Search results for "Edith Södergran"

Against the grain

30 June 1983 | Archives online, Authors

Gösta Ågren

Gösta Ågren. Photo: Studio Paschinsky

Gösta Ågren (born 1936) represents at least two qualities highly characteristic of Finland-Swedish writers. He was born and grew up in a part of Swedish-speaking Ostrobothnia – in the immediate vicinity of the two small coastal towns of Uusikaupunki (Nykarleby) and Pietarsaari (Jakobstad) – which has been the home of many of the most important Finland­-Swedish authors, from Runeberg and Zacharias Topelius through Mikael Lybeck and R. R. Eklund to Evert and Lars Huldén. And like Rabbe Enckell, Oscar Parland and others, Gösta Ågren comes from a family closely associated with literature – two of his brothers, Erik and Leo, are also writers, as was his sister Inga, who died young.

Otherwise Gösta Ågren is an author who in all important respects has gone his own way, often in opposition to the establishments, literary and otherwise, in southern Finland and Helsinki. More…

Coolness and warmth

21 April 2011 | Reviews

Bo Carpelan. Photo: Irmeli Jung

The coolness on the mountain
streams of water, black forests
in the west a growing light
foreboding sleep

These lines are from Gramina, the twenty-second and last collection of verse by the Finland-Swedish poet Bo Carpelan, which appeared last summer.

The short poem captures much of what was typical of Carpelan’s poetic style: a visually sharp and objective image which juxtaposes the world we see with a sense of something different, undefined. Time the unstoppable, which changes everything, was his central theme, and it also figures here.

Carpelan (1926–2011) made his debut in 1946 and was hailed early on as a renewer of the modernist tradition that in Finland began in the early 20th century with Edith Södergran (1892–1923) and Elmer Diktonius (1896–1961). He combined the Finnish-Swedish heritage of reflective nature poetry with imagistic stimuli from Swedish- and English-language modernism. 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…

A portrait of Elmer Diktonius

30 June 1982 | Archives online, Authors

Elmer Diktonius

Elmer Diktonius at his home in Kauniainen (Grankulla). Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

Elmer Diktonius, one of the leading Finland-Swedish modernists of the 1920s, was a revolutionary poet, prose-writer and critic who also tried his hand at composing. Professor George Schoolfield, whose article on Diktonius appears below, appends his own translations of several of the lyrics: a filler selection is going to be published in the United States, Recently Professor Schoolfield has been working on a biography of Diktonius which he hopes to publish soon.

The literary fate of the Finland-Swedish modernist Elmer Diktonius (1896-1961) has not been an altogether happy one. Saluted early and late in his career as Finland’s Strindberg and as a possible rival to Mayakovsky in the contest for the greatest lyricist of the revolution, Diktonius would seem, surely, to deserve a place on the world’s literary stage. Yet the attention he has received outside the north has been mostly unwitting: the writers of program notes quote his description of the Silbelius Fourth, ‘the bark-bread symphony’ without knowing its source, the collected concert-reviews of Opus 12: Musik (1933). Surveys that might have introduced him to a larger public are silent. The chubby Pelican Guide to the European Literature of Modernism ignores him; the Penguin Book of Socialist Verse omits him from its 134 specimens of the lyric left; and Ulrich Weisstein’s volume of Expressionism as an International Literary Phenomenon does not have him in its chapter on ‘Expressionism in Scandinavia’, although he would qualify – as the Swedish scholar Bill Romefors has proved – as the major northern heir of German expressionism. More…

An intimation of Paradise

31 December 1984 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Paratiisiaavistus (‘An intimation of Paradise’, 1983). Introduction by Pertti Lassila

Satu Salminiitty (born 1959) has published only one collection of poetry since her first appeared in 1981, but with these two volumes she has achieved considerable success. She writes with a fine rhetoric using language and rhythm that are far removed from those of spoken Finnish. Religious pathos has a prominent place in her work, and her poems often derive from praise, prayer or even magic incantations; Salminiitty is a creator of vision who trusts to her metaphysical intuition, a quality not generally discernible among today’s Finnish poets. Equally rare is her lively faith in the goodness and beauty of people and of the world. A conscious rejoinder to materialism, pessimism and fear of the future can be read in her poems. More…

Poetry and Patriotism

31 December 1985 | Archives online, Authors, Essays

J.L. Runeberg. Painting by Albert Edelfelt. 1893.

