Think of all the words we read, speak and write in a week, a year, a lifetime. What might encapsulate your output, by which people remember you? Politicians know a word, phrase or speech that can fast track their career. Or batter it (as in “things that batter” from Alexander Downer). Remember these?
- “I have a dream…” Revisit Martin Luther King Jnr.’s words in light of recent world events.
- Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables”
- Julia Gillard’s “misogyny”
- Paul Keating’s “the recession we had to have”
- “Drain the swamp”…
Do your words speak vision – or derision?
Freedom of speech is much debated at present. It’s allied with freedom of religion, seen through a kaleidoscope. Political perspectives and stances are volatile. We reel from the terrorist attack on tolerant Sweden, which welcomed so many refugees.
What of regimes where words are censored?
Many who enjoy freedom of speech and religion cannot imagine life under repression. Between 1987-1991, hundreds of thousands of Estonians expressed their patriotism in the only way they could – singing. Their Singing Revolution joined with fellow Baltic Republics of Latvia and Lithuania in nonviolent protests that gained their independence from the Soviet regime in 1991. See a documentary and SBS Great Continental Train Journeys: Riga to Tampere. (Where my great-uncle Edvard Back fought in the Civil War, as you can read in Midnight Sun to Southern Cross.)
Finland fought for Independence with war and music
in 1899 (the year my great-uncle fled Finland, pursued by Russians at Suez), Jean Sibelius composed “Finland Awakens” (later renamed “Finlandia”) for a benefit concert to aid journalists repressed by the regime. Growling tremolo and biting brass chords paint in sound the “Great Hate” for Finland’s oppressors that contrast with a plaintive hymn tune. As Finns also expressed patriotism in choral groups, they added vocal lyrics: “Finland, behold, thy daylight now is dawning” and “Be still my soul, the Lord is on your side.”
The Finn Choir sings this at my book launch 23 April, 2–4.30pm
“Midnight Sun to Southern Cross” tells much of Finland’s struggle for Independence, whose centenary is celebrated this year.
Dr Bill Glasson, AO, who shares similar heritage, will launch the book at St Lucia Uniting Church, Brisbane. A recital of Finnish music will use the organ that my grandfather W.A. Back donated in 1954. Finnish oboist Emily Salonen plays The Swan of Tuonela by Sibelius on cor anglais.
Hear relevant passages from the book and footage of voices from the past.
It’s a free event and all welcome, but do let me know for space and catering.
Afternoon tea will be catered by Finnish chef Bianca Kasurinen, who worked with Jamie Oliver. So please RSVP by reply email, or (61)411782404.
Where to order copies?
Autographed copies are available at the launch, or pre-order copies online.
Cheques can be mailed to PO Box 422, The Gap, Qld 4061 Australia. Or email for direct banking details. Like its predecessor, Burn My Letters, this second book of the saga, Midnight Sun to Southern Cross will be available as eBook (Kobo, Amazon, Book Depository).
So what’s it about?
In the tradition of great family migration stories, Midnight Sun to Southern Crosscontinues the saga of the Back brothers’ flight from Russian-occupied Finland to Australia as the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth.
From frozen Finland to the lush rainforests of northern New South Wales, to the dry and dusty sheep country of western Queensland, you follow the highs and lows of their new life under the Southern Cross.
It is an extraordinary tale of success, failure, hard work and dreaming. What drove the wheeler-dealer Wilhelm Anders Back, known as WA, to became in his time Australia’s richest Finn? And what stirred his eccentric writerly elder brother Karl Johan, KJ, pacifist and political dissenter? What sustained those who stayed behind in Finland, as they bravely struggled to oust the Russians from their homeland? This book, and its predecessor, Burn My Letters, are timely in the centenary year of Finnish Independence.
Ruth Bonetti, WA’s granddaughter, also contrasts his and Karl Johan’s formative years in Finland with her own upbringing in outback Queensland. For her, it is a voyage of discovery and self-discovery as she tells of her extensive search in Finland and Australia for the broad Back family history and weaves the story of her own life from shy bush girl to musician and writer, wife and mother.
Enjoy the Saga!
PS. To attend the launch, bookings (email, Facebook or phone) are essential.