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Larin-Kyösti (1873-1948) - pseudonym of Karl Gustaf Larson; Kaarlo Kyösti Larson

 

Finnish writer, who gained fame with his ballads and humorous folk-song-alike poems, such as 'Heilani on kuin helluntai,' 'Soitin pillillä' and 'Tuulan tei'. As a poet Larin-Kyösti was ambitious and productive, but he never had similar position in the consciousness of people as his friend Eino Leino (1878-1926) had. Between 1897 and 1924, he published forty volumes, mostly verse. Today, some of Larin-Kyösti's most loved poems are often mistaken for Finnish folk songs.

Do not ever feel any sorrow, loved one,
If we empty-handed must marry!
Even a poor man's field will grow by digging
And his grain to sprout will not tarry.

(from 'My Love Is Like the Whitsuntiede')

Karl Gustaf Larson (Larin-Kyösti) was born in Hämeenlinna, the son of Gustaf Israel Larson, a restaurateur, and Sofia Vilhelmina Skog. His parents were Swedish immigrants but Larin-Kyösti grew up in Finnish surrounding and adopted Finnish for his language. However, the influence of the Swedish poets, Bellman – especially in the early poems – and Gustaf Fröding, is seen in Larin-Kyösti's work. With Eino Leino, he shared enthusiasm for neoromantic themes and motifs.

In his childhood Larin-Kyösti's favorite books included Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Alexandre Dumas's Three Musketeers, and selected stories from The One Thousand and One Night. His father, who was an amateur ventriloquist and had artistic talent, committed suicide in 1884 –  his gambling debts had got him into trouble and he eventually he cut his wrists with a piece of mirror. When recalling his early years, Larin-Kyösti spoke lovingly of his father, from whom he had inherited an interest in music. Larin-Kyösti's mother continued to take care of the family business.

While studying at the Hämeenlinna Lyceum, Larin-Kyösti became friends with Eino Leino, who was five years his junior, but a precocious poet. Together they wrote and discussed poetry, drank wine and punch, and eventually they both graduated in 1895, although Larin-Kyösti failed the mathematics exam. Throughout his time in school, he had problems with mathematics, and he had to repeat a year, a couple of times. After graduating, Larin-Kyösti and Leino went to Aulanko, where they rented a small room for the summer. Leino translated Runeberg while Larin-Kyösti amused himself by playing his five-string kantele.

Larin-Kyösti's first poems appeared the handwritten school papers Joci Baccalaureus and Vasama, and in the local newspaper Hämeen Sanomat. In his writing aspirations he was encouraged by the elder poet J.H. Erkko. With the help of Kasimir Leino (1866-1916), Eino Leino's brother, Larin-Kyösti debuted as a poet in 1897 with the collection Tän pojan kevätrallatuksia (This lad's spring-lilts). It gaind a huge success – the edition of 1,300 copies was sold out in a month, and Larin-Kyösti decided to devote himself entirely to writing. 

For his early collections, Larin-Kyösti found subjects from his childhood at the City of Hämeenlinna, Häme province, and from its villages. These works presented hims as a carefree vagabond, a singer of merry springtunes, but later, especially in his long narrative poems, the tone became more serious. During his Sturm und Drang years Larin-Kyösti travelled widely in Carelia and Lapland, producing from his experiences new collections of poems. Following a long bout of heavy drinking in 1904, Larin-Kyösti was hospitalized for a month.

In 1906, Larin-Kyösti went to Italy, and experienced a spiritual crisis, worsened by physical illness which required hospitalization. On the journey, he stabbed himself with a switchblade, and was sent to a asylum, first in Bologna, France, and then in Florence, Italy. When he was returning back to Finland, he tried to hang himself in a train toilet. Larin-Kyösti's depression was reflected in Vuorivaeltaja (1908), a collection of poems, and the symbolist drama Ad astra (1906), inspired by August Strindberg's A Dream Play (1902).

