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This report is taken from PN Review 149, Volume 29 Number 3, January - February 2003.

The Two Lönnrots Gabriel Josipovici

As Borges lay dying his mind filled with images of lakes, of vast forests of spruce and pine, of an enormous sky. He knew this was Finland, a country he had never visited, but which in these last years had been closer to his heart even than the streets of Buenos Aires in which he had grown up and about which he had written so much and so well. Lönnrot, he thought, and the figure of the poor tailor's son who had risen to become the foremost collector of Finnish folk songs and tales, the Walter Scott, the Grimm Brothers, the Bartók of Karelia, passed before his mind's eye. For it was in the pages of the Kalevala, that strange approximation to a national epic put together by Elias Lönnrot after years of wandering and collecting in the northeastern region of his country, that he had encountered the landscape of Finland which had never afterwards left him and to which he returned again and again as he had once returned to the pampas and the gauchos of his native land. He had been so taken by this strange man with his strange name that he had appropriated it for the hero of one of his most successful stories, 'Death and the Compass'.

At a meeting in an unnamed city of the Third Talmudic Congress, one of the delegates is found murdered in his room at the Hôtel du Nord. The local police chief Inspector Treviranus, is in ...


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