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||Johannes Linnankoski (1869-1913) - pseudonym for Johannes Vihtori Peltonen|
Finnish novelist, playwright, and journalist, one of the most prominent figures in the language campaign of the mid-1905, during which some 100 000 people changed their surname into Finnish. Linnankoski's internationally best-known work is Laulu tulipunaisesta kukasta (1905, The Song of the Blood-Red Flower). It has been adapted into screen several times. Linnankoski's central themes, love for freedom and love for countryside, honest work, manly responsibility and high ethical principles were also prominent in his non-fiction, written as popular education for farmers.
"Sillä rakkaus on lihaa ja verta ja vetää niinkuin magneetti, niin ettemme me nykypolven ihmiset jätä synnin ja helvetin pelosta askeltakaan ottamatta - mehän kuitenkin saamme kaikki katuen ja rukoilen anteeksi!!" (from Laulu tulipunaisesta kukasta)
Johannes Linnankoski was born Johannes Vihtori Peltonen in Askola, the youngest child of Juho Henrikinpoika Peltonen and Maria Juhontytär Peltonen. His father was a tenant farmer, who drank much of the family's income. Maria was religious and practical housewife, who became very close to the young Johannes. The Bible was important for both of the parents, and Linnankoski used its motifs in several works. At school he was a good student and published his first writing in the newpaper Suometar at the age of 18. He had started to write poems some years earlier, and composed two unpublished novels under the influence of Aleksis Kivi, Juhani Aho, and Pietari Päivärinta.
In his youth Linnankoski worked on a building site and as a log floater. Like the older writer Minna Canth, he studied in Jyväskylä at the Teacher's College. After conflicts with teachers – drinking was one of the problems – Linnankoski left the college in 1889 and found employment as a journalist for Keski-Suomi for some months. Upon falling in love with the wife of his friend, he wrote the unfinished short story 'Kosto'. Later he returned to some of its themes in the novel Laulu tulipunaisesta kukasta. In 1891 he moved to Porvoo, where he worked for the publishing house Werner Söderström. After two year's military service, he was appointed chief editor of the newly founded newspaper Uusimaa in Porvoo, Runeberg's hometown. In his articles he defended the rights of tenant farmers which was angrily noted by the owners of large farms and estates, who "owned" tenants.
In 1899 Linnankoski suddenly resingned from his post. He married in the same year Ester Josefina Drugg; they had four children. Dugg was a Swedish language teacher, and an active defender of women's rights. Linnankoski moved with her to Karinais, where he devoted himself entirely to writing. During these years he first earned living by translation works, in which he was helped by his wife. He also published such booklets as Asutus- ja rakennusjärjestelmä maaseudulla (1900), dealing with the policy of settlement in the countryside, and Puhetaito (1901), about rhetoric. From Karinais the Linnankoskis moved to Alapitkä in the Northern Savo, where he hoped to find complete peace for his writing. Linnankoski took very seriously his humanistic self-education to become a writer – he had a list of four-hundred literary masterpieces, which he read in Finnish and in Swedish and German translations. During this period he wrote his first major play Ikuinen taistelu (1903). It came out under the pseudonym Johannes Linnankoski – the author took the name from small rapids in his home region. The solemn play, influenced, among others, by Milton and Byron, was based on Cain and Abel story, the eternal battle between good and evil. It gained a huge success and received the Finnish Literature Associaton Award. As a drama the work was too large for small theaters and the public was not interested. It was performed in full-length first time in Tampere in 1909 and then in Helsinki. Linnankoski's romantic pseudonym stirred much curiosity, and helped to created extra interest around the text.
In 1903 the Linnankoskis moved to Koski in the Western Finland. After years of unsettled life, the family moved at last to Askola in 1909. As a novelist Linnankoski made his debut in 1905 with The Song of the Blood-Red Flower, a lyrical Don Juan adaptation on the amorous adventures of a lumberjack, Olavi, who finally must take responsibility of his life. Along with a group of loggers he goes down the river from girl to girl, until he returns to start a family with Kyllikki. Thanks to its operetta-like plot, colorful style, and its carefree hero – the achetype of the later lumberjack heroes of Finnish films – the work gained great success, also as a Swedish movie version directed by Mauritz Stiller; it has been translated into 19 languages, Czech, Slovak, and Latvian included. Because Linnankoski's book contained a couple of stories published before under the name Vihtori Peltonen, his pseudonym was eventually revealed to the wider public.
In the late 1905, during a large wave of strikes and and political crisis, Linnankoski tried to mediate between different parties with such writings as Kuinka Suomea rakennetaan (1905), and Kirot (1907), a minor allegorical play about the struggle against Russification in Finland. For a short time he considered himself "almost Socialist", but in 1907 predicted that "there will be time we have to fight for individualism against Socialim." 1908 he travelled widely in Europe and published the novel Pakolaiset (1908), which was based on a family tragedy he had witnessed in the Northern Savo. In 1909 Linnankoski moved to his home village, where he wrote the plays Simson ja Delila (1911) and Jeftan tytär (1911, Jephta's Daughter). As a playwright Linnankoski never became successful – Jephta's Daughter was short and suitable only as a part of larger program. His career as a full-time writer spanned ten years. Linnankoski's last work was Sirpaleita (1913), a collection of short stories. He died at the age of 44 in Helsinki, on August 10, 1913. He had suffered from ill health for years; anemia made him tired and he did not have enough strength to start his novel, entitled Kolme Yrjöä, a story about three brothers.
"Ei kylmiä neron näytteitä, vaan lämmintä elämää: raivota poeettisesti, haaveilla meloodisesti, kylpeä päivänpaisteessa, kuulla ruohon kasvavan, ymmärtää lintujen kieltä jne." (from Linnankoski's notebook 'Vähä katkismus')
Linnankoski's other major works include the short story Taistelu Heikkilän talosta (1907), in which the wife of a drunkard beats her husband with a leather strap, and Pakolaiset (1908), about an old peasant, who marries a much younger girl and finds that she is pregnant for another man. The title of the novel "the refugees" or "the runaways", do not refer to political refugees, but to an attempt to escape moral responsibility. Nowadays the short story 'Hilja, maitotyttö' (1920) is remembered for its screen adaptation from 1953, starring the voluptuous young Anneli Sauli; she was discovered by the producer and director Toivo Särkkä, who clearly understood that her naked scenes, which had little to do with the original story, would create a sensation. Linnankoski translated several books into Finnish from a great variety of fields (sexual education, folk education, agriculture, war history, botany, preservation of game etc.).
For further reading: Johannes Linnankoski by Werner Söderhjelm (1918); Johannes Linnankosken 'Ikuinen taistelu' by Aarne Anttila (1922); Vihtori Peltonen - Johannes Linnankoski I-II by Aarne Anttila (1921-1927); Tutkimus Johannes Linnankosken 'Pakolaisten' tyylistä by Leevi Valkama (1957); 'Johannes Linnankoski' by Kerttu Saarenheimo, in Valitut teokset by Johannes Linnankosk (1973); A History of Finnish Literature by Jaakko Ahokas (1973); Elämän tulipunakukka by Leevi Mäittälä (1979); 'Johannes Linnankoski' by Panu Rajala, in Johanns Linnankoski, Kodin suuret klassikot (1987); A History of Finland's Literature, ed. by George C. Schoolfield (1998) - Note: Linnankoski Award, founded in 1942. Linnankoski's statue, by the sculptor Kalervo Kallio, is situated in Porvoo