Noteworthy, Larin-Kyösti was one of the few people from Hämeenlinna, also Jean Sibelius' home town, with whom the composer kept in touch. But when Larin-Kyösti asked him to write music for Ad astra, Sibelius declined: "Have already read your work in Finnish and admire it. . . . But I can't write music for it. I am so preoccupied with other projects."

In Ad astra, the protagonist, Taituri, wavers between love and art, happiness to despair. Other character also change, and the logic of the play follows the logic of a dream. "Välitön laulaja oli Ad astrassa etsiytynyt korkeasti kirjalliselle ja myös ajankohtaiselle vuoritielle, joka sittenkään ei ollut hänen itsenäisin tiensä. Luuttu ja hanuri olivat hänen soittovälineitään, ei suuri urkumusiikki. Niitä hän käytti vaihtelevalla onnella pitkän ikänsä lopulle saakka." (Rafael Koskimies in Suomen kirjallisuus IV, 1965) Never a great success in Finland, the play was staged in 1937 at the Hungarian National Theatre (Nemzeti Színház) in Budapest. Larin-Kyösti sent the English translation to Somerset Maugham, who replied with a letter saying, he read the play "with great interest," but suggested that it should be "rewritten by someone who understood naturalistic dialogue".

When Maila Talvio created at her home on the Eläintarhantie in Helsinki a literary salon, Larin-Kyösti frequented it, along with the Leino brothers, J.H. Erkko, Ilmari Kianto, L. Onerva, Otto Manninen, and many young radicals of the time. In addition, he was often seen sitting at Bronda, a popular gathering place for artists, writers, and musicians, but by the 1920s he had moved out of his bohemian lifestyle, and turned into a "petty-bourgeois penny pincher", as his friend Arvi Kivimaa said. He remained a bachelor throughout his life, but he was much admired by the ladies. Between 1919 and 1920 he corresponded with the Norwegian writer Katharina Gjesdahl, who he had met at a writers' congress in Copenhagen.

Larin-Kyösti's writing was inspired by his love for the old world and its forms of poetry. Ballaadeja ja muita runoja (1913, Ballads and other poems), which contains also a poem situated in Spain, 'The Last of the Moors,' and Korpinäkyjä I-II (1915, 1917, Visions of the wilds), which Eino Leino regarded as his most mature work, brought to his lyrics romantic visions, fairies, elfs and the mysticism of ancient times. Some examples of these are 'Filippo Lippi ja Lucrezia Buti,' 'Kuisma ja Helinä,' and 'Korven kosto'.

Tein minä pajusta hilpeän huilun,
mut en ääntä ma siihen saanut;
aattelin: ei ole onneni haltia
soittajan lahjoja mulle jaannut,
ja ma kaikille huilua näytin.
(from 'Itkevä huilu', in Kellastuneita lehtiä, 1903)

In total, Larin-Kyösti published some 50 books, novels, short stories, poems, song lyrics, music plays as Ulkosaarelaiset (1922, Outer islanders), memoirs, and translated into Finnish works by Gustaf Fröding and Strindberg. Ulkosaarelaiset was adapted to screen in 1938, but it did not receive good reviews and its film and sound material has been destroyed. Two volumes of his collected poems Larin-Kyösti edited by himself. He had the habit of making changes in his poems, but he rejected J.P. Hannikainen's immensely popular choir adaptation of 'Kevätsointuja' (original title: 'Keväisiä sointuja 2', from Kulkurin lauluja, 1899). Hannikainen modified the lyrics without Larin-Kyösti's permission, and he never reprinted the song version in any of his volumes of collected verse.  

During his career Larin-Kyösti became one of the best-known ballad poets. The critic and scholar Rafael Koskimies considered him a collector whose affections are guided by some kind of blind instinct (Koskimies in Suomalaisia kirjailijoita XX vuosisadan alussa, 1927).  His poems have been set to music by Leevi Madetoja ('Hämärän ääniä,' 'Kehtolaulu,' 'Itkisit joskus illoin', etc.), Oskar Merikanto ('Reppurin laulu,' 'Itkevä huilu,' 'Kevätsointuja', etc.), Erkki Melakoski ('Kulkurin kannel,' 'Suvisia suruja', etc.), Jean Sibelius ('Humoreski,' 'Ne pitkän matkan kulkijat'), and other composers. Vesa-Matti Loiri's version of 'Itkevä huilu' (I made a willow whistle), recorded in 1971, has remained an evergreen. Other interpreters of the songs include Mauno Kuusisto, Jorma Hynninen, Matti Tuloisela, Martti Talvela, Kim Borg, Matti Salminen, Tauno Palo, and Tapani Kansa.

