Search results for "haavikko"

In memoriam Paavo Haavikko 1931–2008

30 December 2008 | Authors, In the news

Paavo Haavikko. Photo: Kai Widell.

Paavo Haavikko. Photo: Kai Widell.

The poet, writer, playwright and publisher Paavo Haavikko died in Helsinki in October, at the age of 77.

Haavikko was one of Finland’s most internationally recognised writers, and his success was helped by many prominent poets’ interest in his lyric poetry. His work was translated by Anselm Hollo and Herbert Lomas (English), Manfred Peter Hein (German), Bo Carpelan (Swedish), and Gabriel Rebourcet (French), among others.

Haavikko debuted in 1951 as a lyric modernist who broke through all of modernism’s barriers. He was a master of intoxicating lyricism, and an intellectually discerning storyteller of general truths in his narrative poems. His collections Talvipalatsi (‘Winter palace’, 1959) and Puut, kaikki heidän vihreytensä (‘The trees, all their green’, 1966), in particular, have achieved the status of classics. More…

The aphorism reborn

31 December 1986 | Archives online, Authors, Essays, Non-fiction

Markku Envall. Photo: Pertti Nisonen

Markku Envall. Photo: Pertti Nisonen

With the passage of time a literary genre may continue, change or disappear. During the 1960s it was widely believed that the Finnish aphorism was dead. Modernism, which had consolidated its victory during that decade, was not favourable to the genre, and not one of the central figures of the post-war generation had touched the genre. Nevertheless, phoenix-like, the aphorism rose from the ashes, and by the 1970s it was strongly in evidence again, thanks, in the main, to just four writers, Mirkka Rekola, Paavo Haavikko, Samuli Paronen and Erno Paasilinna.

The renaissance took place between 1969 and 1972; in 1969 Mirkka Rekola’s first book of aphorisms was published, followed in 1972 by Paavo Haavikko’s. Rekola now has three books of aphorisms to her name, Haavikko four. The other two major aphorists have published one volume each. There have been a few other collections of aphorisms have appeared, but their authors are ‘merely’ aphorists, while these four are recognised as major authors in other fields too.

What was new in the renaissance of the aphorism? The question is easiest to answer in respect of the three men; Rekola is in many ways an exception. There were two major new features, one concerning meaning, the other form. The subject matter of the new writers was broader than the wisdom and teachings about life encompassed by the traditional aphorism. Their main subjects were nothing if not ambitious; the nature of the world, the progress of history, the structure of society. More…

Heroes and villains of One and Twenty

30 September 2007 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

In his epic poem Kaksikymmentä ja yksi (One and Twenty, 1974) the poet Paavo Haavikko combines the imaginary ancient heroes of the national epic, the Kalevala, and the violent history of early second-millennium Byzantium, interpreting the mythical Sampo – a magical wealth-bringing device – of the Kalevala as the mint of the Byzantine empire. The American poet and critic Rachel Blau DuPlessis takes an outsider’s look at this metaphysical, capricious poetic chronicle

One and Twenty by Paavo Haavikko tells of a band of Northland adventurers who sail into the Black Sea to Byzantium via Russian lakes and portages and then return north. We do not know where the band of Twenty-One comes from precisely (are they from ‘Finland’ or from ‘Russia’)? We know only that their adventures propel them over a wide territory, from Novgorod to Byzantium. They are like nomadic mercenaries, and they witness a number of city-state and imperial power struggles in the 11th–13th centuries, well before the nation state consolidations of modernity that might call forth the idealising hero-creation of particular ‘national’ epics. More…

Question time

30 June 2006 | Archives online, Authors

Ei. Siis kyllä (‘No. That is to say, yes’, WSOY, 2006) by Paavo Haavikko, the incredibly productive and versatile grand old man of Finnish letters, is a series of apothegms – ‘short, witty, instructive sayings,’ according to your basic dictionary definition. Formally, these may remind one of the Egyptian-born French writer Edmond Jabès’s works, Le Livre des Questions (The Book of Questions), but  is not so much a book of questions as it is a book of statements.

