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|Arvid Järnefelt (1861-1931) - pseudonym Arvi Rauta, published also novels under the name Hilja Kahila|
Finnish writer, who was deeply influenced by Leo Tolstoy's Christian thinking. Järnefelt believed in the brotherhood of man and that people must reject unnecessary luxury and live simply. He also met Tolstoy in Moscow and translated several of his works into Finnish, including the novel Ylösnousemus (Resurrection). Järnefelt was born into a cultured and well-established Russian-Finnish family. In his thirties, he abandoned a promising juridical career , and began to live the life of a shoemaker and farmer.
"Oikea taiteilija ei kysy koskaan, mitä hyötyä hänen teoksensa tulee tuottamaan. Hän tekee työtä yksinomaan taiteen vuoksi, taiteellisen totuuden vuoksi; siksi, että hänen pitää niin tehdä; siksi, että hänellä ei ole mitään yksityistä hyödynkäsitettä silmiensä edessä, vaan että hänellä on sisäinen kutsumus, sisäinen tarve." (in Isänmaa, 1893)
Arvid Järnefelt was born in Pulkova in Russia. He was the second son of the topographer, general, and senator August Alexander Järnefelt, and Elisabeth Clodt von Jürgensburg, the daughter of a baron, who was one of the best Russian sculptors of the time. At home Järnefelt's parents spoke first Russian, but after settling in Helsinki, they tended to speak Finnish to their children. Elisabeth encouraged her childrens' artistic aspirations. Arvid's brother Armas (1869-1958) gained fame as a composer and conductor, and his younger brother Eero (1863-1937) was a painter; their sister Aino married the composer Jean Sibelius.
In the 1880s Järnefelt became a supporter of the Fennoman movement, which aimed for hegemony over Russian authorities and complete sovereignty of Finland. In 1884 Järnefelt married Emilia Fredrika Parviainen, they had five children, one of whom, Anna Katarina, died young, and was buried in Rantala. Their first child, Eero, was born in 1888; he became an ambassador in the diplomatic service. The early education of the children, who led relatively ordinary lives, was done by Järnefelt himself. T he apparently autobiographical short story 'Hiljaisuudessa' (1913, Without ceremonies), tells of the burial of his daughter, who had not been baptized – Järnefelt did not allow his children to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Eventually she is buried on their own ground, while birds are singing in the trees all around, "and that was a far better ceremony than the church could ever have provided."
Considering sexual desires as evil, Järnefelt stopped having sex with his wife in his 40s, and thenceforth masturbated occasionally. Noteworthy, Tolstoy's ideal was celibacy, but the central character in The Kreutzer Sonata do not show the great anti-masturbatory horror of the period, arguing that "it is necessary for the sake of health." Järnefelt also refused to pay his taxes, donated a library for a local workers' union, and gave readings.
Järnefelt studied psychology in Leipzig and after graduating in 1885 from the University of Helsinki, he studied Russian language at the University of Moscow from 1886 to 1888. In 1890 he became a lawyer and worked from 1891 in civil service, first in Helsinki and then in judicial duties in Ostrobothnia in the western part of Finland.
The turning point in Järnefelt's life was Tolstoy's lesser known book on the Christian faith (in Finnish Kristuksen opin henki), which he read at the age of thirty. In spite of his father's opposition, Järnefelt abandoned his promising career at a court of appeals, bought a farm called Rantala from Lohja in 1896, and became a full-time writer, devoting himself into spreading the ideas of Tolstoy. Trying support his family with manual labor he learned the skills of a shoemaker and blacksmith. Before publishing Isänmaa (1893, Fatherland), his first novel, Järnefelt had written two short stories under the influence of Aleksis Kivi. These works, 'Kertomus Elias-äijästä' ja 'Kokelas', were published in the magazine Valvoja in 1883-84.
Many of Järnefelt's writings were autobiographical. In the story Heräämiseni (1894, My awakening) Järnefelt depicted how he adopted Tolstoyanism as his guide in life. After Nikolay Bobrikov, the Governor-General of Finland, presented the Finnish diet with the ukase of Czar Nicholas II, known as the "February Manifesto", Järnefelt travelled in 1899 to Russia with his brother Eero to put Finland's case before the author. The long-awaited meeting took place on the morning of April 17. Tolstoy's advice was to use passive resistance against oppression. Järnefelt's book Päiväkirja matkaltani Venäjälle (1899) gave an account of the journey.
Järnefelt adopted Tolstoy's views of the necessity of land reform. Tolstoy's How Much Does a Man Need? had appeared in 1886 and Järnefelt's writing 'Isännät ja torpparit' ('masters and tenant farmers') in 1894. Maaemon lapsia (1905) dealt with the agricultural problem from the point of view of three characters; a poor tenant, a wealthy landowner, and a radical young aristocrat, who was Järnefelt's self-portrait. Concealed behind the allegorical veil of the story is the contemporary political debate on the relations between Finland and Russia. In the pamphlet Maa kuuluu kaikille! (1907, The land belongs to everyone), written during the crofters' strike of Laukko in 1906-1907, Järnefelt's ideals of equality came close to socialism, but his views also associated with the concept of mother earth. The play Tiitus (or Orjan oppi, 1902) gained a success on the stage, possibly because the audience wrongly assumed that the author was criticizing the Russian Emperor in the character of Titus.