In 1912, Larin-Kyösti moved to Oulunkylä (now part of Helsinki), where he lived in a shabby house on the Jokiniementie for the rest of his life, mostly alone, although for some time the writer, lyricist and entertainer Tatu Pekkarinen (1892-1951) and his wife rented the downstairs. After the Finnish Civil War, Larin-Kyösti published six books in a two years period. In the 1920s, he travelled in France, Estonia, and Hungary, and had his poems translated into several European languages, but his tendency to promote himself as an international writer was criticized by his colleagues. However, he was appointed member of Petöfi Association and vice president of the International Mark Twain Society. The Austrian author Stefan Zweig answered him emphatically in 1933, that it was difficult to promote foreign literature in the German-speaking world because of the politically oppressive atmosphere. At the upper levels of the Finnish literary elite Larin-Kyösti's work was ignored. Only three persons paid a visit to him in Oulunkylä, when he celebrated his 50th birthday. In 1925, he was granted a state writer's pension. Larin-Kyösti became a member of the Europäische Schriftsteller-Vereinigung (European Writers' Union) in 1942; the organization was Nazi-dominated. Basically both a romantic troubadour (as Eino Leino  defined him) and a pragmatist cosmopolitian, Larin-Kyösti was more motivated by financial than political considerations.

Eino Leino once wrote that Larin-Kyösti is "one of our most independent and original poets, maybe because of that he has been always a little bit apart, somewhat an outsider" (Sunnuntai, April 9, 1916). The poet's sympathy for marginalized groups is seen in his erotic novella Ilotyttö (1919), about a servant girl drawn into prostitution. At Eino Leino's funeral in Helsinki in January 1926, Larin-Kyösti was one of the coffin bearers together with Viljo Tarkiainen, Santeri Ivalo, Otto Manninen, Huugo Jalkanen, Joel Lehtonen, and V.J. Lehtonen.

Larin-Kyösti died in Oulunkylä on December 2, 1948. When he was still at the height of his literary powers, he wrote in Juvenilia (1927), his book of memoir, that the face of death is gentle, like the face of an old doctor, but the face of life can be hard – like sphinx's face. Larin-Kyösti Association was founded in September 1952 in Hämeenlinna. Since Larin-Kyösti had no heirs, he bequeathed his house with its estate to the Union of Finnish Writers, in which he was an active member.

For further reading: 'Nuoruuden muistoja' by Larin Kyösti, in Kuinka meistä tuli kirjailijoita: suomalaisten kirjailijoiden nuoruudenmuistelmia (1916): Suomalaisia kirjailijoita XX vuosisadan alussa by Rafael Koskimies (1927); Larin Kyösti hämäläiskylien runoilijana by Eino Salokas (1943); Aleksis Kivestä Saima Harmajaan: suomalaisten kirjailijain elämäkertoja, ed. by Albin Ahonen, Martti Haavio, V.I. Mikkonen (1943); Voices from Finland, ed. by Elli Tompuri (1947); A History of Finnish Literature by Jaakko Ahokas (1973); 'Larin-Kyöstin elämäntavoite' in Kasvoja valonhämystä by Arvi Kivimaaa (1974); Kirjailijain kynänjälkiä, ed. by Juhani Niemi (1976); 'Larin Kyösti' by Eino Leino, in Suomalaisia kirjailijoita: pikakuvia (1983); Suomalaisia kirjailijoita: Jöns Buddesta Hannu Ahoon by Lasse Koskela (1990); Larin-Kyöstin Hämeenlinna, ed. by Reima T.A. Luoto (2013); Larin Kyösti: kansanlaulaja ja kosmopolitti by Juhani Niemi (2016). See also forewords by Vilho Suomi for the collections Huilu ja kitara (1946), Unta ja elämää (1948), Maassa ja tähdissä (1959)

