Choose another writer in this calendar:
by birthday from the calendar.
This is an archive of a dead website. The original website was published by Petri Liukkonen under Creative Commons BY-ND-NC 1.0 Finland and reproduced here under those terms for non-commercial use. All pages are unmodified as they originally appeared; some links and images may no longer function. A .zip of the website is also available.
||Martti Johannes Larni (1909-1993) - surname until 1942 Laine|
Writer and journalist, who became the best-known Finnish writer in the Soviet Union after publishing his satirical novel about the American way of life, Neljäs nikama eli veijari vastoin tahtoaan (1957, The fourth vertebra, or a scamp despite himself). When the French magazine Paris Match interviewed President Fidel Castro, he asked the reporter: "Have you read The Fourth Vertebra? It is written by a Finnish writer. Wonderful book." Larni works have been translated into some 20 languages. After World War II, Larni lived a few years in Wisconsins.
"When a collection of my satirical sketches was published twelve years ago one critic described me as a "venomous mocker" who, armed with a sharp awl, lies in wait for his victims. I categorically reject such an accusation. I am not at all venomous; I am a kind, soft-hearted person and am especially fond of children and dogs – children, because they bark also on my behalf. As for the awl, it is the writer's tool. The first duty of a writer is to fight against social injustice. In the capitalist world there are still exploitation, racial oppression, political corruption, shameless strivings for personal gains, brazen attempts to establish world domination by force, and total callous disregard of the worth of human beings." (from 'Foreword' in Laugh with Larni, 1973)
Martti Johannes Laine (Martti Larni) was born in Helsinki, the son of Johan Viktor Laine, a master painter, and Matilda Puntila, who had strong family roots in Hauho, Häme. They had nine children; Martti was the fourth. In his childhood Larni spent several summers as a shepherd – later he recalled this experience in Hyvien ihmisten kylä (1942). At the age of fifteen, Larni wrote his first poems and short stories. His early lyrics were published in 1926 in the magazine Juttutupa. Two years later he became a member of the literary association Nuoren Voiman Liitto, founded in 1921. From 1923 to 1927, he worked as a horticultural assistant, then tried his luck as a businessman, and studied at a cooperative movement school. In 1936 he married Gurli Viola Zetterström. From 1937 to 1943 Larni was the editor of Elanto, a magazine published by one of the largest cooperative movements in Finland. In 1943 he was appointed departmental manager of the consumer cooperative Elanto. During World War II Larni wrote screenplays for the production company Suomi-Filmi Oy, among them Tuomari Martta, which was based on Ilmari Turja's play. With the director Valentin Vaala he cooperated in several film projects, beginning from Keinumorsian (1943).
In 1948-49 Larni resided in the United States and again in 1951-54, working as an editor at the publishing company Co-op. Public Association. Between the years 1956 and 1959 ,he was a departmental manager at The Cooperative Union of Finland. From 1955 to 1965 he was the editor of the magazine Me kuluttajat (We consumers). From 1964 to 1967 he served as chairman of the Finnish Writers' Association. Larni died on March 7, 1993.
Larni made his debut as a novelist with the young adult's novel Seikkailuja Saamenmaassa (1936), which he published under the Lappish pseudonym Aslak Nuorti. His next novel, Kuilu (1937), dealt with the traumatic civil war of 1917-18. At that time the war was mostly seen from the side of the victorious White army. The most notable exceptions were F.E. Sillanpää's Meek Heritage (1919) and Elmer Diktonius's Janne Kubik (1932). Kuilu was a story of the journalist and writer Unto Kamara, who has committed suicide. Kamara's autobiography reveals his homosexual affair with a literature scholar, "Doctor H." During the Civil War Kamara joins the Red Army and kills his seducer. He is imprisoned by the Whites and a white officers demands sexual favors from him. After his release Kamara tries to change his life, marries, but eventually kills his wife. Especially right-wing critics attacked Larni's book – it was considered "sick" and "morally harmful."
