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Jarno (Elisar) Pennanen (1906-1969)

 

Finnish writer, translator, and journalist, who founded and edited of the leftist magazine Kirjallisuuslehti (Literature Magazine). Pennanen was with Viljo Kajava and Arvo Turtiainen one of the most important writers, who emerged from the leftist or Marxist literary group called Kiila (Wedge) in the 1930s. Its members favored radical free verse. Their most significant influences from abroad were the Americans Walt Whitman, Edgar Lee Masters, and Carl Sandburg. Pennanen's poems were the least political in the group.

My word is powerless,
It can not change you,
Nor convert you.

(in 'Powerless')

Jarno Elisar Pennanen was born in Helsinki into a culture family. His mother was the author Ain'Elisabet Pennanen (1881-1945) and father the actor Aarne Orjatsalo (1883-1941).  From the beginning, their relationship was tumultuous, and refusing to marry Aarne, Ain'Elisabet brought up their son alone. After separation, they defamed each other in their books - Ain'Elisabet in "Voimaihmisiä" (1906) and Orjatsalo a year later in Viettelijä (1907). Between 1911 and 1918 she was married to Bruno Rolf. Their son Mirko was left to the care of his father. Pennanen's cousin was the future writer Eila Pennanen. When she was five, he played with her children's games; he was ten years older at that time. Later Pennanen claimed in his diary, that these fantasy plays had a secret erotic side. (Oidipus oli mies: psykohistoriallinen elämäkerta Eila Pennasesta vuoteen 1952 saakka by Saara Kesävuori, 2003, pp. 211-214)

In his youth Pennanen was a performer at civil guard ceremonies. After secondary school studies, he started his career as a journalist at the newspaper Aamulehti (1924, 1926-30). Pennanen also worked for Tampereen Sanomat (24-26), Uusi Suomi (1930-31), Suomen Sosialidemokraatti (1939-40), SNS-lehti (1945-47), Vapaa Sana (1948-49), Työkansan Sanomat (1951-52). He was the chief editor of Jokaviikko (1928), Kirjallisuuslehti (1932-38), financed by the Finnish Communist Party, Vapaa Sana (1953-56), Kansan Uutiset (1957), and Tilanne (1961-66), which openly criticized totalitarianism in leftist thinking. Pennanen emphasized that Tilanne was free from party politicial pressures. Rumors were spread that it was financed by the CIA created the Congress for Cultural Freedom, but the magazine was probably supported by SYT (Suomalaisen yhteiskunnan tuki), a foundation established by industrial employers' organizations.

In 1927, Pennanen married Irja Virta; they had four children. Inspired by the Clarté organization, he established in 1931 a radical Hiilet (Coals) association and was subsequently fired from his work at the right-wing newspaper Uusi Suomi. Before Hiilet started its activities, it was closed down by a court order. Pennanen's first poems appeared in 1932 in the magazine Kirjallisuuslehti, which also published writings by Katri Vala, Toivo Pekkanen, Iris Uurto, and Helvi Hämäläinen. Only four issues came out in 1933, ten in the next years and then 24. Pentti Haanpää, Elvi Sinervo, the Tapiovaara brothers and Arvo Turtiainen joined the editorial board in 1937.

Pennanen became a member of  the Finnish Communist Party  in 1934 – illegal at that time – and travelled in the same year in the Soviet Union. Considered a highly valuable member of the party, he did not participate in its illegal activities. As an author Pennanen made his debut with Rivit (1937), a collection of aphoristic poems. He joined in the same year the literary group Kiila. Rivit was written in Stockholm, Sweden, in the aftermath of an ideological crisis. Eventually Pennanen came to the conclusion that it was not his duty was to reject modernist art. Criticized by his comrades, his underground contacts with the communists gradually broke down. In Finland, he was one of the first to recognize the growing importance of Africa in world affairs.

During the Continuation War between Finland and the Soviet Union, Pennanen was jailed from 1943 to 1944 because of his leftist political activities. Pennanen later said, that in some respects, the prison was a nice place, because food was served regularly. From Helsinki he was transferred to Turku, where he could read and write.

In 1946, Pennanen married the writer Anja Vammelvuo (see below), who edited his children's book Kulunut kultaviitta (1971). After the war Pennanen published two collections of poems, personal and difficult works Jeremian murhe (1945) and  Tomun kimallus (1945), written while in prison. Both were well-received in the bourgeois newspapers, but reviewed with aloofness in the leftist papers. In Jeremian murhe Pennanen created an epic history, focusing on the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah: "In his own words the prophet is drowning – help, O, Lord."

As a correspondent to the Vapaa Sana, he reported in 1946 on the Nuremberg Trials. His writings from this period gave basis for his prose poems Lähettämättömiä kirjeitä (1947). It included unsend love letters to Elvi Sinervo, married with the politician Mauri Ryömä. In 1949-50 Pennanen directed nearly ten plays for Suomen Työväenteatteri (Finland's Workers' Theatre), among them Maxim Gorky's Mother. From 1957 to 1960 Pennanen worked in Moskow as a correspondent for the leftist newspaper Kansan Uutiset. Due to his critical views, he was forced to leave the Soviet Union before the end of his contract.