Selected works:

  • Tän pojan kevätrallatuksia, 1897
  • Kylän lauluja, 1898
  • Kulkurin lauluja, 1899
  • Ajan käänteessä: isänmaallisia runoja sekä ballaadeja, 1899
  • Kyläisiä lauluja. 1, 1900 
  • Juhannustulilla: laulunsekainen kansanpila, 1900
  • Etsijän tarina, 1901
  • Unta ja totta, 1901
  • Kuisma ja Helinä, 1902
    - films: 1932, directed by Kalle Kaarna, screenplay by Katri Viita; starring Iris Knape-Jäderholm, Tauno Brännäs, Kaarlo Kytö, Hannes Närhi; 1951, directed by Ilmari Unho, starring Kalervo Nissilä, Elina Pohjanpää, Uljas Kandolin (based on Larin-Kyösti's poem and Väinö Syvänne's play Kuisma ja Helinä from 1931) 
  • Tuhkimo ja kuninkaantytär: nelinäytöksinen satuseikkailu, 1903
    - Askepilt och prinsessan (övers. av Ragnar Ekelund, 1916)
  • Per August Leonard Hallström: Jalokivikoriste sekä muita kertomuksia, 1903  (translator)
  • Kellastuneita lehtiä, 1903
  • Herra valtuusmies: kaksinäytöksinen huvinäytelmä, 1904
  • Musta hepo: kertova saaristolaisrunoelma, 1904
  • Leipä ja laulu: kokoelma kertomuksia ja taruja, 1905
  • Meren maininkeja, 1905
  • As astra: yömaalarin unelma seitsemässä kuvaelmassa, 1906
    En nattmålares dröm i sex tablåer (övers. av Holger Nohrström, 1911)
    - Astra: A Night-Painter's Dream in Six Tableaux (translated from the Swedish edition by Anna Krook, 1933)
  • Särkynyt sävel, 1906
  • August Strindberg: Vieroksuttu, 1906 (translator)
  • Lemminkäinen: viisinäytöksinen näytelmä, 1907
  • August Strindberg: Vaiheita, 1907 (translator)
  • Aarteenkaivajat: kolminäytöksinen hölmöläiskomedia, 1908
  • Ludvig Holberg: Valtioviisas kannunvalaja, 1908 (translator)
  • Ludvig Holberg: Talonpoika satimessa, 1908 (translator)
  • Gustaf Fröding: Runoja ja murrejuttuja, 1908  (translator)
  • Dikter af Larin Kyösti, 1908 (öfversatta af Gunnar Castrén, Dagmar Forstén, Bertel Gripenberg, Rafael Lindqvist, Wilhelm Lundström, Arvid Mörne och Jacob Tegengren)
  • Vuorivaeltaja: kokoelma runoja, 1908
  • Aslak Hetta: kertova lappalaisrunoelma, 1909
  •  J. A. Friis: Lappalaisia satuja, 1910 (translator)
  • Katupeilin kuvia: kertomuksia ja kuvauksia, 1910
  • Oli kerran: satuja nuorille ja aikuisille, 1911
  • August Strindberg: Keikari sekä muita kertomuksia, 1911 (translator)
  • Lauluja vanhasta kaupungista: kokoelma runoja, 1912
  • Tapiolassa: satukuvaelma, 1912
  • August Strindberg: Satuja, 1912  (translator)
  • Balladeja ja muita runoja, 1913
  • Valittuja runoja, 1913   
  • Sällin selkkauksia: yksinäytöksinen pila, 1914
  • H.C. Andersen: Kuvaton kuvakirja, 1915 (translator)
  • Sanning och sägen: berättelser och sagor, 1916 (övers. från finskan av Sven Karlén)
  • Lausujan runokirja: valikoima runoja, 1916 (edited by Larin-Kyösti) 
  • Sydänpäivän lauluja, 1916
  • Taikapeili: nelinäytöksinen satunäytelmä, 1916
  • Korpinäkyjä 1-2, 1915-17
