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||Johannes Linnankoski (1869-1913) - pseudonym for Johannes Vihtori Peltonen|
Finnish novelist, playwright, and journalist, one of the most prominent figures in the language campaign of the mid-1905, during which some 100 000 people changed their surname into Finnish. Linnankoski's internationally best-known work is Laulu tulipunaisesta kukasta (1905, The Song of the Blood-Red Flower). It has been adapted into screen several times. Linnankoski's central themes, love for freedom and love for countryside, honest work, manly responsibility and high ethical principles were also prominent in his non-fiction, written as popular education for farmers.
"He drew closer to her side, and tried to fasten the red flowers at her breast. But as he bent down, his hair touched hers. He felt it first as a soft, secret caress, hardly daring to believe it, then it was like a burning current through his body, that stayed tingling like fire in his veins. His breath seemed to choke him, his heart felt as if it would burst. Passionately he threw his arms about her and held her close." (from The Song of the Blood-Red Flower)
Johannes Linnankoski was born Johannes Vihtori Peltonen in Askola, the youngest child of Juho Henrikinpoika Peltonen and Maria Juhontytär Peltonen. His father was a tenant farmer, who drank much of the family's income. Maria was religious and practical housewife, who became very close to the young Johannes. The Bible was important for both of the parents, and later Linnankoski used its motifs in several works. At school he was a good student and published his first writing in the newpaper Suometar at the age of 18. He had started to write poems some years earlier, and composed two unpublished novels under the influence of Aleksis Kivi, Juhani Aho, and Pietari Päivärinta.
In his youth Linnankoski worked on a building site and as a log floater. Like the older writer Minna Canth, he studied in Jyväskylä at the Teacher's College. After conflicts with teachers – drinking was one of the problems – Linnankoski left the college in 1889 and found employment as a journalist for Keski-Suomi for some months. Upon falling in love with the wife of his friend, he wrote the unfinished short story 'Kosto'. Later he returned to some of its themes in the novel Laulu tulipunaisesta kukasta. In 1891, he moved to Porvoo, where he worked for the publishing house Werner Söderström. After two year's military service, he was appointed chief editor of the newly founded newspaper Uusimaa in Porvoo, Runeberg's hometown. In his articles he defended the rights of tenant farmers which was angrily noted by the owners of large farms and estates, who "owned" tenants.
In 1899, Linnankoski suddenly resingned from his post. He married in
the same year Ester Josefina Drugg; they had four children. Dugg was a
Swedish language teacher, and an active defender of women's rights.
Linnankoski moved with her to Karinais, where he devoted himself
entirely to writing. During these years he first earned living by
translation works, in which he was helped by his wife. He also
published such booklets as Asutus- ja rakennusjärjestelmä maaseudulla (1900), dealing with the policy of settlement in the countryside, and Puhetaito
(1901), about rhetoric. From Karinais the Linnankoskis moved to
Alapitkä in the Northern Savo, where he hoped to find complete peace
for his writing.
Linnankoski took very seriously his humanistic self-education to become a writer – he had a list of four-hundred literary masterpieces, which he read in Finnish and in Swedish and German translations. Unto Kupiainen has said, that in the Finnish literature history, there has been only two completely humourless writers, Pietari Päivärinta and Johannes Linnankoski.
During this period he wrote his first major play Ikuinen taistelu
(1903), about the search for the unknown. It came out under the pseudonym Johannes Linnankoski – the
author took the name from small rapids in his home region. This solemn drama, influenced, among others, by Milton and Byron, was based on Cain
and Abel story. Linnnankoski had read Byron's Cain
(1821) in German, translated by Adolf Seubert, but whereas Byron's
protagonist is a philosopher and wanderer, Linnankoski portrays his
Kain as a man of practice.
The work gained a huge success and received the Finnish Literature Associaton Award. As a drama it was too large for small theaters and the public was not interested. Ikuinen taistelu was performed in full-length first time in Tampere in 1909 and then in Helsinki. Linnankoski's romantic pseudonym stirred much curiosity, and helped to created extra interest around the text.
