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||Pentti Haanpää (1905-1955)|
Finnish novelist, a masterful short story writer, whose anti-militarism and Marxists leanings in the 1920s and 1930s were not received with enthusiasm by leading right wing critics. Haanpää's first works gained wide notice, but his most impressive books waited for publication over twenty years, among them Noitaympyrä (1956), in which the protagonist chooses Communism instead of Western democracy, and Vääpeli Sadon tapaus (1956), a bitter criticism of the army life and brutality. Haanpää created his literary reputation chiefly with his short stories, of which he published twelve collections.
"It was here, on the margin of the now silent battlefield, when the dead were being recovered for burial, that Matti Leväinen met his brother Antti, a driver in the Transport Corps. And to Antti he confided the sad fact the he, Matti, did not feel that he was cut out for war. It suited only such people as wanted to die, and even for them it was not really satisfactory, the killing being done on such a haphazard way, and inartistically." (from 'At His Own Graveside,' 1946)
Pentti Haanpää was born at Pulkkila, approximately sixty miles southeast of Oulu, near the birthplace of Ilmari Kianto. His father, Mikko Haanpää, and grandfather, Juho Haanpää, who was a senator, were published writers. They both also were socially and politically active in their home region. Maria Susanna (Keckman) Haanpää, his mother, was born in Haapavesi; she came from a farmer family. The writer's relationship to his mother was very close, but she was sometimes offended with her son because he did not talk to her much about his creative work.
At school in Leskelä Haanpää was a good student, and the leader of his schoolmates. After finishing the elementary school, he began to contribute writings in 1921 to the magazine Pääskynen, At the same time, he was also very active in sports. In 1923 Haanpää joined the literary association Nuoren Voiman Liitto and continued to write for its magazine Nuori Voima.
Haanpää's first book, Maantietä pitkin (1925,
highway), appeared when he was 20. It was well received by critics, who
especially noted Haanpää's skillful use of language. A few years later
the story was translated into Swedish under the title Hemfolk och
After this successful debut, Haanpää decided to devote himself entirely
to writing. Before that, he served in the army in 1925-26, stationed at
Kiviniemi, about 70 kilometres east of Vyborg.
Tuuli käy heidän ylitseen, a collection of short
stories, came out in 1927. It was followed by Kenttä ja kasarmi (1928,
The drilled and the barracks), which portrayed the army as a closed
system, working under its own rules. Because Haanpää could not accept
the deletions his publisher WSOY had demanded, the work was issed by a
small social democratic publisher Kansanvalta. It was a success,
selling 6 500 copies, although many book shops did not place it
In the promilitary atmosphere of the time, the book generated
a heated discussion. Among the critics was Olavi
the spiritual leader of the new generation of writers, who had reviewed
Haanpää's debut novel earlier positively, and especially thanked his
straightforward and self-assured expression. Paavolainen knew Haanpää
well, and had drunk with him a couple of days in 1926. He argued,
that this collection of stories had not been written by the
writer and artist Pentti Haanpää, but the soldier Haanpää,
Pentti, a lumberjack in civilian life. It was "an intellectual
suicide." Many reviewers argued that Haanpää had written a tendency
novel. The condemnation was not unanimous. V.A. Koskenniemi, who
was one of the leading literature critics of the period, did not agree
with those who saw that Haanpää had disgraced the army. Koskenniemi
said, that the book gives much to think about the spirit of the army
and is not worthless even for a strong supporter of the military.
Kenttä ja kasarmi was the first work, in which Haanpää drew on his own unpleasant experiences in the army. Unable to adjust himself to military life, he felt that he had wasted a year in his life in "the straitjacket of a soldier." Haanpää's description of the brutal training methods and ugliness of the totalitarian system upset patriotic reviewers so that for the next seven years no publisher would touch Haanpää's manuscripts. As a reaction to the book, Mika Waltari published his positive reportage on the army in 1931 under the title Siellä missä miehiä tehdään. (Where men are made).
