A History of Finland's Literature

A History of Finland's Literature

A History of Finland's Literature

A History of Finland's Literature

Synopsis

The literature of Finland is bilingual, with lively and extensive traditions in both Finnish and Swedish. This history covers both literary traditions in detail.

Excerpt

The literary history of Finland immediately presents a problem to its chronicler. Depending on one's point of view, there are either two distinct bodies of literature in the country, Finnish-language and Swedish-language, or the country's letters are actually unified but bilingual. During the almost seven hundred years (ca. 1150-1809) when Finland belonged to Sweden, Swedish was the instrument of administration, commerce, and formal culture, and Finnish was a largely neglected tongue of the countryside. But then a rush of awareness of the importance of Finnish language and tradition, encouraged by early-nineteenth-century romanticism, created a split between a linguistic minority suddenly put on the defensive and an ambitious majority, which recruited many of its most ardent and effective supporters from the Swedish-speaking middle and upper classes. In the full flush of nationalistic enthusiasm Finnish literary histories were written largely without reference to what had happened and was happening in the other tongue, save for the work of such giants as Johan Ludvig Runeberg and Zachris Topelius: because of their role in national life, and thanks to early and excellent translation, they were regarded as essential parts of Finnish- language literature, albeit they wrote entirely in Swedish. An exclusively Finnish literary historiography was provided by Julius Krohn Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden vaiheet (1897; Changing fates of Finnish literature); Eino Leino's popular Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden historia (1910; History of Finnish literature); A. O. Kallio Uudempi suomalainen kirjalisuus 1-2 (1911- 12, 1928-29; Recent Finnish literature), and -- classically and magisterially -- Viljo Tarkiainen Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden historia (1934; History . . .

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