It is possible that Armas Äikiä, a hard-line communist who purued a Stalinist cultural policy,  was one of the initiators behind Boris Leontyev's attack on Pennanen in 1963 in Literaturnaya Gazeta, the mouthpiece of  the Union of Soviet Writers. Leontyev branded in his article Pennanen's Tilanne magazine as "dirty" and its contributors as "vile cowards". Pennanen was Kiila's board member at that time and Äikiä was from the beginning against Kiila's decision to write a letter in his defence. In addition, Äikiä did not support Pennanen's reelection to the board. Pennanen's daughter Raiku Kemppi was elected chairperson of Kiila in 1968. Pentti Saarikoski left the organization after losing to her by a few votes.

Besides poems Pennanen wrote a plays and aphorisms. His memoirs, Tervetultua tervemenoa (2 vols.), appeared posthumously in 1970. Pennanen died on July 24, 1969, in Viljakkala. His son Jotaarkka Pennanen became a writer, dramaturgist, and playwright.

Rivit jotka eivät puhu,
rivit jotka vaikenevat,
rivit, jotka mitään sanomatta
kulkevat eteenpäin.
Älkää katsoko rivejä
suurennuslasilla:
Mitä enemmän näette,
sen vähemmän näette.

(in Rivit, 1937)

ANJA VAMMELVUO (1921-1988) Finnish poet, critic, and novelist, born in Hausjärvi, the daughter of Aake Vammelvuo, a grocer, and Hulda Maria Selin. Vammelvuo was married to the writer Jarno Pennanen (1946-69) and participated with him in leftist literary and culture movements. After graduating from a secondary school in 11941, Vammelvuo worked as a publishing editor and critic, contributing to SNS-lehti, Vapaa Sana (later Kansan Uutiset). From 1957 to 1960 she lived in the Soviet Union. Her first collection of poems, Auringontytär, appeared in 1943. She also published short stories, plays and novels. She received the State literature prize in 1950, 1954, and 1971. Her play on the life of Aarne Orjatsalo, Tulee aika toinenkin (1983), was adapted to stage by Jotaakka Pennanen. Selected works: Auringontytär (1943); Muut ovat nuoria (1945); Muottiin tuntemattomaan (1946); Paratiisilintu ja muita novelleja (1946); Loistohuoneisto (1947); Viimeinen Kleopatra (1949); Rakkauskertomus (1953); Kukkia sylissäni (1954); Torpankirjat (1957); Kuuma, kylmä (1960); Valkoinen varis (1962); Integer vitae (1964); Valitut runot (1968), (1982); Lintu pieni (1970); Totuuden iskut (1973); Kuinka voitte? (1978); Tulee aika toinenkin (1983) 
For further reading: Voices from Finland, ed.  Elli Tompuri (1947); 'Jarno Pennanen,' in Miten kirjani ovat syntyneet, ed. Ritva Rainio (1969); Suomen kirjailijat 1917-1944, ed. Hannu Launonen et al. (1981); Kapinalliset kynät by Raoul Palmgren II-III (1984); A History of Finland's Literature, ed.  George C. Schoolfield (1998); 'Pennanen, Jarmo,' by Kalevi Kalemaa, in Suomen kansallisbiografia 7, ed.  Matti Klinge et al. (2006); Kiila 1936-2006 by Matti Rinne (2006)

Selected works:

  • Rivit, 1937
  • Työväenluokka, intelligenssi ja marxilaisuus, 1937
  • Elokuun päiviä, 1944
  • Tomun kimallus, 1945
  • Jeremian murhe: runosarja, 1945
  • Lähettämättömiä kirjeitä, 1947
  • Georg Kaiser: Juana, 1948 (radio play, translator)
  • Federico García Lorca: Rakkaus ja kuolema, 1956 (translator, with Kirsi Kunnas)
  • Vesillelasku: runoja ja mietteitä, 1960
  • Rómulo Gallegos: Donna Barbara, 1961 (translator)
  • Suloisessa Suomessamme, 1962 (play)
  • Sairaalapäiväkirja, 1965 (ed., with Unto Koistinen)
  • Rivit: kootut runot, 1966
  • Ain'Elisabeth Pennanen: Kaksi raukkaa: kahden runoilijan rakkaus, 1968 (ed.)
  • Tervetultua tervemenoa. Jarnon saaga. 1-2, 1970
  • Kulunut kultaviitta, 1971 (illustrated by Ulla Urkio, edited by  Anja Vammelvuo)
  • Orimattila 35, 1972 (tv play)
  • Kulunut kultaviitta, 2007 (illustrated by Onni Mansnerus)


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