  • Ilja munkki: karjalainen legenda, 1917
  • Tarutarha, 1918
  • Jouluyön tarina, 1918
  • Taiston tiellä: runoja vaino- ja kumousvuosilta, 1918
  • Ilotyttö: tarina laitakaupungilta, 1919 (republished in 2015) 
  • Lauluja rakkaudesta, 1919
  • August Strindberg: Saaristolaiselämää, 1919 (translator)
  • Salon soittaja, 1919
  • Iloisia helkkeitä: runovalikoima, 1920
  • Kohotettu keihäs: vapausrunoja, 1921
  • Pilan pippuria ja ivan suolaa: kokoelma kompia, 1921
  • Mere äärillä, 1921
  • Ulkosaarelaiset: kolminäytöksinen saaristolaishuvinäytelmä lauluineen ja kisoineen, 1922
    - film 1938, dir. by Kalle Kaarna, starring Santeri Karilo, Maisu Fredman, Irja Simola, music by Tapio Ilomäki. "Tapio Ilomäki saattoi olla varma tutun, kansanomaisen musiikkinsa menestyksestä, mutta sittenkin Ulkosaarelaiset on jäänyt monessa suhteessa ikäänkuin keskeneräiseksi. Syynä lienee se, että ohjaajalla ei ole ollut juuri nimeksikään tukea näyttelijöistä." (S.S. in Uusi Suomi)
  • Karjalan vartiohuuto, 1922
  • Valittuja runoja 1-2, 1913-23 (edited by Larin-Kyösti) 
  • Valitut kertomukset, 1924
  • Vaeltava teini: kertomarunoja, 1924
  • Kruunun perämies: saaristolaiskertomuksia, 1926
  • Juvenilia: nuoren teinin ja runoniekan muistelmia, 1927
  • Runovalikoima, 1929 (kouluja varten valikoinut Eino Cederberg)
  • Turun teinejä: vallaton vaellusvirsi beaaneista, ribaldeista ja riiviöistä, 1931
  • A Short Story and a Poem, by the Finnish Dunsany, Larin-Kyösti, with a Brief Biographical Essay by Cyril Clemens, 1932 (translated by C. D. Lockock & Friidi Hedman; published by the International Mark Twain Society)
  • Uusia balladeja ja legendoja: lausuntarunoja, 1934
  • Kotoisilta kujilta: muistelmakuvauksia, 1934
  • Meri soittaa..., 1937
  • Northern Lights: A Collection of Short Stories by Larin-Kyösti, 1937 (translated by Alex Matson and Valfrid Hedman)
  • Tapani Löfing, 1937
  • Tuuliajolla: saaristolaisromaani, 1940
  • Beata-rouvan kilvoitus: sukukartanoromaani, 1944
  • The Kantele: Selection of His Poems, 1945 (transl. by E. Horward Harris and Aulis Nopsanen)
  • Huilu ja kitara: valikoima runoutta, 1946 (foreword by Vilho Suomi)
  • Lausujan runoja, 1948 (edited by Terttu Pajunen-Kivikäs)
  • Unta ja elämää: valikoima kertomuksia, 1948 (foreword by Vilho Suomi)
  • Maassa ja tähdissä: valikoima näytelmiä, 1950 (foreword by Vilho Suomi)
  • Valitut teokset 1-3, 1950
  • Larin Kyöstin kauneimmat runot, 1961 (edited by Eino Kauppinen ja Sirkka Rapola)
  • Ota sun kaunis kantelees: valitut runot 1897-1946, 1985 (edited by Helena Anhava)
  • Lapin joulu, 1996 (illustrated by Erkki Hiilivirta)
  • Lauloi lappi lapsellensa, 2004 (illustrated by Erkki Hiilivirta)
  • Ilotyttö: tarina laitakaupungilta, 2015 (ed. by Juri Nummelin)


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