Transcriptions: Writing

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'Transcriptions: Writing' is a project inviting MA Creative Writing students from Birkbeck, University of London, to write a short fiction response to a National Gallery painting.

Gallen-Kallela: 'Lake Keitele'

Martha Close

Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Lake Keitele
Akseli Gallen-Kallela: Lake Keitele, 1905 

Väinämöinen, imperfect seeker of perfect love, spends a morning by the lake. But the divine don’t rest, not in Finland anyway, and this one likes to shake things up.

He starts by uncovering the shivering roots of the island. Then, he shapes cathedrals from the reflections of the mountains and plays hide and seek in the arches. He seizes an unsuspecting pike, whittles its jawbone into a magical 'katele' and riffles those corrugations on the surface of the lake. The trees look scared, but he decides to let them be.

Still, something’s not right. The old rage rising, he races across the lake, erasing the whole composition. He’s a caretaker sweeping angry lines across a dusty floor, a quicksilver snail, turbo-charging back and forth, a frenzied, failing painter, scraping his canvas clean.