As the editor and translator of a number of Haavikko’s works over the past forty years, including two versions of a Selected Poems, two prose works, and, most recently, Kaksikymmentä ja yksi (One and Twenty), a wild mock epic of a band of Finnish Vikings travelling down to Constantinople and on to Africa, I have gained familiarity with the poet’s favourite images and strategies. He employs indirection and ambiguity with great skill:

‘There is no answer without a question, and without knowing the question you cannot understand the answer. But it has always been our habit to ask the question ourselves, then answer it ourselves. That is the only way to gain scientifically valid answers. Therefore, questions must be constructed with exactitude, to prevent their turning into answers.’ More…

The Writer’s dilemma

30 June 1984 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews

Marja-Liisa Vartio and Paavo Haavikko

Poets Marja-Liisa Vartio and Paavo Haavikko. Photo: SKS archives

Philip Binham interviews Paavo Haavikko

I think it’s impossible to be just a writer. That would mean isolating oneself completely from the outside world – so it’s important to have other work.

The appointment is on 5 April 1984 in Paavo Haavikko’s city office. Clearly a newly-inhabited office – he recently left his post as Literary Editor for the Otava Publishing Company to become a literary consultant under the letterhead of Arthouse Ltd. A desk jumbled high with papers and photos on which my tape recorder perches precariously; Haavikko is currently working on a history of a leading Finnish industrial enterprise, Wärtsilä. Typewriters, a phone, a few odd chairs, a secretary. Haavikko himself is business-like: well-cut grey suit, well­-trimmed greying hair and beard, neat dark-blue tie: When I play the recording over, our voices echo oddly in the bare, high-ceilinged rooms.

PB: May I start by asking you something about your reading?

PH: That’s a very difficult question for me because up to now I’ve had two jobs – as a writer and a publisher, so my own reading has been more or less non-existent. Writing has taken up all my leisure time. And I thought, now that I’m not in the publishing business any more I’d have time for such reading – but so far I haven’t had any, so that seems to be something for the future. More…

The power game

30 June 1984 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Puhua, vastata, opettaa (‘Speak, answer, teach’, 1972) could be called a collection of aphorisms or poems; the pieces resemble prose in having a connected plot, but they certainly are not narrative prose. Ikuisen rauhan aika (‘A time of eternal peace’, 1981) continues this approach. The title alludes ironically to Kant’s Zum Ewigen Frieden, mentioned in the text; ‘eternal peace’ is funereal for Haavikko.

In his ‘aphorisms’ Haavikko is discovering new methods of discourse for his abiding preoccupation: the power game. All organizations, he thinks, observe the rules of this sport – states, armies, businesses, churches. Any powerful institution wages war in its own way, applying the ruthless military code to autonomous survival, control, aggrandizement, and still more power. No morality – the question is: who wins? ‘I often entertain myself by translating historical events into the jargon of business management, or business promotion into war.’

‘What is a goal for the organization is a crime for the individual.’ Is Haavikko an abysmal pessimist, a cynic? He would himself consider that cynicism is something else: a would-be credulous idealism, plucking out its own eyes, promoting evil through ignorance. As for reality, ‘the world – the world’s a chair that’s pulled from under you. No floor’, says Mr Östanskog in the eponymous play. Reading out the rules of a mindless and cruel sport, without frills, softening qualifications, or groundless hopes, Haavikko is in the tradition of those moralists of the Middle Ages, who wrote tracts denouncing the perversity and madness of ‘the world’ – which is ‘full of work-of-art-resembling works of art, in various colours, book-resembling texts, people-resembling people’.

Kai Laitinen

Speak, answer, teach

When people begin to desire equal rights, fair shares, the right to decide for them­selves, to choose

one cannot tell them: You are asking for goods that cannot be made.

One cannot say that when they are manufactured they vanish, and when they are increased they decrease all the time. More…

Arms and the man

30 June 1999 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews

The work of Veijo Meri (born 1948) has a secure place in the canon of Finnish prose of the second half of the 40th century. One could say Meri is a man’s writer – especially favoured by men who have been at war. The male characters of his short stories, novels and plays find themselves in absurd and surprising situations in a world governed by chance. They are not, however, heroes, but everyday anti-heroes who are depicted by their author with laconic humour. Since the 1980s, Meri has turned to historical essays.