In 1899 Järnefelt participated in the founding of the newspaper Päivälehti (later Helsingin Sanomat). It gained soon fame as a promoter of liberal ideas. The newspaper had in the early 1900s several authors in its staff, among them the poet Eino Leino. During this period Järnefelt was closely associated with the writer Juhani Aho and the journalist Eero Erkko, who held several ministerial posts from 1918 to 1920 after Finland declared independence.
Veneh'ojalaiset I-II (1909), a critique of unjust laws, was set in Helsinki, in the world of slums, half-criminals, and Russian revolutionaries. Following Tolstoy's pacifist politics, Järnefelt asserted in the novel that you don't destroy the evil of the system by violent revolution but recommended passive resistance. The book prompted a public protest from a formed Russian officer who had sided with revolutionaries and later fled to the United States.
The commercially successful novel Onnelliset (1916) was was published under the feminine pseudonym Hilja Kahila. Its front cover portrayed a naked woman stepping into water. In 1917 Järnefelt delivered a series of sermons, in which he attacked dogmatic religious beliefs. Due to his unconventional views about love for one's neighbour, he was arrested for a short time. Järnefelt refused to appear in court because of his belief, that the law is only a tool for the ruling class. Conservative religious circles castigated Järnefelt as an "anarchist of the Tolstoy type".
The Russian Revolution and Finnish Civil War affected deeply Järnefelt's pacifistic thoughts. After years of silence as a novelist he wrote Greeta ja hänen Herransa (1925), which underlined the author's spiritual seeking. In the story an elderly Swedish-speaking woman, Greeta, tries to come to terms with the son's suicide. In her difficulties, she turns to her lord, who is not actually the God of the official church.
Järnefelt died on December 27, 1931 in Helsinki, but was buried in the garden of Rantala. Although his importance as a writer has been acknowledged, he never became popular. Moreover, Tolstoy's ideas never had a large following in Finland, where readers love humor (Juhani Aho, Arto Paasilinna), portrayals of rural and ordinary people (Pentti Haanpää, Kalle Päätalo), historical novels (Mika Waltari, Laila Hietamies), or techno-thrillers (Ilkka Remes). Järnefelt's works dealt mostly with social and religious thoughts of the late 19th century and problems of educated people. Isänmaa and Veneh'ojalaiset (1909), were reprinted by Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden seura (Finnish Literature Society) in the late 1990s in its series of Finnish classics. Greeta ja hänen herransa was made into a talking book in 1988. The 6th edition of Vanhempieni romaani (1928-1930, The Story of my parents) was published in 1991.
"Arvid Järnefelt on niitä kirjallisuutemme klassikkoja, joiden asema suomalaisen lukijain sydämissä on jatkuvasti epäselvä ja epävarma. Tiedetään, että Isänmaa on erään kansallisen sivistysvaiheen muistomerkki... Mutta luetaanko Arvid Järnefeltin muuta runsasta tuotantoa? Onko sen postuumi elämä jäänyt aateystävien varaan, jotka ovat harventuneet sangen vähiin, maan hiljaisiksi?" (Lauri Viljanen in 'Arvid Järnefeltin psykologisesta taiteesta', 1959)
Järnefelt's best known novel is perhaps the patriotic Isänmaa, which contributed to the national self-awareness in its own way. One of the characters demands that all the Swedish-speakers must leave Finland. The protagonist, Heikki Vuorela, is a student who is carried away by national awakening. He had moved from the country to a city and becomes an advocate of new political ideas. However, at the same time Heikki forgets his agrarian roots. After his father's death he gives up his share in the farm, but believes that he has gained now more stronger vision of his country. In Veljekset (1900, Brethren) Järnefelt developed further his psychological portrayal of educated people. The central characters, Johannes, Henrik, Gabriel and Uuno, are sons of a priest, and through their choices Henrik comes closest to the author himself in his search for meaning in life, but he has also connections to Heikki from Isänmaa. At one point the noble idlers casually plan a gang-rape.
Järnefelt's symbolist drama Kuolema (1903, The death) was written under the influence of Maurice Maeterlinck. Sibelius composed his 'Valse Triste' as part of the incidental music for the play. Järnefelt's fictionalized account of his gifted but difficult parents, Vanhempieni romaani, depicts the new Finnish intelligentsia of the 1880s and 1890s. The book revealed Juhani Aho's fascination with Järnefelt's mother, Elisabeth, and his later love for the daughter of the family, Aino. Vanhempieni romaani was translated into Swedish in 1989.
For further reading: Suomalaisia kirjailijoita: XX vuosisadan alussa by Kaarlo Rafael Koskimies (1927); Aleksis Kivestä Saima Harmajaan: suomalaisten kirjailijain elämäkertoja, ed. by Albin Ahonen, Martti Haavio, V.I. Mikkonen (1943); Arvid Järnefelt ja hänen lähimaailmansa by Pekka Häkli (1955); 'Arvid Järnefeltin psykologisesta taiteesta' by Lauri Viljanen, in Lyyrillinen minä (1959); A History of Finnish Literature by Jaakko Ahokas (1973); 'Arvid Järnefeltin tie kirjailijaksi' by Annamari Sarajas, in Orfeus nukkuu (1980); 'Arvid Järnefelt' by Tapio Kopponen, foreword in Arvid Järnefelt I: Kodin suuret klassikot (1986); 'Sata vuottako aikaansa edellä?' by Juhani Niemi, foreword in Veljekset by Arvid Järnefelt (2002); Arvid Järnefelt: Kirjailija ajassa ja ikuisuudessa by Juhani Niemi (2005) - Other writers closely associated with Lohja: Eeva Joenpelto, Tytti Parras, Sirkka Turkka. - See also: City Library of Lohja.
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