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|Viljo (William) Tarkiainen (1879 - 1951) - also wrote as -nen, V.T.|
Finnish literature researcher and critic. Tarkiainen's major work from the 1910s was his study of the Finnish national writer Aleksis Kivi, in which he lay foundations for later research and deeper understanding of the author. His Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden historia (1934) was the first large scientific presentation of the history of Finnish literature. Between the years 1933 and 1943 he supervised the editing of Suomen kansalliskirjallisuus anthology (15 vols). Tarkiainen was married to the writer Maria Jotuni, whose novel Huojuva talo (1963, The swaying house) was a story of a marriage, in which the adulterous husband is a family tyrant, sadist, and egoist too. Due to his influence in literary circles and his support to his wife, Tarkiainen occasionally faced accusations of partiality.
"Viljo Tarkiainen saavutti lopulta hyvin dominoivan aseman tieteensä piirissä. Vaikka hän oli aloittanut radikaalina kirjallisuusmiehenä, jälkipolvi näki hänessä perinteisyyden ruumiillistuman. Myöhempi sukupolvi on siksi alkanut purkaa hänen oppirakennelmaansa, muttei ole vielä saanut sitä aivan hajalle. Syynä siihen, etteivät hänen tutkimustuloksensa ole luhistuneet, on ollut niiden varovainen ja kritiikkiä kestävä rakennustapa. Tarkiaisen työt ovatkin vanhentuneet enemmän hengeltään kuin niihin sisältyviltä tosiasioilta." (from Viljo Tarkiainen - suomalainen humanisti by Kari Tarkiainen, 1987)
William (Viljo, also called Viljam and Viljami) Tarkiainen was born in Juva, the son Jeremias Tarkiainen, a farmer, and Ulla Fredriikka (Pasanen) Tarkiainen. At the age of tree or four Tarkiainen learned to read – in this he was encouraged by his father who had in his bookshelves besides religious works Defoe's Robinson Crusoe in Finnish (Robin-poika Kruusen ihmeelliset elämänvaiheet). He also bought to his son an ABC book and gave him magazines to read. Jeremias Tarkiainen died in 1889. The young Viljam was taken care by his uncle; his mother remarried. During his school years at the Lyceum of Mikkeli Tarkiainen wrote short stories, essays, and poems for the school magazine Veikko. He graduated in 1897 and entered the University of Helsinki in the same year. Among his teachers was E.N. Setälä. His friends included Otto Manninen, and later when he gained fame as a critic, Teuvo Pakkala, Eino Leino, and Joel Lehtonen.
From 1899 to 1900 Tarkiainen collected folk poetry and dialect form his birth region and published the results in the study Äänneopillinen tutkimus Juvan murteesta (1903). In 1903 he received his M.A. From 1905 to 1918 he worked as a teacher and wrote in the 1910s for the newspapers Helsingin Sanomat and Uusi Suometar. He also contributed to the magazine Valvoja. When Setälä added his wife Helmi Setälä to its editorial staff, Tarkiainen had enough and suggested in 1907 to the poet and critic V.A. Koskenniemi the founding of a new journal. The plan never realized. In his notebook Tarkiainen wrote that Koskenniemi had a fierce temperament, a tendency to dominate the others, and to be always right. At that time he was still on good terms with Koskenniemi, but a certain kind of rivalry between them led to mutual distrust and hostility.
As a drama critic Tarkiainen was very active. In the 1910s he published some 400 writings, most of them dealing with theatre. Tarkiainen's sharp opinions stirred up controversy, but from the 1920 he started to focus more on his scientific work. As a literature critic Tarkiainen was considered radical. He didn't have many good words to say about contemporary Finnish writers, including the leading poet Eino Leino. Later Leino had his revenge, when Tarkiainen published an unlucky study dealing with Kalevala's women, Aino ja muut Kalevalan naiset (1911). "Unfortunately, I cannot recommend it to anybody, but downright consider it an offence against good taste," the malicious Leino wrote. Next year he compared Tarkiainen's penname "V.T." to "W.C." and Tarkiainen resigned from the Writers' Union.
Tarkiainen showed much interest in French literature. He admired Anatole France, and translated from French his short story 'Jenny' (1903) and in 1907 Alphonse Daudet's Lettres de mon moulin. After Tarkiainen had published several studies on literature, he received his Ph.D. in 1917. From 1913 to 1924 he was a lecturer at the University of Helsinki. As teacher Tarkainen was somewhat unorthodox – he could be carried away by his ideas, and make outspoken comments on writers he did not like at the moment. Politically he was a man of progressive ideas, a pacifist, who supported democracy in time when nationalism and totalitarian ideas spread in Europe.
In 1924 Tarkiainen was appointed professor of Finnish literature, retiring in 1946. Before the post was filled, his rival Gunnar Castrén had received more votes and he was appointed full professorship, but at same time a new chair, with the same name, was established for Tarkiainen. Noteworthy, Koskenniemi put him in the first place, though Tarkiainen announced that if Koskenniemi is asked to write a statement for the appointment committee, he will make an appeal. Tarkiainen also taught at the Social High School and served as its chancellor from 1947.