Meri is an unbelievably prolific speaking machine; hardly have I set foot inside his house when he is already, in his speech, strolling along the shore of the Pacific Ocean with Matti Kurjensaari, his late writer friend. The academic and writer Veijo Meri turned 70 on New Year’s Eve in 1998. The event was celebrated in the theatre, and a book was published about the writer and his work. And, of course, his birthday itself was celebrated: he no longer wishes to escape his age. ‘Can’t feel a thing,’ Meri says on the massive leather sofa in his living-room. Mrs Eeva Meri starts making coffee. ‘I’m just trying to understand that I’ve turned 70: when was it that I got to be so old?’ On his 50th birthday, he felt something: ‘It’s a threshold.’ That had, in fact, been preceded by some improvement in life; after the age of 45, apparently, one no longer suffers from hangovers and all the most sensitive nerves have stopped working.’ The world has become extremely familiar. There’s nothing mysterious hidden behind the hedge, on the other side of the horizon. You tend to avoid thinking about death, because it begins to seem a pity that you will have to leave the world, now that you finally feel at home here.’ More…

New from the archive

26 March 2015 | This 'n' that

This week, a cluster of pieces from and about left-leaning Tampere, the ‘Red City’ of Finland

The Tampella and Finlayson factories, 1954, Tampere. Photo: Veikko Kanninen, Vapriikki Photo Archives /  CC BY-SA 2.0.

The Tampella and Finlayson factories, 1954, Tampere. Photo: Veikko Kanninen, Vapriikki Photo Archives / CC BY-SA 2.0.

Also known as the ‘Manchester of Finland’ for its 19th-century manufacturing tradition, Tampere – or rather the suburb of Pispala – produced two important, and strongly contrasting, writers, Lauri Viita (1916-1965) and Hannu Salama (born 1936). Both formed part of a group of working-class writers who emerged after the Second World War, many of whom had not completed their school careers and whose confidence arose from independent, auto-didactic, reading and study.

To understand the place from which these writers emerged, it has to be remembered that there is more to Tampere than a proud radical tradition. As Pekka Tarkka remembers in his essay, the Reds were the losing side in the Finnish civil war of 1918, and for years afterwards they formed ‘a sort of embattled camp in Finnish society’. History is always written by the winners, and authors like Viita and Salama played an important role in giving the Red side back its voice.

Lauri Viita.

Lauri Viita.

Lauri Viita celebrated Tampere by offering an image of it that is, as Tarkka remarks, ‘poetic, deterministic and materialist’. His poetry differed sharply from the modernist verse of contemporaries such as Paavo Haavikko and Eeva-Liisa Manner, both of whom we have featured recently in our Archive pieces, which abandoned both fixed metres and end-rhymes. His work was an often heroic celebration of the ordinary life of proletarian Tampere, and the more traditional form into which it breathed new life made it accessible. My own mother, for example, who had grown up the child of a Red working-class family far away to the north, in Kajaani, steeped in the rolling cadences of poets such as Aaro Hellaakoski and Uuno Kailas, never really got the hang of Haavikko, or Manner; but she loved Viita.

Here we publish a selection of Viita’s poems, translated by Herbert Lomas, who does an excellent job of capturing his easy-going, unselfconscious rhythms. The introduction is by Kai Laitinen.

Hannu Salama. Photo: Ptoukkar  / CC BY-SA 3.0

Hannu Salama.
Photo: Ptoukkar / CC BY-SA 3.0

Salama is a far more politicised writer than Viita, and he is writing about a Tampere that is already in decline. In his major work, Siinä näkijä missä tekijä (‘No crime without a witness’, 1972), he writes about the travails of the communist minority, doomed to slow extinction – the same band of fellow-travellers to which my grandfather in Kajaani belonged. My mother wasn’t a Salama fan, though – I think his Tampere wasn’t beautiful, or heroic, enough. As someone who had moved far away, to England, she wanted to celebrate, not to mourn.

Here we publish a short story, Hautajaiset (‘The funeral’), which was written at the same time as Siinä näkijä missä tekijä. It’s an unvarnished account of a Tampere funeral which is, at the same time, the funeral of the old, radical way of life – which, sure enough, has vanished almost as if it never existed. As Pekka Tarkka writes of Salama’s short story and the revolutionary songs which run through it: ‘There will be no more singing of communist psalms, or fantasies of the family and of the revolutionary spirit.’

As Marx didn’t say, all that seemed so solid has melted, irretrievably, into air.


The digitisation of Books from Finland continues, with a total of 380 articles and book extracts made available online so far. Each week, we bring a newly digitised text to your attention.


