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|Helvi Hämäläinen (1907 - 1998) - wrote also as Annikki Heinä|
Finnish writer who continued her literary career from the 1930s up to the 1990s. After a long silence as a writer, Hämäläinen entered into the publicity in 1988, when she was awarded the Finlandia Prize for Literature for her collection of poems Sukupolveni unta (Dreams of my generation). The tribute created interest in Hämäläinen's earlier work as well.
Emme ole unohtaneet teitä tuntemattomat sotilaamme.
Helvi Hämäläinen was born in Hamina, the daughter of Aaro Hämäläinen, a tanner, and Iida Maria (Mikkelson) Hämäläinen. The family moved in 1918 to Helsinki. Hämäläinen's father died of a heart attack in 1920, leaving his family in poverty. Later Hämäläinen confessed that nobody missed him when he was away – "Mitä se sellainen rakkaus on... Miksi en itkenyt häntä enkä kaivannut häntä, kun hän oli poissa..." (from Ketunkivellä: Helvi Hämäläisen elämä 1907-1985, by Ritva Haavikko & Helvi Hämäläinen, 1993) She studied at Helsingin Uusi Yhteiskoulu, where she edited the school magazine Sarastus. Hämäläinen ended her studies on the seventh class in 1929 and devoted herself into writing.
While still at school, Hämäläinen wrote the short novel Kaunis sielu, which was not published until 2001. The story depicted a young woman who murders her married lover. She doesn't feel guilt, and in the following trial she is considered insane. After some months she dies of tuberculosis. Hämäläinen uses interior monologue, revealing a lesbian theme which the author later considered too daring for the publisher, and the manuscript was forgotten.
In the mid-1920s Hämäläinen joined the literary association Nuoren Voiman Liitto, and met such writers as Elina Vaara, Lauri Viljanen, Arvi Kivimaa. Mika Waltari read her poems, encouraged her to continue, and published her verses in the anthology Nuoret runoilijat 1934, which he edited. Hämäläinen's first book, Hyväntekijä (1930, The benefactor), received mixed reviews. It was followed by the novels Lumous (1934, Enchantment) and Katuojan vettä (1935, Gutter water), which reflected her working class background. Motherhood and the cyclic, regenerative nature of life was a central theme in her early fiction, including Tyhjä syli (1937, The empty lap), in which a childless, married woman wants to have a baby, even if it means having an extra-marital relationship. Some of Hämäläinen's critics referred to D.H. Lawrence's sexual mysticism.
In 1931 Hämäläinen married Niilo Haapman, a bohemian; the marriage ended officially in 1936. Actually the marriage lasted only a few weeks. Hämäläinen gave him money to return to his home in Porvoo and she was left alone with her child. Niilo Haapman was killed in 1941 during the Continuation War by a snipers bullet. Hämäläinen's sister foud her a small apartment, where she lived three years with her mother and son. Katuojan vettä depicted the house and its poor people during the Depression. Although Hämäläinen tried to find work and write as much as she could, her major source of income was poor relief.
In the 1930s Hämäläinen continued to publish prose works and poems. To earn extra income she translated one of Netta Muskett's romantic novels into Finnish. Before Lumous was published by Gummerus in 1934, the manuscript was turned down by Otava and WSOY. Hämäläinen was helped by the writer Olavi Paavolainen, one of the most influential literary opinion leaders between the World Wars in Finland. Lumous, about a woman who leaves her husband and children to live with her true love, gained a critical and commercial success, and Hämäläinen could move to a bigger apartment. The Communist writer and journalist Jarno Pennanen (1906-1969) visited her home on Suvantotie 17 several times and gave her the Communist Manifest. Other writer friends were Oiva Paloheimo (1910-1973) and Saima Harmaja (1915-1937). However, she did not join the social struggle of the leftist Kiila poets.
In 1938 Hämäläinen traveled to Paris. On her journey she spent a night in Berlin, where felt that the atmosphere of might was perhaps similar to that which prevailed in the ancient Rome. From Berlin she bought a set of underwear. The Winter War (1939-40) gave birth to the poem 'Talvisota': "Meillä on oikeus juhlia kunniaamme, / surumme kunniaa, / meillä on oikeus nostaa lippu tappiomme muistokse, / meillä on oikeus muistojemme tuskaan." During the Continuation War (1941-44), in the autumn of 1941, the paths of Hämäläinen of Paavolainen separated – she did not meet him again. Paavolainen died in 1964, and after hearing the news Hämäläinen wrote the poem 'Kuolinpäivä' (Death day), which was published in the collection Poltetut enkelit (1965, Burned angels). "Kuollut, kuollut, sinun hautasi on minussa, / minun kieleni alla, minun ohimossani, / minun hiuksissani elä, elät."
After WW II Hämäläinen focused mostly on verse. Central images are the moon, bones, stones, the ice, wounds, the horse, and the angel. A number of her poems and short prose works were written in the village of Häränoja from 1941. The place constantly appeared in her poems as a haven of everlasting peace. Generally, the tone of the poems is defiant and unyielding. "There's fire, fire in my fist, / a flame under my skin." However, at the bottom she accepted her outsiderness and nursed it. "God loves my poems / because he loves birds, / because he loves the cloud, the moon, and the rose / and the hawk and freedom."
In the 1950s Hämäläinen's closest female friend was Elina Vaara, a poet who had been married to the artist Einari Vehmas. Another important acquaintance was the leftist writer Elvi Sinervo (1912-1986). Before the publication of Voikukkapyhimykset (1947, Dandelion saints), a collection of poems, sections of it were discussed in Sweden, where her novels had been published by Norstedt & Söners Förlag. Hämäläinen's other post-war collections include Pilvipuku (1950, The cloud dress), Surmayöt (1957), and Poltetut enkelit. She wrote with an impulsive style, which in the 1950s did not fit in the modernistic mainstream – vivid, visually colorful expression also characterized her novels and short stories. Raakileet, a tale of youthful excess, was rejected by the publisher.