The Linnankoskis moved in 1903 to Koski in the Western Finland. After years of unsettled life, they found a permanent home in Askola. As a novelist Linnankoski made his debut in 1905 with The Song of the Blood-Red Flower, a lyrical Don Juan adaptation on the amorous adventures of a lumberjack, Olavi, who finally must take responsibility of his life. Along with a group of loggers he goes down the river from girl to girl, until he returns to start a family with Kyllikki. Thanks to its operetta-like plot, colorful style, and its carefree hero – the achetype of the later lumberjack heroes of Finnish films – the work gained great success, also as a Swedish movie version directed by Mauritz Stiller; it has been translated into 19 languages, Czech, Slovak, and Latvian included. Because Linnankoski's book contained a couple of stories published before under the name Vihtori Peltonen, his pseudonym was eventually revealed to the wider public.
In the late 1905, during a large wave of strikes and and political
crisis, Linnankoski tried to mediate between different parties with
such writings as Kuinka Suomea rakennetaan (1905), and Kirot (1907),
a minor allegorical play about the struggle against Russification in
Finland. For a short time he considered himself "almost Socialist", but
in 1907 predicted that "there will be time we have to fight for
individualism against Socialism." With the help of a grant from WSOY,
he traveled in 1908 widely in Europe. Continuing his self education, he
visited sights which he had only seen in books and pictures. Deeply
impressed by the Milan Cathedral, he played with the idea fiction with
a similar grand design.
The novel Pakolaiset
(1908) was based on a family tragedy he had witnessed in the
Northern Savo. His later plays, Simson ja Delila (1911) and Jeftan tytär (1911, Jephta's Daughter), never gained a great success – Jephta's Daughter was
short and suitable only as a part of larger program. Linnankoski's career as a
full-time writer spanned ten years. His last work was Sirpaleita
(1913), a collection of short stories. He died at the age of 44 in
Helsinki, on August 10, 1913. He had suffered from ill health for
years; anemia made him tired and he did not have enough strength to
start his novel, entitled Kolme Yrjöä, a story about three brothers; the protagonist would echo the struggles and aspirations of the writer himself.
"Ei kylmiä neron näytteitä, vaan lämmintä elämää: raivota poeettisesti, haaveilla meloodisesti, kylpeä päivänpaisteessa, kuulla ruohon kasvavan, ymmärtää lintujen kieltä jne." (from Linnankoski's notebook 'Vähä katkismus')
Linnankoski's other major works include the short story Taistelu Heikkilän talosta (1907), in which the wife of a drunkard beats her husband with a leather strap, and Pakolaiset, about an old peasant, who marries a much younger girl and finds that she is pregnant for another man. The title of the novel "the refugees" or "the runaways", do not refer to political refugees, but to an attempt to escape moral responsibility. Nowadays the short story 'Hilja, maitotyttö' (1920) is remembered for its screen adaptation from 1953, starring the voluptuous young Anneli Sauli; she was discovered by the producer and director Toivo Särkkä, who clearly understood that her naked scenes, which had little to do with the original story, would create a sensation. Linnankoski translated several books into Finnish from a great variety of fields (sexual education, folk education, agriculture, war history, botany, preservation of game etc.).
For further reading: 'Muuan Johannes Linnankosken nuoruudenruno' by Ester Linnankoski, in Kuinka meistä tuli kirjailijoita (1916); Johannes Linnankoski by Werner Söderhjelm (1918); Johannes Linnankosken 'Ikuinen taistelu' by Aarne Anttila (1922); Vihtori Peltonen - Johannes Linnankoski I-II by Aarne Anttila (1921-1927); Tutkimus Johannes Linnankosken 'Pakolaisten' tyylistä by Leevi Valkama (1957); 'Johannes Linnankoski' by Kerttu Saarenheimo, in Valitut teokset by Johannes Linnankosk (1973); A History of Finnish Literature by Jaakko Ahokas (1973); Elämän tulipunakukka by Leevi Mäittälä (1979); 'Johannes Linnankoski' by Panu Rajala, in Johanns Linnankoski, Kodin suuret klassikot (1987); A History of Finland's Literature, ed. by George C. Schoolfield (1998); Haltiakuusen alla: suomalaisia kirjailijakoteja by Anne Helttunen, Annamari Saure (2012) - Note: Linnankoski Award, founded in 1942. Linnankoski's statue, by the sculptor Kalervo Kallio, is situated in Porvoo