During these years Tarkiainen was the most influential figure in Finnish literature research. He stressed the importance of source criticism and used a number of methods in his own publications. Among his studies were biographies of such writers as Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1918), Minna Canth (1921), Gustaf von Numers (1922), and the poet Eino Leino, whose work Tarkiainen became to admire, especially Leino's mythical collection Helkavirsiä (1903), which based on folk poetry. When Leino founded the literary association Kirjalijan työ (Writer's Work) in opposition to the Finnish Writers' Union, Tarkiainen became its member with Maria Jotuni, Viljo Kojo, Joel Lehtonen and others. In 1920 Tarkiainen was appointed president of Writers' Union and Leino's group joined it too.
Tarkiainen's acclaimed biography Aleksis Kivi (1915) gave birth to the "Kivi cult." In the early 20th-century, August Ahlqvist's crushing critique of the author was still well-remembered, but after Tarkiainen's monumental work there was no doubt about Kivi's importance. Koskenniemi's study on the author from 1934 was partly written as a reaction to Tarkiainen's book and focused on Kivi's psychology and inner calling. Koskenniemi challenged the view that Kivi was a misunderstood and neglected genius. When Kivi's statue, made by the sculptor Wäinö Aaltonen, was unveiled in 1939 in front of the National Theatre, Tarkiainen's speech at the occasion was considered a defense of Finnish culture. However, privately he expressed his disappointment in Aaltonen's work – he preferred the earlier, unrealized cubist version in which Kivi did not look so depressed.
Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden historia (A history of Finnish literature) appeared in Finnish in 1934 and in Swedish sixteen years later. In this work, Tarkiainen ignored P. Mustapää and Elina Vaara, nor did he mention the poet Aaro Hellaakoski, who had written a poem in martial spirit which Tarkiainen could not accept – literature shouldn't advocate war. From the 1940s Tarkiainen collected material for his large biography on Mikael Agricola, and published several separate studies, but in 1950-51 he realized that he will never finish the work. Tarkiainen died of cancer on May 20, 1951, in Helsinki. He did not want any headstone on his grave, a wish which was not followed. His separate studies of Eino Leino appeared posthumously in 1954 under the title Eino Leinon runoudesta (1954). Mikael Agricola, Suomen uskonpuhdistaja, came out in 1985. The work was concluded by Kari Tarkiainen, his grandchild.
"Kaiken sen rinnalla, mikä Euroopan uudemmassa kirjallisuudessa on sairaalloisesti pingoitettua, teennäisesti suurentelevaa tai sovinnaisesti sirosteltua, vaikuttaa sen tapainen runous kuin Kiven viihdyttävästi ja vapauttavasti, siellä se on ytimeltään puhdasta ja tervettä, alkuvoimaista ja teeskentelemätöntä." (from Aleksis Kivi)
Tarkiainen married in 1911 the writer Maria Jotuni (1880-1943); he had been her suitor since 1903. In the following years Jotuni wrote some of her most famous works. Tohvelisankarin rouva, a comedy, provoked in 1924 a public discussion because it was considered by some politicians sexually too liberal. Tarkiainen was dismissed from the board of the National Theatre, although he was not present when the play was accepted in the repertoire.
his wife, Tarkiainen bought in 1919 a small house on the
shore of Lake Tuusula, a summer home for the family. His hopes that she
would enjoy herself there, did not come true. The light summer
nights got on her nerves, and she rather stayed in the city in the
summertime, writing alone in their apartment on the Cygnaeus Street.
The reclusive periods in empty rooms, filled with furniture covered
with sheets, were not good for her. She developed fears and anxieties,
but maintained a cheerful tone in letters to her family.
In the 1920s, Tarkiainen
confessed in a bitter note on the situation, that he has only
partially fulfilled his obligations as a husband and a father. His
wife, who suffered from jealousy, constantly
asked where he had been, what he had been doing etc. There is no
evidence of him being unfaithful. Although the couple never resolved
their differences, they kept up the
facade of a happy marriage.
Huojuva talo, Jotuni's novel about a destructive marriage, was written in the 1930s, but not published until 1963. Strindberg would have loved the work in which a husband boasts: "I am possessed by an evil spirit." With this book Tarkiainen secured his apparently unforgettable reputation as a violent home tyrant, without a possiblity for rehabilitation. Huojuva talo was adapted in 1995 into an acclaimed five-part television drama, directed by Eija-Elina Bergholm.
For further reading: Maria Jotuni: vain ymmärrys ja hymy by Kari Tarkiainen (2013); Viljo Tarkiainen - suomalainen humanisti by Kari Tarkiainen (1987); 'Viljo Tarkiaisen muistelmia' by Esko Aaltonen, in Suomalainen Suomi 6 (1964); 'Tarkiainen ja suomalainen kansanrunous' by Sulo Haltsonen, in Kalevalaseuran vuosikirja 32 (1952); 'Muistopuhe Viljo Tarkiaisesta 14. XII. 1951' by Aarne Anttila, in Suomalaisen tieadeakatemina esitelmiä ja pöytäkirjoja 1951 (1952)