Aleksis Kivi: Kirjeet [Letters]

8 August 2013 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Critical edition, edited by Juhani Niemi et al.
Swedish-language letters translated into Finnish by Juhani Lindholm and Ossi Kokko
Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura (the Finnish Literature Society), 2012. 426 p, two map drawings
ISBN 978-952-222-390-6
€ 43, paperback

In his poetry, plays and masterly novel Seitsemän veljestä (Seven Brothers, 1870), Aleksis Kivi (1834–72) laid the foundations of Finnish fiction. Kivi died an early death, impoverished and mentally ill. In this critical edition seventy of his letters and three letters received by him are presented with notes and an introduction. Most of the book consists of background articles and supplementary items. Professor Jyrki Nummi provides an interesting analysis of biographies of Kivi. The other authors discuss, for example the literature Kivi drew on in his own works: he had read world classics in Swedish, but in Finnish there was not yet much to read apart from the folk poetry. Other topics of discussion are Kivi’s skill in using Swedish – the language of the educated class in Finland – and what his letters reveal about his network of acquaintances. The letters are grouped in chronological order, with introductions by Professor Emeritus Juhani Niemi. Most of the letters are comparatively short, sent to relatives and friends. They reflect Kivi’s attitude towards his own work, as well as his worries about his financial situation and declining health.
Translated by David McDuff

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