J.L. Runeberg. Painting by Albert Edelfelt. 1893.

Much revered, but little read today, Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-1877) is famed for his patriotism and glorification of war in a just cause. Yet Finland’s national poet did not write in Finnish, and never heard a shot fired in anger. It is, perhaps, time for a reappraisal.

What did he himself think about becoming a national poet?
Enjoyed it, probably? Who wouldn’t!
Did he write what he wanted and let
the people find their own interpretation?
Or did he write what he believed
the people expected
of a national poet?

Lars Huldén, 1978

 

It would not be inappropriate to begin a collection of thoughts about Finland’s ‘national poet,’ Johan Ludvig Runeberg, with a biblical text, Second Samuel, 1:25: ‘How are the mighty fallen!’ Runeberg does not own the position he once did, either in the world at large or in Scandinavia; even in his home land his exceptional grandeur has been reduced or, horribile dictu, smiled at. More…

Finlands svenska litteratur 1900–2012 [Finland’s Swedish literature 1900–2012]

6 November 2014 | Mini reviews, Reviews

ekmanFinlands svenska litteratur 1900–2012
[Finland’s Swedish literature 1900–2012]
Red. [Edited by] Michel Ekman
Helsingfors: Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland / Stockholm: Atlantis, 2014. 376 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-583-272-6
€35.90, paperback

This history of Finland-Swedish literature is an updated version of the second volume of Finlands svenska litteraturhistoria (eds. Johan Wrede and Clas Zilliacus, 1999–2000), and it concentrates on the period from 1900 to 2012, with much new critical material relating to the years after 1975. Some 20 contributors under the editorship of Michel Ekman provide a diverse and inclusive overview of a literature that embraces poetry, prose fiction, children’s writing, essays and drama. The book traces the story of Finland-Swedish literature from the ‘fresh start’ of the turn of the 19th century, through the experiments of modernists like the poets Edith Södergran and Elmer Diktonius, to the work of present-day novelists like Monika Fagerholm and Kjell Westö. However, the emphasis throughout is on general lines of development rather than on individual authors’ careers. The authors discuss the relationship between the work of Finland’s Swedish-language writers and their Finnish-language counterparts in a perspective that not only views the minority literature as a part of the Finnish whole, but also considers it as a bridge between the literatures of Sweden and Finland – the subject of a concluding essay by Clas Zilliacus. The material is presented in essays subdivided in a readable way that combines factual information with critical and historical analysis.

Reclaiming the body

30 September 1992 | Archives online, Authors

The work of Agneta Enckell is a good example of what happened in young Finland-Swedish writing during the 1980s. The developments that took place then have much in common with what had happened earlier in the rest of Scandinavia: the strong social and political interests which a large number of the writers had explored since the mid 1960s changed character and were supplemented by a critical scrutiny of language itself, and by an examination of the possibilities and limitations of literature as a form of communication.

In Finland the writers of the 1960s, led by the poet Claes Andersson, called into question the inheritance of Edith Södergran and the modernists of the 1920s, who at that time seemed to represent a tradition that was burdensome and limiting rather than living and productive in an Eliotian sense. More…

A new publishing company – and old

23 December 2011 | In the news

In the early months of 2012 Finland’s two old and time-honoured Swedish-language publishers, Schildts and Söderströms, will merge.

Söderströms will buy Schildts, whose owners (two non-profit associations, Svenska folkskolans vänner and Finlands svenska lärarförbund) will acquire a nearly 20 per cent share in the new company. The largest share in Schildts & Söderströms will be held by the art association Konstsamfundet (24 per cent), while the company’s third major owner will be Svenska Litteratursällskapet i Finland (15 per cent).

Both publishers have been operating with a loss in turnover of approximately half a million euros, though at the same time investment capital has brought them almost the same amount. Textbook publishing has been profitable for both, while general literature has been published at a loss.

With a turnover of slightly over six million euros, the new Schildts & Söderströms will employ a workforce of nearly 50.

Holger Schildt founded the Finnish-Swedish publishing house of Schildts in 1913. Its most internationally famous and best-selling fiction writer is the mother of the Moomins, Tove Jansson (1914–2001). Edith Södergran, Runar Schildt, Bo Carpelan and Robert Åsbacka are, for example, Schildts’ authors.

