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Aino Kallas (1878-1956) - wrote also as Aino Krohn, Aino Suonio


Finnish writer, born in Viborg, who gained fame as a novelist and short story writer. Among Aino Kallas' best known works are Barbara von Tisenhusen  (1923), Reigin pappi (1926, The Pastor of Reigi), Sudenmorsian (1928, The Wolf's Bride), and Pyhän Joen kosto (1930). Kallas adapted a number of her works for the stage, some of which were made into operas by the Finnish composer Tauno Pylkkänen. She was one of the most internationally orientated Finnish writers, making lecture tours in Holland, Great Britain, Canada, and the United States.

"When the breath of a daemon smiteth a human, his heels no longer rest on the earth; as in a whirlwind his soul is tossed without cease; the warp of his soul burneth brightly, like a fire on which oil has been poured." (in The Wolf's Bride)

Aino Kallas was born in an intellectually distinguished Krohn family, known for contributions in the arts and science. Her mother was Maria Wilhelmina (Lindroos) Krohn. Her father, Julius Krohn, Professor of Finnish Literature at the University of Helsinki, was a poet, and folklorist.

As a poet Kallas made her debut at the age of nineteen with Lauluja ja balladeja  (1897) under the name Aino Suonio – her father had used the pseudonym Suonio. When the increasing pressure for Russification culminated in 1899 in the 'February manifesto', which meant a serious threat to the autonomy of Finland, Kallas wrote in her diary in Lausanne."My fatherland is not a land of sunshine – it is a forgotten, remote corner far away in the north, a land of long winters, short springs. I know well what awaits me there: at best work, work in silence and invisibility–in any case, distress, sorrow, unrest. I do not go there to seek joy – I hardly remember, any longer, that I am young–or to encounter my happiness; I go there to suffer, to carry the same burden as the others." (Helsinki: A Literary Companion, tr. Hildi Hawkins, 2000)

At the age of 22, Kallas left Finland after marrying Dr. Oskar Phillip Kallas, an  Estonian scientist, who was one of the central figures of the newspaper Postimees. He was later appointed the first Estonian Minister to Helsinki. From 1900 to 1903, they lived in St. Petersburg, and moved then  to Tartu. In 1906 she lost her newborn baby Lembert. 

Kallas' brother-in-law Eemil Setälä accused her of deserting her nation: "Who are Estonians really? A dying race ... if you want [your children] to grow up Estonian you need to prepare them from the start for the life of a peasant or a craftman because there's no such thing as Estonian culture." Noteworthy, the race issue was the subject of heated debates in Estonia, too. Willed Ridala valued highly the Estonian race variation in 'Tõu küsimus' (1913). (Aino Kallas: Negotiations with Modernity, ed. Leena Kurvet-Käosaar & Lea Rojola, 2011, pp. 95-100) While in Tartu Kallas joined the literary group Noor-Eesti (Young Estonia), and participated with her writings to the struggle of Estonian people to free themselves from foreign domination. Her reviews and essays were later collected in Nuori Viro: muotokuvia ja suuntaviivoja (1918), which portrayed such poets as Gustav Suits and Villem Grünthal-Ridala, and prose writers Jaan Oks, A.H. Tammsaare, and Friedebert Tuglas. The race issue played an important role in her work. In the essay on Tuglas she stated that "Taine is right, no doubt: every talented writer mirrors the characteristics of the race, even without wishing to it. In rare cases he may even be the synthesis of all those different attributes of which the psyche of his race and his people are composed." Tuglas translated this work and Kallas' prose ballads into Estonian.

Estonia, whose language is of the same group that of Finland, had been ruled by a succession of occupiers. At the end of the World War I, Russian-controlled Estonia proclaimed independence. Soviet recognition came about the Treaty of Dorpat (Tartu) in 1920, but later in 1940 Soviet troops occupied the country and it became a Soviet republic for over fifty years.

In her early stories Kallas blended fiction and folklore, derived from the heritage of Estonian literature. At that time she was not ready to set out to write a full-lenght novel. In the two volumes of Meren takaa (1904-05) and the short novel Ants Raudjalg (1907) Kallas preferred the form of realism. She depicted the vestiges of the centuries-old serfdom in Estonia under the double oppression by the ethnically German aristocracy and the Russian bureaucracy. Lähtevien laivojen kaupunki (1913) ended a silent period in her work, during which she searched for new ways of artistic expression. This collection of short stories showed the influence of symbolism and marked shifting from social issues to problems of a more universal nature. However, the events depicted in 'Lasnamäen valkea laiva' (The White Ship), a story of mass nsuggestion, were based on historical events. From the spring of 1861, the peasants' religious-social movement, called the Maltsvetite movement, began to wait for a white ship to take the members to the Crimean region, where their prophet was said to have gone.

