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||Hannu Niklander (b. 1951)|
Finnish poet, short story writer, critic,
and essayist, whose style is marked by irony and subtle humour.
Niklander has also worked as a creative writing teacher and edited
several anthologies of works of aspiring writers. In his short stories
he has depicted modern day country life and everyday misfortunes that
turn out to be more or less prosperous. As a travel essayist, his work display a keen eye for cultural and historical detail.
A white night sky,
Hannu Niklander was born in Helsinki. His father, Veijo Kaarlo
Niklander, was a manager of an estate and mother, Maija-Liisa
(Suomalainen) Niklander, a nurse. At an early age, Niklander developed
a love for opera. His father took him to see Leevi Madetoja's opera Pohjalaisia, and a year later he saw Charles Gounod's Faust. Among Niklander favorite composers are Puccini and Tchaikovsky.
As a poet Niklander made his debut with Kotiinpäin (Homeward bound), which came out in 1974. It was followed by Maakuntalaulu (Provincial song) in 1979. Before becoming a full-time writer, Niklander studied at the University of Helsinki, receiving his M.A. in 1983.
Niklander has published critics in several newspapers, among others in Länsi-Uusimaa, Porvoon Seutu, Helsingin Sanomat, Etelä-Suomen Sanomat, Suomenmaa and other papers. He has contributed to such publications as Kirjastolehti, Suomen Luonto, Parnasso, Finland's most importanant literary journal, Kanava, a highly influential socio-political discussion forum, and Kaltio, a regional culture journal.
Since learning about de Gaulle's speech in Montreal ending
with the famous phrase "Vive le Québec! Vive le Québec libre!"
Niklander wanted to visit this French-speaking Canadian
province. From the 1980s Niklander, has traveled widely in three
continents, and written several travel essays and books. Among them are Tuokiokuvia Euroopasta
(1990) and Vaahteranlehti ja vaakunalilja (1996), in which the narrative voice is that of a lonely traveler, and Kolmelta mantereelta (2016), a collection of travel writings, in which Niklander is accompanied by his family.
Vaahteranlehti ja vaakunalilja
is based on Niklander's rail journeys in Canada
1991 and 1993. It combines personal observations and experiences with
wide knowledge of literature and culture of the past and present.
Among central themes are Canadian-Finns and French heritage of the
The writer linms in his humorous way also the nature and rail
transport. His literary voice is that of an outsider; Niklander often
shows interest in things and words that are out of date, but he doesn't
point of it. An observer by nature, he often finds himself in a
cafe or a train, continually collecting impressions about the world
around him. As a tourist he is genuinely interested in museums,
churches or other attractions. Many essays have a timeless
Niklander has seldom paid close attention to souvenirs, shopping centers, and stylish
restaurant dining. Along with Leif Salmén, he has kept alive the tradition
of literary travel essay in Finland, a small genre now almost extinct.
In 1999 Niklander received the State award for literature for
his novel Aurinko katsoo taakseen (1999),
with autobiographical elements. It is a tragi-comical story about a
father, who tries to find his self-respect from the liquor, and his
son, Hannu, who sees through his father's pitiful character. The third
person in the family drama is Hannu's mother, disappointed in her life.
Hannu, the narrator, grows in the milieu of military traditions,
operetta music, and sports, which are cherished by his father. But
these cultural settings form a more or less empty social facade.
Hannu's father has lost the bottom of his middle class life –
reflecting the intellectual and social period of transition in Finland
after the war. Hannu Waarala noted in his review of the book (Savon Sanomat, 21.10.1999),
that in his narration Niklander consciously rejects fashionable
literary trends, and approaches the modernist narration of the 1950s,
familiar from the works of Antti Hyry.
Radan varrella varjo (2003)
continued Niklander's autobiographical story, now set in the 1970s. The
young Hannu serves in the army and then attends a creative writing
course. He plans to become a writer. Again Niklander shows his skill in
extracting telling insights from small everyday details. The third
volume of the series, Kuu jättää
jäljen (2006), focuses on Hannu's studies at the University of
Helsinki and the years of left-wing radicalism. With Nuoriherra
(2019) Niklander enlarged the perspective of his family story. This
time the protagonist is his father, Weio, seaching his place in the
world after the Finnish civil war of 1918. Unobtrusively, the series
seems to be evolving into a micro history of Finland in the 20th
Leskimiehen kevät (2000) is a collection of short stories in which a piece of liver sausage becomes a symbol of class distinctions, the last words of a father to his daughter are about a Persian hooker, and a widowed man suspects that his wife was unfaithful. Niklander's humor is again gentle – he doesn't mock his characters but lets them keep their basic human dignity in spite of their follies. "Parhaimmillaan hänen novelleissaan tuntuvat ihmisen arkiset järistykset, jotka tunteiden avoimella asteikolla voivat yltää kauas, vaikka ulkopuoliset eivät niitä huomaisikaan." (Pertti Lassila in Helsingin Sanomat, 21.10.2000)
Niklander is married with Kirsti Salmi-Niklander, who has
studies on folk poetry. They live in Karkkila, a small town about 70
kilometers North-West from Helsinki. Hannu Niklander has also spend
long periods in Switzerland, Uppsala (Sweden), and Québec (Canada).
Luon katseen luoteeseen (2014) is a collection of travel essays about the Nordic countries. As in the previous books, Niklander draws attention to the small, concrete details of everyday life; he is overwhelmed by the amount of shoe horns available in his hotel in Spitsbergen, and while in Reykjavik he notices that the water has a strong sulphur smell; "it sticks on the hair and the clothes, it is the characteristic smell of Iceland." On the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, Niklander went again to Germany. While in Dresden, he was astonished how the rebuild Frauenkirche was "spotted like a Dalmatian dog": old fire-blackened stones had been incorporated into the fabric of the new church. ('Saksan radanvarsilta,' in Kulttuurivihkot 1/1918) - See also: other Finnish writers who have published travel books: Sakari Pälsi, Olavi Paavolainen, Pentti Saarikoski, Henrik Tikkanen, Antti Tuuri, Mika Waltari