Love and war

31 December 1993 | Archives online, Authors

Helvi Hämäläinen’s memoirs reveal the true extent to which her classic novel Säädyllinen murhenäytelmä (‘A respectable tragedy’), which shocked polite Helsinki society when it appeared in 1941, is a roman à clef.

Perhaps the deepest love flows from the spring of forgiveness that is hidden within us, which does not open unless we are wounded; if a person who loves another is too noble to inflict that wound, he will never receive the deepest love. For it is the imperfection of the loved one that makes it possible to fix on him the best powers of the soul. Naimi’s love was noble because she had chosen as imperfect a beloved as Artur; Artur had no love because he had never been wounded in love in order that it might flow.

(Säädyllinen murhenäytelmä)


Builder of words

31 December 1988 | Archives online, Authors

The poet Lauri Viita (1916–1965) was a master of rhyme and rhythm, a linguistic sorcerer who, for that reason, has been little translated into other languages. He also gave his home of Pispala, a suburb of Tampere, a lasting place in Finnish literature with his novel Moreeni (‘Moraine’)

In the course of a couple of years after the Second World War Finnish poetry altered unrecognisably. The old post-symbolic poetry with its artful end rhymes suddenly seemed old-fashioned and its diction hackneyed. The new poets, Paavo Haavikko foremost among them, wrote a great variety of texts, abandoning fixed rhythms and end rhymes. The circle of adherents to the ‘old’ poetry seemed to be restricted to poets who had begun their careers before the war; almost all the younger writers followed the new direction.

There was, nevertheless, one exception: Lauri Viita (1916–1965). Making his first appearance in Finnish poetry in 1947 with a volume entitled Betonimylläri (‘Concrete mixer’), he was able to breathe new life into many of the stylistic forms of traditional poetry: he used end rhymes in a way that had never been seen before and brought into his poems words that had previously been avoided; he demonstrated himself to be a master of rhythm, with a totally individual ability to paint with vowels and hammer home combinations of consonants to their greatest effect; he brought to poetry new attitudes and subjects, above all the fresh, unself-conscious rhythms of speech. More…

Beyond good and evil?

30 June 1987 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews

Esa Sariola. Kuva Irmeli Jung

Esa Sariola. Kuva Irmeli Jung

Markku Huotari interviews Esa Sariola

A stylish restaurant in the Stock Exchange building in Helsinki. Esa Sariola and I order a businessmen’s lunch. We talk about hard-nosed success stories. About technocracy, casino economics.

About profit.

A steely-eyed businessman enters the room from the stock exchange and sees us two soft-talkers, even if we look like men, wasting time. The ruthless gambler bolts down his lunch and disappears to the upper floor again, where he is making money.

We remain.

We’re just talking.

And there’s no money accruing in our wallets.

All the same we have a grip on that investor. Esa Sariola has already laid siege to people like him in three books: Väärinkäsityksiä (‘Misconceptions’, 1983), a collection of short stories, and two novels: Rakas ystävä (‘Dear friend’, 1985) and Kuolemaani saakka (‘Until my dying day’, 1986). More…

A life of letters

30 September 1995 | Archives online, Authors

Death is a central theme in the poetry 
of Eeva-Liisa Manner (1921–1995). In many poems she
 described the proximity of death and 
the last frontier in order to conquer
 death and laugh at it – often grimly,
 sometimes cheerlessly.

But actually I died ages ago,
 and when death comes, when it strikes
 the body that wears my clothes,
 it's all a predestined rendezvous:
 movement stops, words scatter like snow,
         the eyes' apparitions
 are off like a flight of pigeons....

Manner wrote in a collection entitled
 Niin vaihtuvat vuoden ajat (‘So change the
 seasons’), which appeared as early 
as 1964. More…

In memoriam Anselm Hollo 1934–2013

1 February 2013 | In the news

Anselm Hollo. Photo: Gloria Graham; taken at the video taping of Add-Verse, 2005. (Wikipedia)

Anselm Hollo. Photo: Gloria Graham; taken during the video taping of Add-Verse, 2005. (Wikipedia)

Poet and translator Anselm Hollo died in Boulder, Colorado, on 29 January, at the age of 78. His father, Professor J.A. Hollo, translated literature from 14 languages. Anselm, born in Helsinki in 1934, worked with languages all his life, translating from Finnish, English, German, Swedish and French.

In the 1950s he lived in Germany and Austria, and then moved to England to work for the BBC. He published his first collection of poems, Sateiden välillä (‘Between rains ’), in Finnish in 1956. He once said that as a poet he ‘makes things in and out of language’.

