blogs, because it’s lengthy. You can also find an installment on Murder is Everywhere.

An abundance of correspondence came to me through the good offices of a young Nigerian man who contacted me in desperation. He wrote me because, he said, I was one of only two foreigners he knew of who had thrived in this country. As a would-be author, he chose to write to me for advice about his prospects as a writer, and about how to survive and thrive in a culture that, although he has lived here for many years, continues to often mystify and even frighten him. This from a man who is trained medical professional and speaks fluent Finnish, is a good citizen and taxpayer, who has done everything that is expected of a Finn. And as an aside, is a really nice guy.

When he came to me, out of fear of retribution, he asked to remain anonymous in my posts about him and wishes to remain so. He has been attacked and beaten three times because of the color of his skin. He’s a good writer and has written charming travel pieces as well as touching autobiographical. Something has gone dreadfully awry when a culture emotionally shreds a talented and motivated person like him. He tells me his depression has lifted as a result of writing and some minor recognition for it. Nuff said.

The letters below run on gut emotion and much of what they write is venting. Catharsis. They have no substantiated facts, no academic credibility. The spelling and grammar are awful. Bear in mind that English is a second, third, fourth or fifth language for the writers, and writing as well as they do in English an accomplishment. And most importantly, consider that the inner worlds of human beings don’t function through facts, statistics and references. These writers are bearing their souls to you.

James Thompson

Helsinki, Finland




Finnish people they are fucking stupid and crazy i wish i have never been adobted to this fucking shit country and spending 20 years of my childhood here…believe me it has made serious problems to me.

finns are a cave people,i haven t been able to socialize with them,only i have been able to socialize with people from other cultures.

Finns are very bitter and emotionally invalid people. for me it seems that finnish people are even so stupid that they cannot understand these things if you say to them.well what do they understand…nothing….



and I think it describes our nature so well. It has taken me years of living abroad to even begin to open up to other people and enjoy life, trust others and expect that they are mainly friendly. There is a sadly pessimistic streak in our national culture. We have poor self esteem. We think that others laugh at us because there is basically something wrong with us.

Or that’s how things were. I’m 46, and people of my age still mainly belong to the old school of Finns. The younger generation, however, has started to communicate with people around the world – Internet makes it easy for all of us now. I’m certain that our beautiful country will eventually be inhabited by a happy and well adjusted people.

Climate also has an effect on our personality. It’s not so easy to socialise when it’s cold outside and the last thing you want is to go and visit your neighbours. At summer even us Finns are happier and more talkative.

I hope that kindergartens and schools will do their utmost to help the younger generation to grow into human beings who can adjust living anywhere, with people from any culture – cosmopolitan people, people of the world.

My dearest friends are both Finnish and foreign. So are my enemies. I like to think I take people as individuals.



I was there in finland once upon a time and I dont know where else can be found suitable than that remote place for someone who is completely through with world and living? As if I was sinked very deeply in a grave, while still alive. Not any suicide would be probably that conscious, that resolute, that continuous and intractable.

Before i went there a friend of mine had said that people in finland have calm and deep souls. Who knows.. what lies at the bottom of it? impossible to find out..

The first weeks of my coming there i only spread fear and suspicion around. I dont know if they considered me as an agent or terrorist or something but i saw the fear in their face very clearly. I guess it was my black hair. Later, may be, when it is come to an agreement that neither i am “this” or “that”, that i am actually nothing at all, i started to see eyes opened with amazement and lips twisted with sarcasm instead of wrinkled foreheads with being startled. I can’t imagine anything more or as bothersome. My most simple, plain, natural movements appeared them as odd as a clown’s somersaults and springs in the circus.

When i spoke to them they were gawping at me as if they didnt understand anything. Then, they were murmuring something to one another, and this time i knew that i am understood, but disapproved.

Instructions, manners, good models they are all temporary things and there is no possibility for a human to get changed unless the environment change. Every evening i have been thinking the earth come to an end. And for this reason, every morning, when i opened my eyes, i was disappointed. “one more day?” , and “which day!”

Weariness and monotony were in the air, it simply gets you and you just start to become one of that people. I really used to loose my time sence, there and then, since everyday was exactly the same. Only saturdays you go to a bar, drink as much as you can till you forget who you are, and hardly find the way home.

It is said committing suicide is common in finland, i think they dont need to do anything special because living there is simply a suicide.


James Thompson is an established author in Finland. His novel, Snow Angels, the first in the Inspector Vaara series, was released in the U.S. by Putnam and marked his entrance into the international crime fiction scene. Booklist named it one of the ten best debut crime novels of 2010, and it was nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, and Strand Critics awards. His second Vaara novel, Lucifer’s Tears, released in March, 2011, earned starred reviews from all quarters, and was named one the best novels of the year by Kirkus. The third in the series, Helsinki White, was released on March 15 to critical acclaim.

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