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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
Do not ever feel any sorrow, loved one,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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".
Maila Talvio created at her home on the Eläintarhantie in
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
mysticism of ancient times. Some examples of these are 'Filippo Lippi
Buti,' 'Kuisma ja Helinä,' and 'Korven kosto'.
Tein minä pajusta hilpeän huilun,
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
The cover of the book was designed by the illustrator Fredrik
"Freka" Ålander (1883-1937), his neighbour in Oulunkylä. 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
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
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)