Eventually Kallas found her true voice in neoromanticism, especially in her short, tragic "ballad novels". They were written in an archaizing language about 16th- and 17th-century Estonia. These works include Barbara von Tisenhusen (1923), in which a blue-blooded girl is tried and drowned by her family for falling in love with a clerk. Kallas's vision of the people of her adopted homeland took a mythical, universal character. She also used historical material, Johannes Renner's (1525-1583) Die lievlähdische Chronik, and Balthasar Russow's (1535-1600) Chronica der Prouintz Lufflandt (1578). Other sources included the yearbook Sitzungsberichte (1885) by Die Gelehrte Esthnische Gesellschaft. For The Wolf's Bride Kallas read widely books on werewolves and records of witch trials. Among her sources was Wilhelm Hertz's dissertation Der Wehrwolf from 1862.

In 1919 she met in Copenhagen the critic and essayist Anna-Maria Tallgren (1886-1946); they kept up a correspondence for decades. During her husband's tenure (1922-1934) as ambassador to Great Britain and Holland, Kallas wrote several of her major works. Most of her novels were born on the peaceful island of Kassari, Hiiumaa, where Kallas spent her summers in the 1920s and 1930s. In London, where the slums of East End aroused almost physical revulsion in her, the Kallas family stayed  for 12 years. Soon after arrival, she was photographed by the commercial companies Lafayette (1922) and Val L'Estrange (1922), and then by Swaine (1924), Hay Wrightson (1923) and Madame Yevonde (1925).

The White Ship, a collection of short stories, came out in 1924 with a foreword by John Galsworthy. In The Pastor of Reigi (1926) the wife of the pastor on the island of Hiiumaa falls in love with her husband's curate. They run away and are apprehended and executed. Other translations were Eros the Slayer (1927), and the dreamy, symbolic The Wolf's Bride, a tale of a forester's wife, Aalo, who can assume a wolf's shape and is killed in the end by her husband's silver bullet. As in Barbara von Tisenhusen and The Pastor of Reigi, Kallas used rhythms and idiom of the archaic language. These three works form the so-called "Deadly Eros" trilogy, which deal with the theme of illegitimate love. Kallas' female protagonists are usually in conflict with the norms of the social system and the official truth. They are killed, when they follow their hearts, or insticts as in The Wolf's Bride. In The Pastor of Reigi the wife is killed for committing adultery.

With her love affairs, Kallas established herself as a femme fatale, but most likely she also exaggerated her amorous involvements. She fell in love in 1916 with the Latvian artist Janis Rosentals, who painted her portrait but replaced the head with that of his housemaid.  She also had an affair with the Finnish poet Eino Leino. When Kallas traveled to the United States in January 1926 she heard  there of his death. It was a crushing blow to her. However, it was not until the 1950s, when Kallas published her diaries, her relationship with Eino Leino was revealed.

Kallas' dramatic works, mostly adaptations of earlier short stories, were written mainly in the 1930s. The Wolf's Bride was rewritten for the stage on 1937. Mare ja hänen poikansa  (1935), which was performed in Helsinki at the National Theatre of Finland, did not gain much success, which disappointed Kallas. In Estonia reviews were hostile – the storm around Mares ja tema pojas inspired also caricaturists. Although she continued to write plays, she could not forget these attacks. The play inspired Tauno Pylkkänen's opera from 1943; Pylkkänen's first opera, Bathseba Saarenmaalla (1940), was also based on Kallas's work.

"A lone wolf - yksin samoava susi - sekö minusta loppujen lopuksi lopulta on tullut - erossa kaltaisistani, yksin riistaa takaa-ajava, yksin korpeensa kuoleva? Ainoa aika koko elämässäni, jolloin tunsin ryhmään kuulumisen tuen ja ilon, oli Noor-Eestin alkuvuosina. - Ja kuitenkin ole luonnostani toverillinen, kaltaisiani kaipaava." (in Vaeltava vieraskirja, 1957)

The Nazi occupation of Estonia during World War II from 1941 to 1944 forced the family into exile in Sweden, where Kallas remained until 1953. Her son Sulev committed suicide in 1941 to avoid arrest by the GPU. Laine, her daughter, met a tragic death in the same year when she was shot accidentally by a Russian soldier. Oskar Kallas died in Stockholm in 1946. Her poems from this period, collected in Kuoleman joutsen (1942), Kuun silta  (1943), and Polttoroviolla (1945), reflect both her personal tragedies and the fate of Estonia, occupied by the Soviet Union, Germany, and the Soviet Union again. Hundreds of her relatives and friends had been deported to Siberia.  Kallas' silk-black hair turned gray in the spring of 1947. Knitting gave her relief from the sorrows.