Werner Söderström founded the company that bears his name in 1878. Now known as WSOY, it originally published both Finnish and Swedish-language literature; the firm of Söderström & Co. was founded in 1891 for the exclusive publishing of Swedish-language literature. Söderström’s authors have included Gunnar Björling, Jörn Donner, Monika Fagerholm and Kjell Westö, among others.

It is thought that the merger may lead to a reduction in the number of fiction and poetry titles published – but there are also hopes that there may be an improvement in their quality.

Dear reader,

11 February 2009 | Letter from the Editors

welcome to the new Books from Finland website. After 42 years in print, we now navigate virtual worlds. However much Books from Finland may have changed in appearance, though, its essence remains the same – as always, we try to provide you with interesting, well-translated things to read. Made in Finland, or about Finland. More…

Live fast, die young

31 December 2006 | Authors, Reviews

Henry Parland

Henry Parland

Those whom the gods love die young: during the short lifetime of Henry Parland (1908–1930), Helsinki was culturally diverse city where many languages were spoken and young writers were inspired by new European trends.

Henry Parland represents a sort of opening in Finland-Swedish literature, an incursion of modernity, a breath of fresh air. He accomplished the task which the French Cubist Blaise Cendrars set himself in his poetry: ‘Les fénêtres de ma poésie sont grand’ouvertes sur les boulevards’ (‘The windows of my poetry are wide open on the boulevards’).

Several of the Finland-Swedish modernist writers of the early 20th century – most of whom lived in Helsinki – had a diverse linguistic background. ‘German is my best language,’ the poet Edith Södergran thought in 1920. She wrote her early work not only in Swedish, but also in German, Russian and French. Elmer Diktonius was bilingual, and wrote prose and poetry both in Finnish and in Swedish. Hagar Olsson, a writer and critic, switched at will between Swedish and Finnish. More…

Earth, tree, wind

30 September 2005 | Authors, Reviews

Kirsi KunnasLeena Kirstinä on the iconoclastic and pioneering poet – for children and adults – Kirsi Kunnas

Fifty years ago the poet Kirsi Kunnas liberated Finnish children’s poetry from its boring didacticism: she revived ancient nursery rhymes, fables and epigrams that can parody human frailties and fabricate fairy-tale social criticism. Her hilarity, brilliance and linguistic virtuosity have charmed readers of all ages.

A post-war Finnish modernist, Kunnas (born 1924) published her début volume, Villiomenapuu (‘Crabapple tree’, WSOY), in 1947. In the 1950s her children’s volume, Tiitiäisen satupuu (‘The Tumpkin’s wonder tree’, 1956), rejuvenated children’s poetry. Her translations of the classical English nursery-rhymes in Old Mother Goose helped her to enhance the ways of writing fantasy, humour and nonsense. More…

Do you speak my language?

23 August 2012 | Articles, Non-fiction

Finnish spoken outside Finland: Sweden (west), Estonia (south), Karelia/Russia (east), Norway (north). Illustration: Zakuragi/Wikipedia

Finland has two official languages, Finnish and Swedish. Approximately five per cent of the population (290,000 Finns) speak Swedish as their native language. All Finns learn both languages at school, and students in higher education must prove they have an adequate knowledge of the other mother tongue. But how do native speakers of Finnish cope with what is, for many of them, a minority language that they will never need or even wish to use? We take a look at bilingual issues – and a new book devoted to them

‘In many parts of the world, language can be a fiery and divisive issue, one that pits the powerless against the powerful, the small against the big. The Basques battle the Spanish. The Flemish tussle with the Walloons. The Québécois scuffle with the rest of Canada.’

That is how Lizette Alvarez illustrated her theme in her article ‘Finland Makes Its Swedes Feel at Home’, published in the New York Times in 2005.

In Finland, language has been a fiery issue at times, though things have cooled down a bit since the early 20th century. The use of Finnish as a written language dates back to the 16th century, but the territory of Finland was part of the Swedish Empire until 1809. Swedish was spoken by the nobility as well as most of the peasant class – the mechanism of the state did not serve Finnish-speaking peasants or other segments of the population in Finnish. More…