In Association with

Choose another writer in this calendar:

by name:

by birthday from the calendar.

Credits and feedback

for Books and Writers
by Bamber Gascoigne

Viljo (William) Tarkiainen (1879 - 1951) - also wrote as -nen, V.T.


Finnish literature researcher and critic. Viljo 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 tottering 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, upon gaining fame as a critic, Teuvo Pakkala, Eino Leino, and Joel Lehtonen. He voted for awarding the 1906 state literature prize to Manninen for his collection of poetry, Säkeitä (1905). He was one of the few prominent reviewers who defended the book, which was generally criticized for being complex, and the lack of feeling.

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.

After the death of Paavo Cajander (1886-1913), Tarkiainen applied for the post of lecturer of Finnish language at the University of Helsinki. (Cajander spent much of his life translating all Shakespeare's plays, except Pericles, into Finnish.) However, it was Manninen, who was appointed to the post. From 1913 to 1924 Tarkiainen was a docent at the university. 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.

Between the wars, 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.

Viljo 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). Pentti Saarikoski mocked Tarkiainen's interpretations of Leino's poems 'Jumalien keinu' and 'Nocturne' in his book Eino Leino (1974): "Tuo Tarkiainen. / Hän tietää minusta enemmän kuin minä itse. / Hän tietää mitä minä aavistan ja tunnen. / Hän on selvänäkijä." 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. The comedy Tohvelisankarin rouva (The wife of the hen-pecked hero) 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.

With 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, except when they went for a walk: they left home together but then chose different directions.

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. Maaria Koskiluoma's expressionistic stage adaptation of the novel in 1983 at Oslo Theater Festival  was a huge sensation. Eija-Elina Bergholm directed in 1995 an acclaimed five-part television drama based on  Huojuva talo.

For further reading: Maria Jotuni: vain ymmärrys ja hymy by Kari Tarkiainen (2013); Arki ja tunteet: Maria Jotunin elämä ja kirjailijantyö by Irmeli Niemi (2001); 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) 

Selected works:

  • Äänneopillinen tutkimus Juvan murteesta, 1903
  • Kansankirjailijoita katsomassa, 1904
  • Kertomuksia / Hans Aanrud, 1905 (translator)
  • Lukemisia lapsille / Zacharias Topelius, 1905-07 (translator, with Valter Juva)
  • Kirjeitä myllyltäni / Alphonse Daudet, 1907 (translator)
  • Uskon voima: romaani / Johan Bojer, 1907 (translator)
  • Kertomisen taito / Jakob Wasserman, 1907 (translator)
  • Satuja ja runoja 1-2 / Zacharias Topelius, 1907  (translator, with Valter Juva)
  • Eno Vanja: kuvaus maalaiselämästä neljässä näytöksessä / Anton Tshehov, 1909 (translator)
  • Jeppe Niilonpoika eli Talonpojan ihmeelliset seikkailut: viisinäytöksinen huvinäytelmä / Ludvig Holberg, 1909 (translator)
  • Suomen luonto Kalevalassa, 1910
  • Aleksis Kiven "Seitsemän veljestä": kirjallinen tutkimus , 1910
  • Aino ja muut Kalevalan naiset, 1911
  • Fredrik Cygnaeus runoilijana, 1911
  • Kotiseudun ylistysrunoista, 1912
  • "Jos mun tuttuni tulisi", 1912
  • "Neljä paholaista" y. m. kertomuksia / Herman Bang, 1912 (translator)
  • Poimintoja vanhemmasta suomalaisesta kirjallisuudesta : koulujen tarpeeksi, 1913 (with O. J. Brummer)
  • Michelangelo / Romain Rolland, 1913 (translator)
  • Aleksis Kivi: elämä ja teokset, 1915
  • Keskikoulun lukukirja 1-2, 1916-17 (with Erkki Kivijärvi and Oskari Mantere)
  • Yleistä työvelvollisuudesta, 1918
  • Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: elämä ja teokset, 1918
  • Aleksis Kiven muisto: runoilijan syntymän 85-vuotispäiväksi, 1919
  • Pienille lukijoille ensimmäinen lukukirja, 1919 (illustrated by A. Paischeff)
  • Mitä on edistysmielisyys?, 1919
  • Työ ja isänmaa, 1920-21 (ed., with Alpo Noponen)
  • Keskikoulun lukukirja 1-2, 1921-23 (ed., with Erkki Kivijärvi and Oskari Mantere)
  • Aapinen, 1921 (illustrated by T.K. Sallinen)
  • Minna Canth, 1921
  • Koulutyössä: yläkansakoulun 1:n ja 2:n luokan lukukirja, 1922 (ed., with Alpo Noponen)
  • Koti ja koulu: alakansakoulun lukukirja, 1922 (ed., with Alpo Noponen)
  • Valikoima runoja / Aleksis Kivi, 1922 (ed., with E.A. Saarimaa)
  • Gustaf von Numers: elämä ja teokset: kirjallisuushistoriallinen tutkielma, 1922
  • Piirteitä suomalaisesta kirjallisuudesta, 1922
  • Ritvalan helka: juhla ja virret, 1922
  • Suomen laulu: valikoima suomalaista laulurunoutta kouluja varten, 1925 (ed., with Oskari Mantere)
  • Runoja / Eino Leino, 1928 (ed.)
  • Kootut teokset. 4, Runot ja kirjeet / Aleksis Kivi, 1928 (ed.)
  • Mikael Agricolan runot ja virret, 1929
  • Kirjallisuudentutkimuksen metodeista, 1929
  • Holberg Suomessa, 1930
  • Kertomuksia ja kuvauksia / Ilmari Kianto, 1930 (ed.)
  • Mari Jotuni: Maria Jotunin koottujen teosten ilmestymisen johdosta, 1930
  • Suomen kansalliskirjallisuus, 1930-43 (ed. with E.N. Setälä, Vihtori Laurila)
  • Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden seura 1831-1931: kaunokirjallisuus ja kirjallisuuden tutkimus, 1931
  • Kalevala ja sen innoittamien suomalaisten taiteilijoiden huomattavimmat taideteokset 73 jäljennöksenä, 1932 (ed., with E. N. Setälä and Vihtori Laurila)
  • O. Manninen runoilijana, 1933
  • Aleksis Kiven maineen kaikuja: poimintoja koti- ja ulkomaisten arvostelijoiden lausunnoista, 1934 (ed.)
  • Aleksis Kiven oleskelusta Siuntiossa, 1934
  • Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden historia, 1934
    - Finsk litteraturhistoria (övers. har utförts av E. N. Tigerstadt och granskats av författaren, 1950)
  • Huomioita Juhana Wegeliuksen postillasta, 1939
  • Magia kalevaisessa runoudessa: Uuno Kailas kuoleman runoilijana, 1939
  • Simo Achrenius: suomalainen runoilija 1700-luvun jälkipuoliskolta, 1940
  • Puhekielestä, 1940
  • Joel Lehtosen kirjalliselta alkutaipaleelta, 1940
  • Eino Leinon "Bellerophon", 1941
  • Sauna ja saunankäyttö Suomen kirjallisuudessa, 1941
  • Kristfrid Ganander, Porthanin työtoveri, 1941
  • Karjalan laulu: valikoima Suomen Karjalan, Vienan, Aunuksen ja Inkerin runoutta, 1941 (ed., with Hertta Harmas)
  • Muudan virrenseppä (Johannes Keckonius) 1680-luvulta, 1942
  • Eskatologisia piirteitä Mikael Agricolan teoksissa, 1943
  • Suomen kansan kannel: vanhaa kansanrunoutta julkaistuna alkuperäisten kirjaanpanojen mukaan, 1943 (ed., with Hertta Harmas)
  • Minä elän: Aleksis Kivi ajan kuvastimessa, 1945 (ed., with others)
  • Jeppe Niilonpoika eli talonpojan ihmeelliset seikkailut: viisinäytöksinen huvinäytelmä / Ludvig Holberg, 1946 (translator; 2nd, rev., ed.)
  • Henrik Gabriel Porthan, 1948
  • Kaukametsä: esseitä, novelleja, runoja, 1949 (ed., with othrs)
  • Eino Leinon runoudesta, 1954
  • Mikael Agrocola: tutkielma, 1958 (ed. Sulo Haltsonen)
  • Elämän laulu: valikoima Eino Leinon runoja, 1958 (ed., 3rd rev. ed.)
  • Suojelusenkeli: kolmiseikkailuinen satu / Zachris Topelius, 1983 (translator)
  • Mikael Agricola, Suomen uskonpuhdistajana, 1985 (with Kari Tarkiainen)

In Association with

Some rights reserved Petri Liukkonen (author) & Ari Pesonen. 2008-2024.

Creative Commons License
Authors' Calendar jonka tekijä on Petri Liukkonen on lisensoitu Creative Commons Nimeä-Epäkaupallinen-Ei muutettuja teoksia 1.0 Suomi (Finland) lisenssillä.
May be used for non-commercial purposes. The author must be mentioned. The text may not be altered in any way (e.g. by translation). Click on the logo above for information.