In the late 1960s Anselm moved to the United States, where he was to write more than 30 books in English. He was a Professor of Writing and Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, where he lived with his second wife, the visual artist Jane Dalrymple-Hollo. His own poetry is influenced by the 1950s and 1960s Beat Generation, among whom he had several personal friends; he translated Allen Ginsberg and Robert Creeley into Finnish – as well as the two books of poetry by John Lennon.

His last work remains Guests of Space (Coffee House Press, 2007). Notes on the Possibilities and Attractions of Existence: New and Selected Poems 1965–2000 received the San Francisco Poetry Center’s Book Award for 2001. His collection Corvus (2002) was also published in Finland, translated by Kai Nieminen. Among the many literary prizes he received was the Finnish Government Prize for the Translation of Finnish Literature in 1996.

Among his best-known translations of Finnish poetry are poems by Pentti Saarikoski (1937–1983) and Paavo Haavikko (1931–2008), whose work he also translated into German. For many years he served as a member of the literary advisory board of Books from Finland, and translated new work by, for example, Lassi Nummi, Jarkko Laine, Rosa Liksom, Leena Krohn and Riina Katajavuori.

During Anselm and Jane’s visits to Finland it was always enjoyable to talk about literature, art, new books and translation over a glass of wine. Anselm rarely, if ever, said no to requests to translate something: he remained sincerely interested in his native language and the ways it was used for creating fiction. We miss a jovial friend and an exceptionally skilful man of letters.


i.m. Hannes Hollo, 1959–1999

by Anselm Hollo
(Hannes Hollo was his son from the first marriage with poet Josephine Clare)

Fought the hungry ghosts here on Earth
‘What is man?’ asked the King
Alcuin’s reply: ‘A guest of space.’ And time yes time:
The past lies before us, the future comes up from behind
Walking on Primrose Hill or Isle of Wight beaches
Iowa City streets scrambling up snow-covered deer track
To Doc Holliday’s grave in Glenwood Springs
His helmet now shall make a hive for bees
He fought the hungry ghosts here on Earth
Strong & resourceful on his best days,
Patient kind and presente
Returning those with him to here & now
But just as we settle in with our Pepsi and popcorn
THE END rolls up too soon always too soon



(Anselm reads the poem here)

Men and a woman, too

7 November 2009 | This 'n' that

Lenita AiristoIn October, according to the best-seller list (Mitä Suomi lukee, ‘What Finland reads’), the top seven non-fiction titles included biographies of four Finns – an industrial tycoon (Pekka Herlin, one-time director of the Finnish Kone elevator company), a poet (Paavo Haavikko), and a former Prime Minister (Paavo Lipponen).

The seventh place was held by a book on a woman: Lenita Airisto, winner of a 1950s beauty contest, later a television hostess, celebrity, writer and businesswoman (Lähikuvassa Lenita Airisto, ‘Lenita Airisto in closeup’, by Juha Numminen).

The Finnish fiction list was topped by the latest thriller by Ilkka Remes, Isku ytimeen (‘Strike to the core’). Then came Kjell Westö’s novel Älä käy yöhön yksin (‘Don’t go out into the night alone’, a translation of the Swedish-language original, Gå inte ensam ut i natten) and Jari Tervo’s Koljatti (‘Goliath’). The latest Henning Mankell was number one on the translated fiction list.

Speaking about the heart

30 June 1991 | Archives online, Articles

New Finnish poetry, translated and introduced by Herbert Lomas

The ‘modernist’ revolution in Finnish poetry is now 40 years old, and the art must be ripe for changes.

Of course, the modernism of post-war Finnish poetry was not – except in Haavikko and to some extent in Saarikoski – extremely modernist. The poets were more interested in their content than their experiments. They were perhaps closer to ancient Chinese poets and early Pound than to Eliot in their elided brief juxtapositions and meditations on nature, society and moment-to-moment transience. The poets picked up a few liberties that unshackled them from metrical and rhyming formalities uncongenial to Finnish stress, syntax and phonemics; and they took off to speak about the heart. That is the strength of this poetry, and its originality, since all originality consists in being oneself – which includes one’s national self, and ultimately other people’s selves. And every generation still has to make a new start, admittedly in new circumstances, with the experience of its forefathers from birth to death. More…