In 1948 Kallas entered Helsinki on a refugee passport, staying in Finland 16 months. One of the poems in Kuunsilta, entitled 'Vihmalintu' [Drizzle bird], was made into a song by the gay artist Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen) and live recorded in 1949. Kallas returned to Sweden after the Finnish foreign ministry warned her – the Soviets were eager to repatriate their citizens.  Kallas settled permanently in Helsinki in 1953, but she felt that she had received too little recognition in Finland and in Estonia. The windows of her home on Merikatu 1 opened towards the south and Estonia. During her life time Kallas's works were translated into English, French, Dutch, Swedish, German, Italian, Danish, and Hungarian. She was awarded several times the State Prize for Literature in Finland, and also received the Lyceum Club Literature Prize in London. Kallas died in Helsinki on November 9, 1956. Vaeltava vieraskirja vuosilta 1946-1956 (1957) covered the last ten years of her life.

For further reading: The Penguin Companion to European Literature (1969); Aino Kallas 1897-1921 by Kai Laitinen (1973); A History of Finnish Literature by Jaakko Ahokas (1973); Aino Kallaksen ja Marja-Liisa Vartion proosarytmin vertailua by Tuovi Monola (1976); Aino Kallaksen maailmaa by Kai Laitinen (1978); MacMillan Guide to the Modern World Literature by Martin Seymour-Smith (1986); An Encyclopedia of Continental Woman Writers Vol. 1 (1991); Aino Kallaksen mestarivuodet by Kai Laitinen (1995); World Authors 1900-1950, Vol.. 2, ed. Martin Seymour-Smith and Andrew C. Kimmens (1996); Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, Vol. 2, ed. Steven R. Serafin (1999): Aino Kallas: Negotiations with Modernity, ed. Leena Kurvet-Käosaar & Lea Rojola (2011) 


