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Finnish literature.The first printed work in Finnish was the ABC book published c.1542 by Bishop Michael Agricola (1508–57). In 1642 the first complete translation of the Bible in Finnish appeared in Stockholm. Until the 19th cent. most of the writing done by Finns was in Swedish, since from the 13th cent. to 1809 Finland was in political vassalage to Sweden. The linguistic researches of Alexander Castrén (1813–53), as well as the historical writings of Henry Gabriel Porthan (1739–1804) and the publication (1835) by Elias Lönnrot of the KalevalaKalevala
, Finnish national epic. It is a compilation of verses recounting extraordinary deeds of three semidivine brothers from mythical Kaleva, land of the heroes. Zakarias Topelius published fragments in 1822; Elias Lönnrot gave the cycle its present form, editing the
..... Click the link for more information. , helped to feed interest in Finnish as a literary vehicle. Still many continued to write in Swedish, among them Zacharias Topelius and J. L. RunebergRuneberg, Johan Ludvig
, 1804–77, Finnish national poet. In 1837 he became a teacher of Latin and Greek at Porvoo near Helsinki. Runeberg's simple and realistic style helped to check the tendency toward false rhetoric in Scandinavian literature.
..... Click the link for more information. , the national poet of Finland. Others who preferred Swedish were the romantic novelist Topelius; Arvid Mörne (1876–1946), poet, novelist, and playwright; Jarl HemmerHemmer, Jarl Robert
, 1893–1944, Finnish author who wrote in Swedish. Inwardly troubled, he experienced several religious crises and finally committed suicide. His poems, e.g., Realm of the Rye (1922, tr. 1938), show a fresh, lyrical love of nature.
..... Click the link for more information. , poet; and the prose writer Runar Schildt (1888–1925). To the first generation of those writing in Finnish belong the novelist Pietari Päivärinta (1827–1913) and Alexis Stenvall (pseud. Kivi, 1834–72), who originated Finnish tragic and comic drama. He is known abroad for The Seven Brothers (1870, tr. 1929), a masterpiece combining elements of romanticism and realism. Eino Leino (1878–1926), Finland's most original lyricist, produced some 30 collections of poetry reflecting the influence of folklore. The poet Edith SödergranSödergran, Edith Irene
, 1892–1923, Swedish poet, b. St. Petersburg, Russia. Södergran spent most of her adult life in poor health and in isolation in SE Finland near the Russian border.
..... Click the link for more information. (1892–1923), inspired by the European symbolists and by her Russian childhood, had great influence on modern Finnish and Swedish poetry. The first Finnish writer to express modern realism was the playwright and champion of women's rights, Minna Canth (1844–97). Also influenced by realistic as well as radical literary currents in the 1880s was Juhani Aho (1861–1921), a novelist who gave literary Finnish a new maturity and artistic standard. The novelist and poet Ilmari Kianto depicted the bitter struggle for existence among the poor peasantry in N Finland. Also concerned with rural life were the novelists Joel Lehtonen (1881–1934) and Pentti Haanpää (1905–55). A champion of social reform was the Swedish-language poet Arvid Mörne. The conflicts rising from the civil war (1918) inspired the playwright and short-story writer Runar Schildt. The tensions of 20th-century industrial society are reflected in the novels of Toivo Pekkanen (1902–57). Frans SillanpääSillanpää, Frans Eemil
, 1888–1964, Finnish novelist. As a young man Sillanpää studied natural science at Helsinki and came under the influence of an artistic circle that included the composer Sibelius.
..... Click the link for more information. , who won the 1939 Nobel Prize in Literature, gained fame for his lyrical impressionist novels. Dominating Finnish literature in the mid-20th cent. were the novelist Väinö Linna and the prolific novelist, poet, and playwright Mika WaltariWaltari, Mika
, 1908–79, Finnish author. Waltari wrote plays, detective stories, and travelogues, but is best known for his novels. After completing his university education in Helsinki he lived for a brief time in Paris, where he wrote Suuri illusioni
..... Click the link for more information. .
See P. I. Ravila, ed., Finnish Literary Reader (1965); A. Rubulis, Baltic Literature (1970); J. Ahokas, A History of Finnish Literature (1972).