Search results for "joel lehtonen"

Happy days, sad days

28 February 2013 | Reviews

lehtonenPekka Tarkka
Joel Lehtonen II. Vuodet 1918–1934
[Joel Lehtonen II. The years 1918–1934]
Helsinki: Otava, 2012. 591 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-1-25924-4
€38.50, hardback

A well-meaning bookseller’s idealism, inspired by Tolstoyan ideology, is brought crashing down by the laziness and ingratitude of the man hired to look after his estate: conflicts between the bourgeoisie and the ‘ordinary folk’ are played out in heart of the Finnish lakeside summer idyll in Savo province.

Taking place within a single day, the novel Putkinotko (an invented, onomatopoetic place name: ‘Hogweed Hollow’) is one of the most important classics of Finnish literature. Putkinotko was also the title of a series (1917–1920) of three prose works  – two novels and a collection of short stories  – sharing many of the same characters [here, a translation of ‘A happy day’ from Kuolleet omenapuut, ‘Dead apple trees’, 1918] .

In 1905 Joel Lehtonen bought a farmstead in Savo which he named Putkinotko: it became the place of inspiration for his writing. With an output that is both extensive and somewhat uneven, the reputation of Joel Lehtonen (1881–1934) rests largely on the merits of his Putkinotko, written between 1917 and 1920. More…

Pekka Tarkka: Joel Lehtonen 1. Vuodet 1881–1917 [Joel Lehtonen 1. The years 1881–1917]

13 August 2009 | Mini reviews, Reviews

joel.lehtonenJoel Lehtonen 1. Vuodet 1881–1917
[Joel Lehtonen 1. The years 1881–1917]
Helsinki: Otava, 2009. 431 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-1-23229-2
€ 37, hardback

The early years of the author Joel Lehtonen (1881–1934) were harsh ones: he was the illegitimate child of a mentally disturbed mother who abandonded her six-month-year baby in the forest. Fortunately Joel was adopted by a cultured clergyman who supported his education, making it possible for him to find a career in journalism and writing. The author and critic Pekka Tarkka published his doctoral dissertation on the changes in Joel Lehtonen’s view of human character in 1977. In this new book, the first general account of Lehtonen’s life and work, he presents an interesting view of the writer’s contradictory personality. Lehtonen’s travels in France, Italy and Switzerland strengthened his knowledge of foreign languages and his interest in Romance culture essential to his translator’s work. Lehtonen’s novels and short stories are often set in his home province of Savo, which he depicted through many phases of its social development. His most popular novel, Putkinotko, was published in 1919–1920. The first volume of Tarkka’s biography ends with Lehtonen’s writing in 1917 of the novel Kerran kesällä (‘Once in summer’),  about a composer returning to Finland from abroad just as the Finnish Civil War is about to begin.

In good company

18 October 2013 | This 'n' that

Portrait of an artist: Joel Lehtonen, sketched by Pietro Annigoni in Florence, 1931. Picture: literary archives of the Finnish Literature Society

Portrait of an artist: Joel Lehtonen, sketched by Pietro Annigoni in Florence, 1931. Picture: literary archives of the Finnish Literature Society

Margaret, Countess of Snowdon (Princess Margaret, 1930–2002), Joel, Master of Putkinotko (1881–1934), and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (born 1921) met in the same museum case in Florerence in October, when an exhibition of the work of the artist Pietro Annigoni (1910–1988) was opened.

The morganatic juxtaposition of the English royals and the Finnish writer is based on Annigoni’s reputation as one of the best-known portraitists of the 20th century, in whom the royal courts of England and Denmark, among others, placed their trust.

Joel Lehtonen, author of the novel Putkinotko (‘Hogweed Hollow’, the name also refers to a place) and classic of Finnish literature, is included on account of the fact that, in celebrating his fiftieth birthday in Florence in 1931, he partied throughout the night with students from the Accademia di Belle Arte ‘to the rhythm of an excellent Chianti’.

Also present was the young Piero Annigoni, who, in a cellar restaurant, took out his working tools. A red-chalk portrait of Lehtonen was the result, along with a series of dancing girls drawn in Indian ink. ‘It was five in the morning before I realised,’ Lehtonen wrote back to Finland.

Lehtonen had already spent a year in Italy in 1908 translating Boccaccio’s The Decameron, which, to his annoyance, was censored by the publisher. He published a volume of poetic prose based on his Italian experiences, Myrtti ja alppiruusu (‘The myrtle and the rhododendron’), of which one section is dedicated to Florence, that ‘glittering, passionate city of the spirit’.

