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||Henry Parland (1908-1930)|
Finland-Swedish poet and cosmopolitan critic, whose career as a writer lasted only a few years – he died at the age of 22. Hnery Parland was among the rising stars of modernism in the 1920s, who introduced formalism and semiotic concepts to Finnish literature. Idealrealisation (1929) was the only book published during his life time. His brothers Oscar Parland and Ralf Parland also gained fame as novelists.
Kaffe eller te
Henry Parland was born in Vyborg into a family with a distant
English background. His father Oswald Parland was an engineer and
bridge builder, who worked for the Russian civil service. His mother
Ida Maria Parland came from a Baltic-German family, the Sesemanns,
prominent in Vyborg's history. The family's home language was German
and Russian. Parland spent his first years in Russia in Kiev and St.
Petersburg. His early diary notes – he was about 10 years
old at that time – were written in Russian. In 1912 the family
returned to Vyborg and then moved to Finland on the outbreak of the
Russian Revolution. When the border was closed, the father was unable
to join his family until 1920. Henry Parland's early years in his new
surrounding in Helsinki were not happy – he felt lonesome, was
bullied in a Finnish school, and eventually he was transferred to
the Swedish school at Grankulla. According to Oscar Parland he never
fully learned the new language, but wrote his books in Swedish. (He
never visited Sweden.) In 1927
Parland graduated from the Grankulla gymnasium, and started to study
law at the University of Helsinki. But more than his studies, Parland
was interested in fashion, watching films, dancing and drinking. He was
soon heavily in debt.
In 1928 Parland made his debut as a writer at the magazine Quosego as the youngest member of the modernist literary group. The subtitle of Quosego was "Tidskrift för ny generation" (Magazine for a new generation). Parland was in the beginning more interested in fiction, but a meeting with Gunnar Björling inspired him to try his hand at poetry. The results were seen in Parland's first collection on poems, Idealrealisation, a youthfully cynical visit to the jazz age. It remained Parland's only published book.
Parland's Bohemian lifestyle worried his parents and in 1929 they
decided to sent him to Kaunas (Kovno), the capital of Lithuania. There
his uncle Wilhelm Seesemann was a professor of philosophy. In a letter
to his parents which Parland wrote soon after arriving the city he
complained of bad coffee and muddy roads. Parland ate daily at the home
of his uncle's woman friend.
"It doesn't matter where I go, I'm always a foreigner,"
Parland once said. While he was not spending his time in
cafés, he worked as a secretary at the Swedish consulate and
contributed to Lithuanian magazines. He wrote in German about
Scandinavian literature and introduced new Russian and American films
and Russian avant-garde to the Finland-Swedish public. For his
disappointment Kaunas was a periphery of film art – Helsinki was
New York compared to Kaunas, as he claimed. Parland loved the films of
Eisenstein, Pudovkin and Chaplin: "Charlie Chaplin, kanske även Buster
Keaton, har visat en väg i enlighet med filmens egentliga väsen, så
även delvis den föraktade amerikanska sensationsfilmen och farsen,
gjorda efter originalmanuscript." ('Den psykologiska filmens bankrutt,' in Återsken by Henry Parland, 1932)
In 1929 Parland participated in a literary contest arranged by the magazine Bonniers Veckotidningen with the short story 'Jag och min fars glasögon'. It was included in the anthology De 14 bästa studentnovellerna (1929). During the winter 1929-30 Parland started to work on his first novel, entitled Sönder, but he never finished it. Gunnar Björling read its early draft when Parland visited Helsinki in 1930 and considered it too sentimental and too much autobiographical. The novel, which resonates with Proust's Á la recherche du temps perdu and contemporary Russian literature theories, was partly based on actual events. Henry Rapp, the protagonist is, a businessman and a writer, who recalls his past and relationship to a woman, Amy. The book ends with the death of Amy, Henry's faithless beloved, who remains a mystery to him.
Jag är en stor Gud
Capturing the atmosphere Baltic jazz age, Parland saw jazz as an expression of revolt against older culture. He was fond of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, and wrote in his poem "The dictatorship of jazz – a new form of Catholicism, / I have seen a thousand trouser-creases flutter in rhythmic feeling." In Sönder Parland also referred to another idol: "Motto: this novel is perhaps a plagiarism of Marcel Proust". When 'The Singing Fool' (1928) premiered in Helsinki – it was the first full-length sound film seen in Finland – Parland greeted it with an enthusiastic poem.
Parland died of scarlet fever on Novembr 10, 1930, at the age of 22, in Kaunas, as suddenly as Amy in Sönder. He was buried in Kaunas, but his grave at the churchyard disappeared during World War II. Parland's death was a deep blow to Björling, who once described his young protegée as 'Ett ljus tänt i livets fördumningsanstalt' (a candle light in life's dumbing down institution). In 1932 Rabbe Enckell edited a volume of his unpublished works, entitled Återsken. Unfinished Sönder appeared again in 1987. In this edition, Finland-Swedish words were changed into "Rikssvenska," Swedish as spoken in Sweden. A new edition of Sönder, with commentaries by Per Stam, came out in 2005.
For further reading: Framkallning: skrift, konsumtion och sexualitet i Karin Boyes Astarte och Henry Parlands Sönder by Caroline Haux (2013); Fotografiet bleknar, hon försvinner: materia, begär och Gilles Deleuzes litteraturfilosofi i Henry Parlands Sönder by Jenny Wikström (2013); Erhållit Europa: vilket härmed erkännes: Henry Parland-studier by Clas Zilliacus (2011); Jag är ju utlänning vart jag än kommer: en bok om Henry Parland, ed. by Agneta Rahikainen (2009); 'Henry Parland ja elokuvataide' by Max Ryynänen in Filmihullu 3 (2001); Krapula. Henry Parland och romanprojektet Sönder by Per Stam (1998); 'Henry Parland' by George C. Schoolfield, in A History of Finland's Literature, ed. by George C. Schoolfield (1998); Kunskap och inlevelse: essayer och minnen by Oscar Parland (1991); 'Henry Parland' by Kim Nilsson, in Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature, ed. Virpi Zuck with Niels Ingwersen and Harald Næs (1990); 'Henry Parland' by Agneta Ara in Författare om författare (1980) - See also 'Henry Parland semiotiikan edelläkävijänä Suomessa' by Henri Broms in Alkukuvien jäljillä (1984), Agneta Ara's article 'Henry Parland' in Författare om författare (1980); 'Avantgardet i öster - finlandssvensk modernism' by Clas Zilliacus, in Den Svenska Litteraturen, Vol. 5 (1989); Studier i Henry Parland by Betsey Robbins and Stefan Malmberg (1985)