Finnish foreign minister releases his book in India

New Delhi, May 7 (IANS) Finland’s Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, on a visit to India, set aside time Monday evening to launch his own book with an “intriguing Indian connection”.

“A Delicate Shade of Pink” was originally written in English and published in a Finnish translation in 2006.

It was launched at the Finnish embassy by Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor, who praised the author for his scholarly work and remarked that the book is “an interesting exploration of European history through the two World Wars, and with an intriguing Indian connection”.

Tuomioja said: “In my discussions with Indian friends and acquaintances, when I mentioned that I had a distant Indian relative, I was initially quite surprised to discover that almost all of them immediately recognised the name, some also being quite familiar with Dutt’s books and writings.

“Although Rajani Palme Dutt visited India only once in his life, after the Second World War and was always a central figure in the British Communist Party from its founding in 1920 to Dutt’s death in the seventies, my impression is that he is actually better known in India than in Britain.”

Tuomioja was first drawn to the lives of his grandmother, Hella Wuolijoki, and her sister, Salme Dutt, as a historian. He embarked on a 10-year research project, combing through archives all over the world, culminating in this double biography.

He tackles the difficult story, packed with personal anecdotes, with consummate skill, creating a heady narrative from the lives of two Estonia-born sisters, Hella Murrik-Wuolijoki and Salme Murrik-Dutt. Salme was the wife of the Communist ideologue Rajani Palme Dutt.

The familial bond goes back to a bright Indian doctor, Upendra Dutt, a nephew of the historian and Indian National Congress leader Romesh Chandra Dutt, who went to study in England and ended up a British citizen. He married Anna Palme, the daughter of a bourgeoisie Swedish family. Sweden’s former Social-Democratic prime minister Olof Palme was a descendant of this clan. The Dutt home was host to Indian nationalists and Marxists from all over the world.

Upen and Anna’s sons, Clemens and Rajani, brought up in Cambridge and educated at Oxford, in keeping with the times, were deeply influenced by Lenin and went on to become Communist ideologues who impacted leftist thought in several European nations and greatly influenced the Indian left movement, as well as Socialists like Nehru.

The minister, who holds a PhD in political science, is the author of 19 books, many of which have won awards, including the Finnish version of “A Delicate Shade of Pink”, which won the Finlandia Prize for Non-fiction in 2006.

“Social-Democratic politician Erkki Tuomioja is not new to India; his 2004 and 2010 visits are well remembered. That he should have chosen India to have his book published, speaks for Finland’s long-standing ties with India,” said Shobit Arya, founder-publisher, Wisdom Tree, which brought out the English edition in India.

The book marks the beginning of Wisdom Tree’s new imprint ‘Bridging Roots’, specifically crafted to publish inter-cultural literature.

Arya said: “That the first and only English edition of the book is published in India is representative of the bond that the author has with India as well as the growing footprints of Indian publishing on the global arena…”

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