Young Florentine artists were used to world-class artists. When the poet Dylan Thomas visited the city in the 1940s, the poet and author Luigi Berti – an acquaintance of Lehtonen’s – complained that ‘poets travelling in Italy no longer give themselves the airs of “milords” – behave like Lord Byron.’ Lehtonen, however, was able to party stylishly and thoroughly in a way that appears to have pleased the sons of Florence.

As he set off on the return journey to Finland, Lehtonen wrote to his wife: ‘An embarrassing day is over’, ‘I am in fine spirits! Heat the sauna.’ He brought with him Annigoni’s works, which are now in the archive of the Finnish Literature Society.

The curator of the Florence exhibition found more sketches of Lehtonen in the Museo Annigoni: in the current show, they are placed alongside sketches of Princess Margaret and Prince Philip.

The opening of the exhibition, in the premises of the Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze, was attended by 300 of the city’s elite. It was as if the nobility of the portraits of the Uffizi art gallery had stepped out of their frames to honour Annigoni, whose paintings continued the traditions of the renaissance. The Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica gave prominent coverage to the event. The young politician and Florence mayor Matteo Renzi said in his speech that in northern Italy Annigoni’s significance to art is parallel to that of Olivetti to industry.

Annigoni’s early portraits of Lehtonen are shown in a section entitled Opere rare o inedited. The 240-page catalogue also includes brief description of Lehtonen as a writer and an account of that night in Florence in 1931.

Translated by Hildi Hawkins

A day in the life of a bookseller

12 August 2010 | Reviews

A happy day in Joel Lehtonen's life in 1933. Photo: Otava/H. Iffland

The bookseller Aapeli [Abel] Muttinen, a central figure in Joel Lehtonen’s ‘Putkinotko’ books, is one of those fictional characters for whom Finnish readers have cherished a particular affection, not least because of his keen enjoyment of the pleasures they themselves so regularly share when they escape to their lakeside cottages for the summer.

But although Aapeli Muttinen is Finnish through and through, he is not without counterparts in the literature of other nations. One of his close relatives is the laziest man in all literature, Goncharov’s Oblomov; others, perhaps more surprisingly, can be found in the works of Anatole France – booksellers like Blaizot and Paillot, both gentle dilettanti with a streak of individualism and a penchant for good living. Like them, Muttinen is tolerably well-read: at the beginning of the short story  ‘A happy day’ we find him musing about Horace, and at least one of Horace’s odes must have appealed to him strongly: ‘Happiest is he who, like his sires of old, / Tills his own ground, and lives his life in peace, / Far from the tumult of the noisy world.’
More…

Oh heiferiness and humanness

30 September 2007 | Fiction, poetry

Kesäillan kevyt käsitteellisyys.
III laulu: Suvisimfonia, omistettu Joel Lehtoselle.
‘A summer evening’s slight conceptualness’.
III song: Summer symfony, dedicated to the author
Joel Lehtonen (1881–1934)
From
Eros (WSOY, 2002)

A summer evening’s slight conceptualness

Ah summer evening, and its eveningness,
its prodigious wonders and their bridgefulness
when the nightunited seamlessness
steals into one’s heart with restfulness

O heiferiness and humanness,
ah shivering shimmeringness,
innocents’ innocuousness
and vastness with its stresslessness –
five or six chicks of a dabchick,
and deep water, lapfulness.

Our blue sky’s mirrored changefulness!
the spruces’ tall topliness, their tips’ sacredness
the yellow-billed black singer’s flutiness.
Nested cosiness, mutual tootiness! More…

