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På Kanaanexpressen [On the Canaan Express Train] by  artist  Hagar and Olavi Paavolainen - from Bernett Penka Rare Books LLC (SKU: 51200)

På Kanaanexpressen [On the Canaan Express Train]

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På Kanaanexpressen [On the Canaan Express Train]

by Olsson, Hagar and Olavi Paavolainen, artist

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About This Item

Stockholm: Holger Schildt, 1929 (printed in Helsinki by F. Tilgmann). Octavo (19.5 × 16.5 cm). Original photo-illustrated wrappers; 231, [1] pp. Twelve black-and-white photographs, a few full-page. Old creases to spine; front wrapper lightly creased and sun-tanned along spine; else about very good. First edition of this key work of the Finno-Swedish literary avant-garde, which was chiefly represented by Hagar Olsson (1893-1978) and the poet Elmer Diktonius. Olsson's work was situated in the tradition of symbolism and expressionism, and urged a spiritual revolution in both the arts and social life. Her writing was marked by a high level of stylistic and formal innovation, such as irregular rhythm, experimental structures, grammatical fragmentation, and contrasting images. She was also an important conduit of futurist and modernist ideas, and a generally cosmopolitan and internationalist outlook, to Finland in the 1920s.

"One year after the publication of Andre Breton's novel Nadja the Finnish author Hagar Olsson published her novel In the Kanaan Express Train (1929), a caleidoscopical composition, which 'Knut Brynhildsvoll has called a photonovel.' (Holmstrom 105) Both novels are remarkable because they include photos in the running text. In her novel Hagar Olsson describes a couple of young people's journey in the night train express between Abo (Turku) and Helsingfors (Helsinki). The visual text consists of 14 photos, mainly of female faces and motifs from the technical acquisitions of modern life. (2) Among the photos there is a painting of the French cubist painter Marie Laurencin, visualizing a woman locked up in a bird cage. It is however striking that the photos are negatives. This may seem peculiar, but the author's idea is to establish a special interrelation between the verbal and the visual text. During the eastbound journey through the night the text serves as an instrument in the process of exposing the photos, releasing them from their imprisonment in a negative world of shadows and turning them into the bright light of a promissing tomorrow. Thus the novel has clear political intentions. The group of young people travelling through the night want to leave behind them the negative experiences of the Western civilisation heading for a political dawn located in the eastern areas of communist renewal."

(Brynhildsvoll, Knut: "From Imitation to Construction: Steps toward Modernization in Nordic Literature," in Forum for World Literature Studies 7:2 (2015), 230-245).

See also, for example, Gunilla Hermansson, "Hagar Olsson and the Soldier of Modernity" in A Cultural History of the Avant-Garde in the Nordic Countries 1925-1950, which reproduces several images used in the book, as well as the cover on p. 214.

The wrappers were designed by Olavi Paavolainen (1903-1964), the Finnish writer and journalist, who combined the image of the dandy with a keen interest in Futurism and Marinetti. The design incorporates photographs by Renger-Patzsch and Max Burchartz ("Lottes Auge"). The photographs reproduced within were by Eero Erkko, Walter Süssmann, Renger-Patzsch, Alban, Georg Muche, Hannes and many others.

As of January 2021, KVK and OCLC show five copies in North America. Rare in the trade.


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Bernett Penka Rare Books LLC US (US)
Bookseller's Inventory #
På Kanaanexpressen [On the Canaan Express Train]
Olsson, Hagar and Olavi Paavolainen, artist
Book condition
scandinavia, scandinavian, avantgarde, avant-garde, photo, photography, photomontage, photo-montage, futurism, futurist, expressionism, expressionist, cubism, cubist
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About the Seller

Bernett Penka Rare Books LLC

Seller rating:
This seller has earned a 5 of 5 Stars rating from Biblio customers. member since 2008
BOSTON, Massachusetts
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About Bernett Penka Rare Books LLC

Bernett Penka Rare Books specializes in rare and out-of-print scholarly books on the History of Art and Architecture from antiquity to the present. Since 1944 we have been helping institutional libraries and individuals build their collections.


Some terminology that may be used in this description includes:

Another of the terms referring to page or book size, octavo refers to a standard printer's sheet folded four times, producing... [More]
The paper covering on the outside of a paperback. Also see the entry for pictorial wraps, color illustrated coverings for... [More]
First Edition
In book collecting, the first edition is the earliest published form of a book. A book may have more than one first edition in... [More]

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