Author: Vesa Karonen

In the backwoods

Issue 2/2005 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

A solitary writer who spent all his life in the Finnish wilderness, Pentti Haanpää (1905–1955) wrote hundreds of short stories, often using ambitious male characters to shine a satirical beam on Finnish society. Vesa Karonen introduces two of Haanpää’s short stories, ‘The Schoolmaster’s bicycle trip’ and ‘Saikansalo the racing cyclist’ from Heta Rahko korkeassa iässä (‘Heta Rahko at a great age’, Otava, 1947)

Piippola is a village in the precise middle of Finland on a boggy forest terrain, with meagre fields, far out in the wilds. The writer Pentti Haanpää’s parents had emigrated to the United States but returned in 1904; he was born in Piippola in 1905 and lived there until he drowned in a lake during an autumn storm.

Haanpää wrote ten novels and hundreds of short stories about people living surrounded by forest. His stories, often about lumbermen, vagabonds and ‘backwoods philosophers’ blend gloomy primordial backwoods life with satirical comedy and philosophical wisdom. More…

Veijo Meri’s errant heroes

Issue 3/1981 | Archives online, Authors

Veijo Meri. Photo: Irmeli Jung / Otava.

Veijo Meri. Photo: Irmeli Jung / Otava.

At the funeral of F. E. Sillanpää, the Nobel prize-winner, Veijo Meri was one of the pall-bearers, representing the younger generation of Finnish writers. The coffin was heavy and it suddenly began to slip the hands of the bearers just as they reached the church doors. A tiny stone in one of his shoes was causing Meri the most intense agony. It was a critical moment. Novels, short stories and plays by him are full of such situations. The characters stumble and are confused. The more difficult the situation, the more comic it often is.

Veiio Meri (born 1928) grew up in army barracks in the small town of Hämeenlinna. His childhood and youth were overshadowed by the war – as is reflected in many of his works. His first book, Ettei maa viheriöisi (‘Lest the land grow green’, 1954) is a collection of short stories about a lonely soldier wandering on both sides of the lines. More…