Finland Literature in the First Half of 20th Century

By | December 17, 2021

At the outbreak of the winter war (November 1939-March 1940), followed by the continuation war (June 1941-September 1944), the most prominent personalities of Finnish literature could call themselves FE Sillanpää (1888-1964) for fiction, VA Koskenniemi (1885-1962) as well as A. Hellaakoski (1893-1952) for poetry in the Finnish language, and E. Diktonius (1896-1961) for poetry in the Swedish language. Sillanpää, Nobel laureate in 1939, in his great short stories and novels, the most famous of which is Hurskas kurjuus (“Santa miseria”, 1919), showed that he had not forgotten his youth studies in natural sciences and biology, and deeply interested in every aspect of life, he refrained, like Hamsun, from placing a precise limit between his characters and typically Nordic nature that surrounded them. Koskenniemi, who together with the more subdued but perhaps more intimately sensitive O. Manninen (1872-1950) had started from the European symbolists, having overcome the anxieties of youth, had come to express himself with a composure of lived classical inspiration. Hellaakoski flaunted his strong personality, which at the same time he tried to immerse in a pantheistic feeling of nature. The harsh and aggressive poetry of Diktonius, deliberately anti-lyric, also had a content of sympathy towards the humble,

About fifteen years earlier, the important group of Tulenkantajat (“The carriers of fire”) had acted with renewal intentions and under the double sign of impressionism and expressionism, among whom it must be remembered, also for the creative activity carried out later, P. Mustapää (pseudonym of M. Haavio, 1899-1966), L. Viljanen (b.1900), U. Kailas (1901-1933), K. Vala (1901-1944) and Y. Jylhä (1903 -1956). The poet E. Vaara (b.1903), who had been part of the group, later devoted herself to the monumental translations of the liberated Jerusalem (1954), the Divine Comedy (1963) and a large selection of Rhymes del Petrarca (1966). M. Waltari (1908), also in his youth one of the “bearers of fire”, achieved extraordinary popularity all over the world with a series of historical novels, the first of which was Sinuhe, egyptiläinen (“Sinuhe l ‘ Egyptian “, 1945). For Finland 2010, please check programingplease.com.

The Second World War also represents a great turning point and a transformed world for Finland Culture, previously influenced especially by Germany, now makes contact with other cultures. It translates extensively from the most recent American, English and French literatures, and journals appear where literary questions are discussed according to ideologies. A. Tynni (b. 1913) frees herself from any influence of the poets who had preceded her, and renders with subtle sensitivity the many facets of a woman’s temperament. Among the Finnish Swedish-speaking poets, S. von Schultz (b.1907) explores the labyrinth of the blind forces that determine human behavior, O. Parland and W. Chorell, both born in 1912, are both the one and the other investigators, with passionate participation, of moods. The moralist J. Korpela (1910-1964) examines in his novels the nature of power and the oppressive arrogance of those who exercise it, until a showdown occurs; he has also dealt with the psychological and social disasters of war. In E. Pennanen’s abundant narrative production (b. 1916), which began with an exaltation of instincts, the most defeated of all appear at a certain moment, that is, those excluded from the well-being of the consumer society. In Tampere, the writer’s native city and the largest of the industrial centers of Finland, some significant realist prose writers leave the working class, such as L. Viita (1916-1965), author of the solid autobiographical novel he has also dealt with the psychological and social disasters of war. In E. Pennanen’s abundant narrative production (b. 1916), which began with an exaltation of instincts, the most defeated of all appear at a certain moment, that is, those excluded from the well-being of the consumer society. In Tampere, the writer’s native city and the largest of the industrial centers of Finland, some significant realist prose writers leave the working class, such as L. Viita (1916-1965), author of the solid autobiographical novel he has also dealt with the psychological and social disasters of war. In E. Pennanen’s abundant narrative production (b. 1916), which began with an exaltation of instincts, the most defeated of all appear at a certain moment, that is, those excluded from the well-being of the consumer society. In Tampere, the writer’s native city and the largest of the industrial centers of Finland, some significant realist prose writers leave the working class, such as L. Viita (1916-1965), author of the solid autobiographical novel Moreeni (“La morena”, 1950). Hard work in factories had been described by a writer-worker from Kotka, T. Pekkanen (1902-1957), and the world of small country people, lumberjacks and vagabonds, by P. Haanpää (1905-1955), of peasant origin.

A separate place belongs to two Swedish-speaking narrators who derive their inspiration from a strong religious sentiment, after having converted the first to the Greek Orthodox confession and the second to the Catholic confession: T. Colliander (b.1904) and G. Stenius (b. 1909). In Colliander, who has no Slavic ancestry, the great perennial motifs of the Russian soul, such as compassion, submission to the voice of conscience and the anxiety of redemption, resurrect and sometimes reach a mystical intensity. Stenius, who came as Colliander from Karelia, set dreamy events in the melancholy and sweetly consoling atmosphere of a Rome that implies the endless tangle of the catacombs.

The collection of Lasimalaus lyrics(“Vetrata a colori”, 1946) by A. Meriluoto (b. 1924) marks a break with the past: it is the first voice of youth after the conflict, which claims to be stripped of illusions and to seek new ways with anger. H. Juvonen (1919-1959) enters them, in a disconsolate and putrescent landscape that hides within itself an unknown God, E.-L. Manner (b.1921), divided between the anguish of incommunicability and the vocation to analyze the structure of Things as deeply as possible, and the skeptical and cutting edge P. Haavikko (b.1931), who among the lyricists of the 1950s experiments the most daring combinations of images. Among the Swedish-speaking Finns, B. Carpelan (b. 1926) can be somewhat similar to the latter two. In the prose, E. Joenpelto (n. 1921) objectively represented human types without psychological insights, then turned his attention to the contrasts between generations or between spiritual and material values. v. Linna (b. 1920), who lived in the proletarian environment of Tampere, acquired a well-deserved fame with Tuntematon sotilas (“Unknown Soldier”, 1954), which portrays with immediacy even in dialect, at the antipodes of any patriotic rhetoric, the heavy reality of the Finnish soldier during the continuation war. The war itself is seen by V. Meri (b. 1928) as an absurd condition within which incongruent protagonists move. A. Hyry (b. 1931) does not claim to go beyond what he sensibly perceives. In P. Holappa (b. 1927) life is devoid of consistency and fleeting fragments remain, with no relationship of cause and effect.

With the 1960s, the writer of individual experiences takes over from the committed writer, who also using the mass media makes his protest understood and proclaims social demands. Among those who have expressed their personality to varying degrees are A. Salo (b.1932), M. Paavilainen (b.1932), A. Hollo (b.1934), V. Kirstinä (b.1936), H. Salama (b.1936), J. Pellinen (b.1940); P. Saarikoski (b. 1937) is a restless lyricist and at the same time an excellent translator from ancient Greek.

Finland Literature in the First Half of 20th Century