From the 1950s she recorded her personal thoughts in her diaries, over 160 thick notebooks. A selection was published in 1994. After the death of President Kennedy in 1963 she wrote in a poem: "He had only three stages of life: / childhood, youth, manhood". When her poem 'Syksy' was read on a radio program, one of her friends called asking "are you seriously ill when they read you on radio?" In the 1961 she joined the Orthodox Church. Her mother is often in her thoughts – she had died in 1951. In 1976, on Paavolainen's death day on August 19, she mentions that she brought again flowers to his grave. In the 1980s Hämäläinen often recorded her desperation and sadness. Hämäläinen tried to read The New Testament, but felt that she is far from God – "I can't even pray" (January 27, 1985).
In her collection Sukupolveni unta Hämäläinen defended the honor of the Winter War generation, speaking frankly and with directness that was widely noted. Partly the work returned to the apocalyptic themes of Sokeat lähteet (1967, Blind springs), after which she had stopped publishing new collections of poetry for two decades. Hämäläinen proclamations against war and destruction of the environment insisted that the experience of her generation was something that should not be forgotten. Hämäläinen died on January 17, 1998, at the age of 90, in Espoo.
Hämäläinen's best-known work is the revealing marriage novel Säädyllinen murhenäytelmä (A Genteel Tragedy), which was partly censored in 1939 for political reasons, but which also could be read as a roman à clef. Hämäläinen analyzed forbidden passions behind the facade of middle-class respectability. She portrayed the milieu of the cultured circles, its customs and a paralysis in matters of tact. The highly influential critic V. A. Koskenniemi, who read the manuscript and perhaps wanted to protect some of his friends, preferred it not to be published. Especially Koskenniemi criticized its sexual scenes. WSOY accepted the manuscript, but the first printing was destroyed and the book was given to Yrjö Kivimies for editing. Hints to homosexualism, criticism of National socialism and Hitler were censored, two chapters were removed, and nearly all topical issues were taken away.
When the book finally appeared in 1941, it caused storm. The central characters were easily recognized as Tyyni and Oiva Tuulio, A-M Tallgren, and Olavi Paavolainen, members of the cultural elite. "I fell in love with Olavi in the spring of 1938," she wrote in her book of memoir in 1993, but the portrait of Paavolainen was less than flattering in Säädyllinen murhenäytelmä. At that time Paavolainen had an affair with the Estonian actress Liina Reiman. In the story Dr. Tauno Saarinen (Oiva Tuulio) falls in love with a 17-year-old servant girl, who becomes pregnant. Naimi Saarinen, his sister (the writer herself), is encouraged by her brother's erotic awakening and returns to her former husband. The need to love and to be loved break the life of two families and reveal the emptiness of the protagonists, who are used to control their emotions by the intellect.
Säädyllinen murhenäytelmä has been compared to such depictions of ritualized bourgeois life style as Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks and John Galsworthy's The Forsyte Saga. It also had a sequel, Kadotettu puutarha, which was finished in 1951, but published forty years later. It looked at the war era and patriotism among the educated classes, and brought the story into the years of post-war resignation. "But she had never stopped feeling and remembering that their family circle, so full of love and quiet unity, had never fully recovered from the war. It had been shattered, shattered for ever. It was a vanished ideal, she felt, a treasure destroyed, and one could only resign oneself, submissevily and quietly, to its loss." (translated by Herbert Lomas)
The short novel Pouta (1946) received a positive review from Koskenniemi. Decades later Hämäläinen edited a selection of Koskenniemi's poems, Jääkukkia (1995, Ice flowers). In addition to novels of manners, Hämäläinen published memoirs and diaries depicting her relationship with the writer Olavi Paavolainen. Although some of her fiction contain historical subject mater (ancient Rome and Palestine), for the most part her works depict village society and its reaction to various social and psychological changes. Hämäläinen's poetry remained relatively independent of the literary trends of her time from the beginning of her career – in the 1920s she wrote in Kalevala-meter, when the influential literary group Tulenkantajat (The Flame Bearers) advocated liberal and avant-garde trends in culture. Typical for her poems was the use of fantasy and fairy tale, there was also traces of shamanism and folk tradition.
For further reading: A History of Finnish Literature by Jaakko Ahokas (1973); Tie härjänojaan: muistiinpanoja kirjailija Helvi Hämäläisen suvun taipaleelta by Esko Rahikainen (1987); Löytöretki lapsuuteen, ed. by Heli Karjalainen (1988); Suomalainen jumala, ed by Margit Laitinen et al. (1988); Kuinka suuri onkaan vapaus by Tuovi Monola (1989); Ketunkivellä. Helvi Hämäläisen elämä 1907-1954 by Ritva Haavikko and Helvi Hämäläinen (1993); Päiväkirjat 1955-1988 by Helvi Hämäläinen (1994); Armon tyhjiössä: kristillinen eksistentialismi eräissä Mika Waltarin, Helvi Hämäläisen ja Paavo Rintalan 1950-luvun romaaneissa by Eija Komu (1985); A History of Finland's Literature, ed. by George C. Schoolfield (1998); Ei kenenkään veli by Marjut Kähkönen (2004) - See also: Maria Jotuni, whose tragic description of a marriage, Huojuva talo (‘The swaying house’), written in the 1930s, was likewise not published until 30 years after it was written.