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4.7 Finnish literature: Modern writers in Finnish




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This article is from the Nordic countries FAQ, by Antti Lahelma and Johan Olofsson, with numerous contributions by others.

4.7 Finnish literature: Modern writers in Finnish

Joel Lehtonen, Volter Kilpi, and especially Frans Eemil
Sillanpää (1888-1964) dominated naturalistic prose in the first
half of the 20th century. Sillanpää was awarded the 1939 Nobel
Prize for literature for the book Silja, nuorena nukkunut
(Silja, Fallen Asleep While Young, 1931). Also important are
Toivo Pekkanen, who wrote about the plight of industrial
workers, and Pentti Haanpää, who portrayed with a bitter but
defiant humor the struggle of humans against harsh nature in
northern Finland.
After World War II, Väinö Linna had great success with the
novel Tuntematon Sotilas (The Unknown Soldier, 1954) which
played a part in the healing of the wounds of the war and is
read by almost every Finnish schoolkid. The extensive use of
dialects make the book quite impossible to translate;
translations into English and many other languages do exist,
but cannot be recommended very highly (although I hear the
Swedish one is pretty good). His other major work is the
trilogy Täällä pohjantähden alla (Here Under the North Star,
1959-62), a story of the struggles of poor farmers that
culminated in the Civil War of 1918. More recently, Veijo Meri
has described the violence and absurdity of human life,
especially during times of war.
Mika Waltari (1908-79) is among the Finnish prose writers best
known to an international audience. He wrote his most
successful novels in the 1940s and 50's, many of them on
historical subjects; among these is Sinuhe egyptiläinen (The
Egyptian, 1945), a novel set in ancient Egypt, about the
collapse of traditional ways of life and the inflation of
inherited values. It's also been filmed into a dreary Hollywood
spectacle.
From the 1960s, social issues became central to the young
novelists and poets. Hannu Salama went through a famous trial
for blasphemy (after which the blasphemy laws were repealed)
for his novel Juhannustanssit (Juhannus Dances, 1964). Pentti
Saarikoski was the leading poet of the 60's. Often better
remembered for his for his unhealthy lifestyle, Saarikoski was
nevertheless one of the most genial poets in Finnish and a
brilliant translator of e. g. Homer and Joyce. Such younger
writers as as Alpo Ruuth and Antti Tuuri have also dealt with
social issues.
Another author who has long been very popular in Finland and
has started to win international fame recently is the humorist
Arto Paasilinna; Jäniksen Vuosi (The Year of the Hare, 1974),
is the story of an advertising man who gets sick of urban life
and escapes to the wilderness with his pet hare.
For electronic versions of some of the works of Nordic
literature, see the collection of Project Runeberg:
+ Icelandic Literature
+ Literature from the Viking Age
+ Medieval Nordic Literature
+ Danish Literature
+ Norwegian Literature
+ Literature of Finland
+ Literature from the Age of Liberty [ in Sweden and Finland
(1719-1772) ]

 

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