Reality versus morality

30 September 1982 | Archives online, Authors

Eila Pennanen

Eila Pennanen. Photo: Anonymous (Suomen Kuvalehti 1965) via Wikimedia Commons

Reviewing Eila Pennanen‘s second collection of essays, which appeared earlier this year under the delightfully ambiguous title of Kirjailijatar ja hänen miehensä (‘The authoress and her… man? … men? … husband?… husbands?’), a critic called attention to the heading she had chosen for her essay on Bernard Malamud: ‘Malamud’s ignoble hero’. His comment on this was that the moral judgment implicit in such a title would be both pointless and valueless if Pennanen had maintained it with logical consistency throughout the essay. If in fact she does no such thing, it is because she knows how to look at a character, however ignoble, with an eye for subtleties and a great deal of psychological insight. This is something one often notices about Eila Pennanen: she is apt to begin by labelling somebody or something ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and even to sound quite defiant about it, but she is never, in the end, content to leave it at that. I once heard her give a lecture on Joel Lehtonen. She startled her audience by the vehemence with which she avowed the feelings of loathing or sympathy aroused in her by characters or events in Lehtonen’s books. Her cheeks blazed as she talked. Then, just as unexpectedly, she chided herself for exaggerating, took back a lot of what she had said, laid bare the reasons for Lehtonen’s contradictoriness, and left her hearers in a condition of fruitful perplexity. Whatever they may have thought or felt about the ‘moral approach’ to criticism, they were left in no doubt as to the wit and intelligence of its leading Finnish exponent. More…

Money, Morals and Love

31 March 1980 | Archives online, Authors

Maria Jotuni

Maria Jotuni. Photo: Atelier Nyblin / CC-BY-4.0

Maria Jotuni‘s reputation as a writer rests on her daring and highly individual portrayals of women and on her gifts as a dramatist. Her works concentrate on analyses of the human condition, the contradictions, the frustrations, the fantasies. As the creative ‘observer’ she is both deeply sympathetic and ruthlessly revealing.

Maria Jotuni, whose centenary is celebrated this year, grew up in the eastern Finnish province of Savo and her early work draws richly on that background for subject matter and local colour. Her style, which over the years was honed and polished into a unique form of expression, certainly owes something to the lilting rhythms of the Savo dialect – and something to the lyricism of the Finnish Bible, with which she was familiar from her earliest years. Maria Haggrén, as she was born, was the second of six children; they lived in Kuopio, the home town of J. V. Snellman (1806–81), a man who did much to formulate the Finnish national identity, and of Minna Canth (1844–97), one of Finland’s major woman writers. The Haggréns were not wealthy, but they believed strongly in the pursuit of learning and knowledge. The home also provided a fruitful contact with rural life with opportunities to listen to the chatter and tales of the farm boys and servant girls. More…

Concrete dreams

30 September 1986 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Marja-Liisa Vartio

Marja-Liisa Vartio. Photo: SKS archives

Pirkko Alhoniemi on Marja-Liisa Vartio’s works

Although it is now 20 years since the death of Marja-Liisa Vartio (1924-1966), her writing remains as vivid as ever. Her books are regarded as classics of modern Finnish prose, and they constantly attract new readers, as the demands for reprints testify. Vartio’s style has not lost its freshness, nor her social vision its edge, even in the teeth of the aggressive feminism of the 1980s.

It is a little difficult to gauge the secret of her continued popularity. Although the main character of her novels is always a woman, Vartio cannot really be seen as a champion of the feminine point of view. Most essential and at the same time paradoxical in her work is perhaps the fact that, from a purely Finnish starting point, she is able to give valuable insights into the general change in world view that followed the Second World War. More…

Life and sun: the writer and his time

30 June 1988 | Archives online, Authors

Frans Emil Sillanpää (1888–1964), one of Finland’s most read authors, was born in the parish of Hämeenkyrö, amid the farmlands of Western Finland. In forty years he published twenty works: novels and short stories. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1939; his works have been translated into more than two dozen languages. His centenary year produced exhibitions, lectures, publications, readings, radio and stage plays, radio and television programmes.

Sillanpää, biologist, realist and mystic: literary scholars in Finland have always disputed about his qualities as an author. Depth psychology, D.H. Lawrence, nature lyricism, Henri Bergson, deep-rooted peasant philosophy, intertextuality, life worship – all can be found in Sillanpää’s work. Modern or old­ fashioned, a regional writer, or an internationally renowned Nobel Prize author?

From time to time the world press prints survey assessments, rather like score cards, of the Nobel literature prizes. They are usually intended to rap the knuckles of the Swedish Academy, but at the same time they attach a value on the international literary market to the recipients of the awards.