During this enforced silence in the 1930s, Haanpää wrote two controversial works. The socialistically orientated Noitaympyrä (Witch's circle), finished in the early 1930s but not published until 1956 (in the second volume of the collected works), examined the conflict between a misfit and his unbearable surroundings. At the end of the story Pate Teikka, the protagonist, makes his own choice and leaves Finland for unknown future – he walks over the border to the Soviet Union: whatever hardships there would be, they would be new. A Russian language edition of 15,000 copies was published in the Soviet Union in 1961.
The anti-militarist Vääpeli Sadon tapaus (The case of Sergeant-Major Sato), written after Noitaympyrä, dealt with the sadism of petty authority. The central characters are Simo Kärnä, a recruit and later corporal, and the psychopathic sergeant-major Sato, the embodiment of militarism, whose name obviously refers to sadism. After humiliations, Kärnä uses his intelligence and Sato's wife for his revenge, but eventually realizes that he has been as brutal as his enemy.
These controversial books did not appear until 1956. Haanpää's works from the 1930s include Isännät ja isäntien varjot (1935), Taivalvaaran näyttelijä (1938), and Ihmiselon karvas ihanuus (1939). Isännät ja isäntien varjot (Masters and masters' shadows) was published by Kirjailijain Kustannusliike, founded by Erkki Vala. The company was closely associated with the literary group Kiila (Wedge), whose members favored radical free verse and were more or less Marxists. Haanpää was among Kiila's best-known writers, along with such names as Arvo Turtiainen, Katri Vala, Viljo Kajava, and Elvi Sinervo.
Haanpää was never taught English at school, but he later took correspondence courses in English. At home he read the Observer and followed international trends in literature. Two of his short stories, which he wrote in the 1930s, 'Toverukset' and 'Juoppous,' were adaptions from James Joyce's Dubliners, 'Two Gallants' and 'Counterparts' respectively.
During the Winter War (1939-40) between Finland and the Soviet Union Haanpää served in the army. He was in the front line in Lapland, and once lost contact to his company and wandered alone in the wilderness, without sense of time or place. In 1940 he married on his leave Aili Karjalainen, a dairymaid, whom he had met in the late 1930s. His war experiences Haanpää utilized among others in the story 'Sallimuksen sormi,' in which a tired company, quartered in a church, is attacked by enemy airplanes.
In the Continuation War (1941-44) Haanpää was in the service
troops in the Kiestinki and Untua area. Haanpää's war novel Korpisotaa
(1940, Wilderness war) was translated into French under the title Guerre
dans le désert blanc
by M. Aurelien Sauvageot. The Austrian publishing company Karl H.
Bischoff Verlag also planned to translate the work; one of Haanpää's
short stories, 'Siipirikko', had already appeared in the German
magazine Das Reich. However, German publishers did not consider Haanpää's novel encouraging
enough for the war effort.
Korpisotaa, told from the viewpoint of ordinary Finnish soldiers, presents almost a documentary picture of the Winter War. Much of the story is narrated from omniscient perspective, and lacks a detectable main character. There
are only two fully formed characters who are given more than a brief
passing mention in the text, private Puumi and a young second
Nykyaikaa (1942, Modern times), a collection of short stories, reflected Haanpää's bitterness and disillusionment. After the wars Haanpää produced some of his best works, among them Yhdeksän miehen saappaat (1945, The boots of the nine), a war novel, in which the same pair of boots passes from one trooper to another, and Jauhot (1949, Flour), based on a historical event, when peasants seized a government granary during the great famine of 1867-68. Haanpää's journey in 1953 to China with a delegation of Finnish writers inspired Kiinalaiset jutut (1954, Chinese tales). Although Haanpää had earlier condemned restrictions on free speech in the Soviet Union, he kept silent on this matter in his book on China, but admired the spirit of change, which had seized the country. "Kiinanmaassa tuoksahti joku merkillinen muuttumisen, uudistumisen ja kasvamisen ihme. Se oli jotakin ainutlaatuista ja muukalainen ei hevillä saane siitä täyttä käsitystä. Aavisteli, että kiinalaiset itse ällistelivät muuttuvaa maataan ja muuttuvaa elämäänsä ja kutsuivat siitä syystä ihmisiä maapallon toiselta puolelta näkemään, mitä heille tapahtui..." (from Kiinalaiset jutut). Atomintutkija (1950, Atom researcher) received good reviews by the right-wing columnist and critic Kauko Kare in the journal Suomalainen Suomi.