Partly due to harsh critic Larni did not publish anything for five years. In 1942 he changed his name officially from Laine to Larni, leaving with this act his earlier identity as a writer completely behind. Under the pseudonym Dan Aster, Larni published three books, Kahden maailma (1944), Malttamaton intohimo (1945), and Musta Venus (1946). Lähellä syntiä (1946) tells the melodramatic story on Juhani Lundahl, the son of a waitress and later prostitute who escapes from home. He finds work at a market garden, owned by a debauched Baron Barring. Juhani joins workers'a association and struggles for his rights. The book was made into a film 1955, directed by Hannu Leminen. The director set the events during World War II instead of the Civil War (1917- 1918). Taivas laskeutui maahan (1948) was a historical novel, in which the protagonist was the friend of the poet François Villon, René Saillant. The work was partly inspired by Lorenz v. Numers' novel Snäckans bröder (1946) – Larni had translated its poems into Finnish. Minnesota palaa (1952) was about Finnish immigrants in the United States and the great fire of 1918 in Minnesota.
Niko said nothing, but the parrot in the cage screamed: "Down with dictators! Hang the colonels!
The Russian translation of The Fourth Vertebra, or a Scamp
came out in 1959. It was published without the
knowledge of the author – the Soviet Union had not undersigned the Bern
convention on copyright issues. The protagonist is Jeremias
Suomalainen, a teacher and journalist, who is called "the greatest
truth-speaker in the word" by one of his readers, but in the trial, he
is accused of being the world's biggest liar. After spending eight
moths in a jail, he moves to the United States. In his new home country
Jeremias becomes the assistant of the chiropractic Isaac Rivers and
Jerry Finn, a citizen of the world. Rivers has a theory: all backaches
come from the fourth vertebra. Larni mocks quick marriages and quick
divorces, miracle doctors, Hollywood, self-contentedness, ignorance of
other cultures, and advertising. In one scene Jerry peddles books; he
has an abridged edition – 102 pages – of Anatole France's collected
works. At the end, he is catapulted into fame and riches.
"Not all Americans are gangsters, and not all Italians are members of the Mafia" (Larni in an interview by Sakari Virkkunen, Suomen Kuvalehti, 14.9.1979)
The poet Pentti Saarikoski confessed in his review of the book that his sympathy was on the side of the cheerful Americans (Parnasso, no. 3, 1958). In the magazine Valvoja (no. 5, 1957) V.A. Koskenniemi compared Larni's style to that of Jerome K. Jerome, but he saw that in the choice of his subject the author follows in the wake of Eric Linklater. On the other hand, Koskenniemi considered Larni's humor rudely exaggerated, too far from the reality to be effective. In 1973 the Soviet Novosti Press Agency published a collection of the author's satirical sketches, Laugh with Larni. Mostly Larni laughed at the U.S. 'Putting History into the Corner' condemned Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's novel August, 1914. Foreboding Solzhenitsyn's exile from the Soviet Union in 1974, Larni wrote: "Several years ago a Soviet writer who likewise did not love his country and people, set out looking for happiness in foreign lands. He changed his name, declared himself a "citizen of the universe" and ... was lost in a London fog."
For further reading: Uuno Kailaasta Aila Meriluotoon: suomalaisten kirjailijain elämäkertoja, ed. by Toivo Pekkanen & Reino Rauanheimo (1947); Martti Larni' by Sakari Virkkunen, in Suomen Kuvalehti (14.9.1979); Kapinalliset kynät III by Raoul Palmgren (1984); Suomalaisia kirjailijoita: Jöns Buddesta Hannu Ahoon by Lasse Koskela (1990); Suomen kansallisfilmografia 3, ed. by Kari Uusitalo, et al. (1993); Kotimaisia sotakirjailijoita by Martti Sinerma...et al. (2001); 'Larni, Martti' by Lasse Koskela, in Suomen kansallisbiografia 5, ed. by Matti Klinge et al. (2005)