Finland’s only Nobel laureate, F.E. Sillanpää, who received his prize in 1939, seems at present to rate low internationally. Writers awarded the prize at around the same time seem, it is true, to have suffered a similar fate: his predecessor Pearl S. Buck, and his post-war successors Johannes V. Jensen and Gabriela Mistral, although the latter do have their own purely local importance. There are some literary histories that allow Sillanpää just a couple of lines along with other regionalists and describers of peasant life, such as the Pole Władysław Reymont, Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz of Switzerland, and Jean Giono of France. More…

Pertti Lassila: Metsän autuus. Luonto suomalaisessa kirjallisuudessa 1700–1950 [Bliss of the forest. Nature in Finnish literature 1700–1950]

21 December 2012 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Metsän autuus. Luonto suomalaisessa kirjallisuudessa 1700–1950
[Bliss of the forest. Nature in Finnish literature 1700–1950]
Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura (The Finnish Literature Society), 2011, 260 p.
ISBN 978-952-222-322-7
€35, paperback

Culture and art are relatively recent phenomena in Finland, but the forests, lakes and swamps have been here forever: national introspection has therefore always revolved around different ways of interpreting nature. National poet J.L. Runeberg (died 1877) romanticised the wilderness of the north and its starving inhabitants; pragmatic national philosopher J.V. Snellman (died 1881) rejoiced in the advances of continental culture in the farming regions of southwest Finland. Attempts to combine these two stances characterised the building of political and cultural ideas. Literary researcher Pertti Lassila follows the theme of nature through Finnish- and Swedish-language literature, including almost all major works up until the 20th century and some of the most important ones from the last century. His book is, at the same time, a description of the flow of ideas from the centre to the periphery, from the French classicist Carl Philip Creutz, author of hedonistic pastoral poetry, to Joel Lehtonen, writer of modern epics, whose endless pessimism was a largely constructed attempt to shape the split between nature and the alienated citizen of the 20th century; how successful he was is debatable. Nature remains a major theme in Finnish literature.
Translated by Claire Dickenson

A happy day

12 August 2010 | Fiction, Prose

‘Muttisen onni eli laulu Lyygialle’ (‘Muttinen’s happiness, or a song for Lygia’‚) a short story from Kuolleet omenapuut (‘Dead apple trees’, Otava, 1918)

‘Quite the country gentleman, eh, what, hey?’ says Aapeli Muttinen the bookseller. ‘Like the poet Horace – if I may humbly make the comparison, eh, dash it? With his villa at Tusculum, or whatever the place was called, given to him by Maecenas, in the Sabine hills, wasn’t it? – dashed if I remember. Anyway, he served Maecenas, and I serve  – the public, don’t I? Selling them books at fifty pence a copy.’

Muttinen’s Tusculum is his little plot of land in the country. A delightful place, comforting to contemplate when the first signs of summer are beginning to appear, after a winter spent in town in the busy pursuit of Mammon, under skies so grey that the wrinkles on Muttinen’s forehead must have doubled in number. A summer paradise of idleness… More…

Books from Helsinki

30 June 2013 | This 'n' that

Helsinki: view it from different angles! Photo: Leena Lahti

Helsinki: view it from different angles! Photo: Leena Lahti

Helsinki is relatively young city, Finnish literature even younger.

Flushed with a huge wave of migration at the beginning of the 20th century, the capital and its people went through the dramatic times of gaining independence and the Civil War (1917–18). The capital – since 1812 – and the life experiences of its inhabitants have been plentifully featured in Finnish fiction.

In his doctoral dissertation, Lieven Ameel has concentrated on a period of Finnish literary history. His Moved by the City: Experiences of Helsinki in Finnish Prose Fiction 1889–1941 (2013, Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies, University of Helsinki) examines more than sixty novels, collections of short stories and individual short stories portraying the city: how do the characters experience this urban public space? (Popular – crime fiction, for example – and children’s literature are excluded.) More…

Dialogues with death

30 September 1992 | Archives online, Authors

Pekka Tarkka reassesses the work of Väinö Linna (1920–1992) and introduces an extract from Täällä Pohjantähden alla (‘Here beneath the North Star’, 1959–62)

Relations between Finland and Russia – and, analogically, the poor tenanted farm and the rich rectory – and their descent into violence are the subjects of Linna’s great novels: Tuntematon sotilas (The Unknown Soldier, 1954) describes ordinary soldiers in the Finno-Soviet war of 1941-44; Täällä Pohjantähden alla is at its most powerful in its depiction of the civil war fought in 1918 between Reds and Whites.

The slice of Finnish local history that Linna recounts reflects 50 years of world history,’ said the Swedish professor Victor Svanberg in 1963 as he presented Linna with the Nordic Council’s literary prize. But is Linna’s work tied to its time to the extent that it will die now that he is dead, and that the epoch, in which he played so strong a part, is passing? More…