Haanpää drowned on a fishing trip on September 30, 1955, two
weeks before his 50th birthday. His last novel, Puut,
about a socialist who becomes a non-socialist, was left
unfinished. Kauneuden kirous
(The curse of the beauty),
reflecting postwar disillusionment, did not appear until 2015, but some
parts of the novel Haanpää published as short stories. The protagonist,
Anna Ansala, is an ambitious, beautiful woman who won't stop until she
has all that she dreams of. At the end, all her beauty has vanished and
she dies penniless and alone. The story was suggested by Haanpää's
Haanpää's collected works in ten volumes came out in 1956-58. The author's notes from 1925 to 1939 were published in 1976 under the title Muistiinmerkintöjä. Taivalvaaran näyttelijä (The actor from Taivalvaara) was reprinted in 1997. 'Haanpää monument' (1996), made by the sculptor Tapio Junno, is situated in Leskelä, Piippola.
"Nykyinen Haanpää on kylläkin syventynyt ihmisten ja heidän elämänasenteidensa ymmärtäjänä. Mutta tuohon aitouden ja epäaitouden kritiikkiin, tuohon olojen arviointiin, jota hänen uudet romaaninsa tarjoilevat liittyy silti tuskallisen "vieras" sivumaku... Onko niin, että tämä luomistahtoinen kuvaaja ei ole vielä täysin vapautunut henkisestä lähtökohdastaan, vaan ajattelee niin sanoakseni korven ja kaupungin välimailla? Haanpään yhteiskunnallinen ajattelu on kaikeassa kirpeässä radikaalisuudessaan hieman puolitiehen pysähtynyttä - hyökkäävästä tendenssistä sitä ei nykyisiellään tosiaankaan sovi syyttää!" (Erki Vala in the journal Suomalainen Suomi, 1939/1)
"Kirjailijalta ilmeisesti puuttuu varsinainen taiteellinen lahjakkuus. Kirjailijaluonteeltaan hän on "märkähattu karjapaimen", joka ampuu kyitä ihmisiä kohti siksi, ettei yhteiskunta ole muka "kutsunut häntä häihin". Jos kirjailija Haanpään kyky esiintyy parhaimmillaan tällaisissa tuotteissa, en epäile sanoa rehellisen työkalun sopivan hänen käteensä paremmin kuin kynä." (from Eino Railo's critic about Taivalvaaran näyttelijä in the newspaper Uusi Suomi)
Haanpää's short stories are populated with unforgettable characters, his use of language is full of nuances and insightful observations – it has been said, that Haanpää used the largest vocabulary of any Finnish author (if Kalle Päätalo, another writer from the North, is not counted). Disillusion and pessimism dominates most of his works, but they are also sprinkled with harsh humor. Haanpää's favorite character was the archetypal Finnish folk hero, "tukkijätkä" (the lumberjack), whose free, but hard life, and close contact to the forces of nature, gave inspiration to several of his stories. Although the author recognized totalitarian tendencies in socialism, he did not change his views even after the Continuation War. And the question about freedom of speech did not bother him much while travelling in China.
For further reading: Pentti Haanpää I. Nuori Pentti Haanpää 1905-1930 by Eino Kauppinen (1966); A History of Finnish Literature by J. Ahokas (1973); Haanpään pitkät varjot by Aarne Kinnunen (1982); Haanpään elämä by Vesa Karonen (1985); A Way to Measure Time, ed. by Bo Carpelan et al. (1992); Kaksisuuntaiset silmät by Kari Sallamaa (1996); Leipää huudamme ja kiviä annetaan by Juhani Koivisto (1999); Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, vol. 2, ed. by Steven R. Serafin (1999); Inescapable Horizon: Culture and Context, edited by Sirpa Leppänen and Joel Kuortti (2000); Haanpään siivellä: kirjoituksia by Esko Viirret (2005); Pentti Haanpään tarina by Matti Salminen (2013); Sota Kentästä ja kasarmista by Anssi Sinnemäki (2014) - See: Kalle Päätalo, who admired Haanpää's works and also depicted in his books lumberjacks and the way of life in the Northern part of Finland.