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||Viljo Kajava (1909-1998)|
Finnish writer, journalist, and translator, whose career in literature, beginning from his first collection of poems in 1935, spanned over 50 years. Kajava published nearly 40 books, mostly poems. While Kajava's early works dealt with his native Tampere and the proletarian condition, after the World War II he became known as an advocate for humanistic views and optimistically colored poems of life, work, family, and city. Vielä piirrän viivan (1996), Kajava's final collection of poems, came out when he was 87.
"He has long since
Viljo Kajava was born in Tampere, the son of Konrad Johannes Kajava,
a tailor, and Martta Johanna Granlund. (The name "Kajava" means a
"seagull".) In his childhood Kajava
witnessed the conquest of Tampere during the Finnish Civil War
(1917-18); his father fought in the Red Guards as a machine
gunner and was sent to a prison camp after the defeat of the
Reds. Later in life, Kajava returned to the traumatic events in
his writings. The family had hard times in Hämeenlinna in the 1930s
when his father was fired from his job and defamed in a local
Kajava began to write poems already at school, where he edited the school magazine Vasama, and wrote poems under the pseudonym "Välke." His friends at that time included the future film director Nyrki Tapiovaara. After graduating from the secondary school in Hämeenlinna in 1931, Kajava studied for a period at the University of Helsinki, without graduating. In 1933, he married Maj Inkeri Aulio; they had one child.
As a writer, Kajava made his debut with Rakentajat (1935), a collection of poems which drew its subjects from pacifism and the life of workers. In the 1930s Kajava was closely associated with the leftist literery group Tulenkantajat (The Fire Bearers). He also wrote for the Marxist literature magazine Kirjallisuuslehti, and was a founding member of the literary group Kiila (Wedge) with Elvi Sinervo, Arvo Turtiainen and others. Kiila's members favored radical free verse and were more or less Marxists.
But more than the theory of socialism, Kajava was influenced by the Swedish writer Harry Martinson and great American (Whitman and Sandburg) and Russian (Blok, Jesenin, Mayakovski) poets. Later he moved from the world of the class struggle to more impressionistic and nature orientated lyric. He also translated works from such authors as Jaroslav Hašek, August Strindberg, Tarjei Vesaas, Pär Lagerkvist and Erle Stanley Gardner.
Kajava's second collection of poems, Murrosvuodet (1937), depicted his birth town Tampere with its factories, workers and cramped outskirts. From 1940 to 1944 Kajava was a staff member of the periodical Aseveli. He also broke with Kiila; many of its members had been imprisoned.
During the Continuation War (1941-44), Kajava served in the army at
the information department and wrote war propagand for the anthologies Sotatalvi (1942) and Laulun miekka (1944) and contributed to the Hakkapeliitta magazine, published by the Soujeluskunta (the Civil Guards). He also published three own books, of which Muistatko vielä Paulin? (1943)
was partly autobiographical.
Mika Waltari, Kajava participated in
1942 in the Writer's Congress in Weimar, where the highlight was Joseph
Goebbels's speech. According to Waltari, they refused to do the Heil
Hitler salute, when the orchestra played 'Horst Wessel' and
'Deutchland, Deutscland, über alles'. Kajava was a member of the
Europäische Schriftsteller-Vereinigung, which had been initiated by
Goebbels. He still believed in
the "brotherhood in arms" between Germany and Finland in 1944, when the
German defeat was already obvious.
After the Moscow armistice, the Kajavas moved to Sweden for personal
reasons. They had adopted an Ingrian Finnish girl, named Rosa, and
because there was a possibility that she could be returned to the
Soviet Union, they decided to leave the country. (Majority of the
Ingrians, who left Finland, believing that they could go back to their
homes, were deported directly to Siberia or Central Asia.)
From 1945 to 1948, Kajava lived in Stockholm. To earn his living, he
first washed dishes at a restaurant, and then he was employed by an
insurance company (Svenska försäkringsanstalten). While in Sweden, he met among others Harry Martinson, and wrote two Swedish-language books,
Till havets fåglar (1948) and Någonstans (1949).
Both were published by Wahlsröm & Widstrand. Some of the poems
dealt with Kajava's war years: "in the bloody drama / I wasn't a mere
At the suggestion of his old friend Arvo Paasivuori, a member of the
Parliament (1945-48), Kajava returned to Finland in November 1948. He
worked as a subeditor of the magazine Suomen Kuvalehti, edited by Ilmari Turja, until 1954. Kajava's poetry collections, Siivitetyt kädet (1949) and Hyvä on meri (1950), showed his acquaintance with new trends in poetry. From 1949 to 1965 he contributed to the newspaper Suomen Sosialidemokraatti.
In 1956 Kajava won the first Eino Leino Society Award – the
organization had been founded by the modernists in 1947.
In spite of the tensions between modernists and traditionalists,
Kajava's humanistic wisdom was widely accepted among different literary
generations. Noteworthy, he remained silent about his Nazi activities for the rest of his life.
Kavaja's later collections include Tampereen runot (1966), in which he returned to his childhod memories of the battle of Tampere, and Vallilan rapsodia (1972), depicting the working-class section of Helsinki. When Arvo Turtiainen wrote odes to Rööperi (Redhill), another working-class area, Kajava celebrated the milieu and people of Vallila, its wooden houses, small shops, Inari Road with the kids at their skipping ropes. Small, detailed visual images were typical for Kajava's poems: "It's going well today / with the sun shining on Inari Road, / and the sheets in the typewriter / trying to take off and fly: / shaggy wings of song."
For further reading: Tulenkantajat by Kerttu Saarenheimo (1966); A History of Finnish Literature by Jaakko Ahokas (1973); Kirjailijat puhuvat. Tulenkantajat, ed. by Ritva Haavikko (1976); 'Viljo Kajavan runouden murros' by Kai Laitinen, in Rivien takaa, ed. by Ritva Haavikko (1976); Kapinalliset kynät by Raoul Palmgren II-III (1984); A Way to Measure Time, ed. by Bo Carpelan, et al. (1992); Kansanrintaman valo by Kari Sallamaa (1994); A History of Finland's Literature, ed. by George C. Schoolfied (1998); Se oli satakieli: kirjoituksia elämästä ja teoksista by Hannu Kankaanpää (2003); Sivuviiva: kirjoituksia kirjallisuudesta ja sen vierestä by Hannu Kankaanpää (2008); 'Kukaan ei ole voittaja' by Kari Saviniemi, in Kulttuurivihkot (6/2011). See: The Fire Bearers: Olavi Paavolainen, Katri Vala, Yrjö Jylhä, Lauri Viljanen.