  • Lauluja ja balladeja, 1987
  • Kuloa ja kevättä, 1899
  • Kirsti: sielunkuvaus, 1902
  • Meren takaa 1., 1904
  • Meren takaa 2., 1905 - Bortom havet (övers. av Ragnar Ekelund, 1920)
  • Ants Raudjalg: virolainen kertomus, 1907
  • Lähtevien laivojen kaupunki, 1913 [The city of the leaving ships] - De farande skeppens stad (övers. av Holger Nohrström, 1915)
  • Seitsemän: titanic-novelleja, 1914 (see: Jacques Futrelle and Titanic)
  • Suljettu puutarha: runoja, 1915 [Enclosed garden: poems]
  • Tähdenlento: virolaisen runoilijattaren Koidulan elämä, 1915 - Tähelend: Koidula elulugu (soome keelest tõlk. Friedebert Tuglas, 1918)
  • Nuori Viro: muotokuvia ja suuntaviivoja, 1918 [Young Estonia: portraits and trajectories] - Noor-Eesti: näopildid ja sihtjooned (soome keelest tõlk. Friedebert Tuglas, 1921)
  • Musta raita, 1919
  • Katinka Rabe: kirja lapsesta, 1920
  • Vieras veri: rakkausnovelleja, 1921 [Strange blood: love stories] - Võõras veri: armastusnovellid (soome keelest tõlk. Friedebert Tuglas, 1922)
  • Barbara von Tisenhusen: liivinmaalainen tarina, 1923 [Barbara von Tisenhusen: A Livonian tale] - Barbara von Tisenhusen: üks jutt Liiwimaalt (maakeele tõlkinud Friedebert Tuglas, 1924) - Barbara von Tisenhusen (övers. av Bertel Gripenberg, 1924) - Eros the Sleyer: two Estonian Tales (contains Barbara von Tiesenhusen, Reigin pappi, tr. Alex Matson, 1927) - libretto by Jaan Kross, composed by Eduard Tubin
  • The White Ship: Estonian Tales, 1924 (tr.  Alex Matson, with a foreword by John Galsworthy)
  • Reigin pappi: hiidenmaalainen tarina, 1926 - Eros the Sleyer: Two Estonian Tales (contains Barbara von Tiesenhusen, Reigin pappi, tr. Alex Matson, 1927) - libretto by Jaan Kross, composed by Eduard Tubin
  • Kogutud teosed, 1928 -1938 (9 vols., ed. and tr. Friedebert Tuglas et al.)
  • Sudenmorsian, 1928 - Hundimõrsja: üks jutt Hiiumaal tõlk. Friedebert Tuglas, 1929) - Vargbruden (övers. av Bertel Gripenberg, 1936) - The Wolf's Bride (tr.  Alex Matson, in collaboration with Bryan Rhys, 1930) - adapted as a libretto for an opera by Tauno Pylkkänen, 1950
  • Novelleja, 1928
  • Langatonta sähköä: pieniä kirjeitä Lontoosta, 1928 [Wireless electricity: brief letters from London]
  • Pyhän Joen kosto: kaksi balladia, 1930 [The revenge of the Holy River] - Püha jõe kättemaks: kaks ballaadi (tõlkinud Friedebert Tuglas, 1931)
  • Marokon lumoissa: pieniä kirjeitä Marokosta, 1931 [Under the spell of Morocco: brief letters from Morocco]
  • Bathsheba Saarenmaalla: yksinäytöksinen näytelmä, 1932 - Patseba Saaremaal: draama ühes vaatuses (tr. 1932) - Bath-sheba of Saaremaa (translated from the Finnish by Alex Matson, 1934) - adapted as a libretto for an opera by Tauno Pylkkänen, 1940
  • Mare ja hänen poikansa: kolminäytöksinen näytelmä, 1935 [Mare and her son] - adapted as a libretto for an opera by Tauno Pylkkänen, 1945
  • Talonpojan kunnia: yksinäytöksinen näytelmä, 1936
  • Sudenmorsian: balladinäytelmä, 1937
  • Valitut teokset I-III, 1938 [Selected works]
  • Kuoleman joutsen, 1942 [The swan of death]
  • Kuun silta: runoja, 1943 [Moon bridge: poems]
  • Löytöretkillä Lontoossa: kaksitoista vuotta Viron Lontoon-lähetystössä vuosina 1922-1934: muistelmia Englannista, Amerikasta ja Hollannista, 1944 [Exploring London] - Leiuretkedel Londonis: kaksteist aastat Eesti Londoni-saatkonnas aastail 1922-1934: mälestusi Inglismaast, Ameerikast ja Hollandist (soome keelest tõlkinud Joh. Aavik, 1945)
  • Polttoroviolla: runoja, 1945 [On the funeral pyre]
  • Mallen tunnustukset: yksinäytöksinen ilveily, 1945
  • Kanssavaeltajia ja ohikulkijoita I-III, 1945-47 [Fellow travellers and by-passers]
  • Mu saatuse maa, 1947 
  • Seitsemän neitsyttä: tarinoita, 1948 [Seven virgins] - Seitse neitsit (soome kellst tõlkinud Joh. Aavik, 1950)
  • Virvatulia: tarinoita, 1949
  • Rakkauden vangit: tarinoita, 1951 [Prisoners of love] - Armastuse vangid: jutustusi (soome kellst tõlkinud Joh. Aavik, 1952)
  • Päiväkirja vuosilta 1897-1906, 1952  [Diary from the years 1897-1906] - Päevaraamat aastaist 1897-1906 (soome kellst tõlkinud Helmi Eller, 1954)
  • Päiväkirja vuosilta 1907-1915, 1953 [Diary from the years 1907-1915] - Päevaraamat aastaist 1907-1915 (soome kellst tõlkinud Helmi Eller, 1955) / Jäätunud sampanja: päevaraamat aastaist 1907-1915 (tõlkinud Helmi Eller; toimetanud Endel Priidel, 1994)
  • Päiväkirja vuosilta 1916-1921, 1954  [Diary from the years 1916-1921] - Hinge sild: päevikulehti aastaist 1916-1921 (soome kellst tõlkinud Helmi Eller, 1956)
  • Valitut teokset, 1954 (foreword by Kai Laitinen) [Selected works]
  • Päiväkirja vuosilta 1922-26, 1955  [Diary from the years 1922-1926] - Suurlinnade udus ja säras: päevikuleti aastaist 1922-1926 (soome kellst tõlkinud Helmi Eller, 1958)
  • Päiväkirja vuosilta 1927-31, 1956  [Diary from the years 1927-1931] - Pööripäevad: päevikulehti aastaist 1927-1931 (soome kellst tõlkinud Helmi Eller, 1960)
  • Vaeltava vieraskirja vuosilta 1946-1956, 1957 [Wandering guest book]
  • Valitut teokset. Katinka Rabe. Barbara von Tisenhusen. Reigin pappi. Sudenmorsian. Kertomuksia, 1970 [Selected works]
  • Elämäntoveri, 1959 (ed. Aino Setälä) [Companion for life] - Elukaaslane (soome kellst tõlkinud Helgi Kelle ja Aino Laagus, 1998)
  • Three Novels, 1975 (transl. by Alex Matson)
  • Aino Kallaksen kauneimmat runot, 1959 (ed. Eino Kauppinen & Sirkka Rapola) - Igaviku väraval: valitud luuletused (koostanud ja tõlk. Minni Nurme; kujundanud Marje Üksine, 1979)
  • Elämäni päiväkirjat I-II, 1978
  • Kolme naista, kolme kohtaloa, 1988 (ed. Riitta Kallas) [Three women, three destinies]
  • Elämisen taiteesta. Aino Kallaksen ja Anna-Maria Tallgrenin kirjeenvaihtoa, 2008 (ed. Silja Vuorikuru) [Art of living]
  • Valitut teokset, 2008 (new edition) [Selected works]

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