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Viljo Kajava (1909-1998)


Finnish writer, journalist, and translator, whose career in literature, beginning from his first collection of poems in 1935, spanned over 50 years. Kajava published nearly 40 books, mostly poems. While Kajava's early works dealt with his native Tampere and the proletarian condition, after the World War II he became known as an advocate for humanistic views and optimistically colored poems of life, work, family, and city.

"He has long since
----lost his vigour in these streets,
all he grows now
----is a beard, case histories,
----application forms, protest."

(from 'This Is How It Is,' 1972)

Viljo Kajava was born in Tampere, the son of Konrad Johannes Kajava, a tailor, and Martta Johanna Granlund. In his childhood Kajava witnessed the conquest of Tampere during the Finnish Civil War (1917-18). Later in life, Kajava returned to the traumatic events in his works. Kajava began to write poems already at school, where he edited the school magazine Vasama. After graduating from the secondary school in Hämeenlinna in 1931, Kajava studied for a period at the University of Helsinki, without graduating. In 1933, he married Maj Inkeri Aulio; they had one child.

As a writer, Kajava made his debut with Rakentajat (1935), a collection of poems which drew its subjects from pacifism and the life of workers. In the 1930s Kajava was closely associated with the leftist literery group Tulenkantajat (The Fire Bearers). He also wrote for the Marxist literature magazine Kirjallisuuslehti, and was a founding member of the literary group Kiila (Wedge) with Elvi Sinervo, Arvo Turtiainen and others. Kiila's members favored radical free verse and were more or less Marxists.

But more than the theory of socialism, Kajava was influenced by the Swedish writer Harry Martinson and great American (Whitman and Sandburg) and Russian (Blok, Jesenin, Mayakovski) poets. Later he moved from the world of the class struggle to more impressionistic and nature orientated lyric. He also translated works from such authors as Jaroslav Hašek, August Strindberg, Tarjei Vesaas, Pär Lagerkvist and Erle Stanley Gardner.

Kajava's second collection of poems, Murrosvuodet (1937), depicted his birth town Tampere with its factories, workers and cramped outskirts. From 1940 to 1944 Kajava was a staff member of the periodical Aseveli. He also broke with Kiila; many of its members had been imprisoned.

During the Continuation War (1941-44), Kajava served in the army at the information department and wrote war propagand for the anthologies Sotatalvi (1942) and Laulun miekka  (1944). He also published three own books, of which Muistatko vielä Paulin? (1943) was partly autobiographical. With Mika Waltari, Kajava participated in 1942 in the Writer's Congress in Weimar, where the highlight was Joseph Goebbels's speech. According to Waltari, they refused to do the Heil Hitler salute, when the orchestra played 'Horst Wessel' and 'Deutchland, Deutscland, über alles'. However, Kajava still believed in the "brotherhood in arms" between Germany and Finland in 1944, when the German defeat was already obvious.

After the Moscow armistice, the Kajavas moved to Sweden for personal reasons. They had adopted an Ingrian Finnish girl, named Rosa, and because there was a possibility that she could be returned to the Soviet Union, they decided to leave the country. (Majority of the Ingrians, who left Finland, believing that they could go back to their homes, were deported directly to Siberia or Central Asia.) From 1945 to 1948, Kajava lived in Stockholm. To earn his living, he first washed dishes at a restaurant, and then he was employed by an insurance company. While in Sweden, he met among others Harry Martinson, and wrote two Swedish-language books, Till havets fåglar (19448) and Någonstans (1949). Both were published by Wahlsröm & Widstrand. Some of the poems dealt with Kajava's war years: "in the bloody drama / I wasn't a mere spectator".

At the suggestion of his old friend Arvo Paasivuori, a member of the Parliament (1945-48), Kajava returned to Finland in November 1948. He worked as a subeditor of the magazine Suomen Kuvalehti until 1954. Kajava's poetry collections, Siivitetyt kädet (1949) and Hyvä on meri (1950), showed his acquaintance with new trends in poetry. From 1949 to 1965 he contributed to the newspaper Suomen Sosialidemokraatti. In 1956 Kajava won the first Eino Leino Society Award – the organization had been founded by the modernists in 1947. In spite of the tensions between modernists and traditionalists, Kajava's humanistic wisdom was widely accepted among different literary generations.

Veistän patsaan
ja te syljette siihen,
tietämättä ketä patsas esittää,
tietämättä kuka on patsaan veistänyt.
En ole veistänyt yhtäkään patsasta,
joka ei esitä teitä.
Syljeskelkäämme itseämme.

(from Muuttumatta, 1955)

Kavaja's later collections include Tampereen runot (1966), in which he returned to his childhod memories of the battle of Tampere, and Vallilan rapsodia (1972), depicting the working-class section of Helsinki. When Arvo Turtiainen wrote odes to Rööperi (Redhill), another working-class area, Kajava celebrated the milieu and people of Vallila, its wooden houses, small shops, Inari Road with the kids at their skipping ropes. Small, detailed visual images were typical for Kajava's poems: "It's going well today / with the sun shining on Inari Road, / and the sheets in the typewriter / trying to take off and fly: / shaggy wings of song."

For further reading: Tulenkantajat by Kerttu Saarenheimo (1966); A History of Finnish Literature by Jaakko Ahokas (1973); Kirjailijat puhuvat. Tulenkantajat, ed. by Ritva Haavikko (1976); 'Viljo Kajavan runouden murros' by Kai Laitinen, in Rivien takaa, ed. by Ritva Haavikko (1976); Kapinalliset kynät by Raoul Palmgren II-III (1984); A Way to Measure Time, ed. by Bo Carpelan, et al. (1992); A History of Finland's Literature, ed. by George C. Schoolfied (1998); Se oli satakieli: kirjoituksia elämästä ja teoksista by Hannu Kankaanpää (2003); Sivuviiva: kirjoituksia kirjallisuudesta ja sen vierestä by Hannu Kankaanpää (2008). See: The Fire Bearers: Olavi Paavolainen, Katri Vala, Yrjö Jylhä, Lauri Viljanen.

Selected works:

  • Rakentajat: runoja, 1935
  • translator: Jaroslav Hašek, Kunnon sotamies Shvejkin seikkailut maailmansodassa I-III, 1935-37
  • translator: Harry Hjörne, Viides rengas, 1937
  • Murrosvuodet, 1937
  • Hyvästi, muuttolintu: runoja, 1938
  • Luomiskuut = runoja, 1939
  • translator: Emil Cedercreutz, Yksinäisyyttä ja ihmisvilinää, 1939
  • translator: August Strindberg, Punainen huone, 1939
  • Sotatalvi: runovalikoima, 1940 (with Yrjö Jylhä, Arvi Kivimaa, Ragnar Ekelund, Mika Waltari, Lauri Viljanen, Otto Varhia)
  • Ankara maa: runoja, 1941
  • Takojat: runoja puhekuoroille, 1941
  • translator: Ebba Richert, Huolehdi Ullasta, 1942
  • Muistatko vielä Paulin?, 1942
  • Talkoomarssi, 1942
  • Kahden sydämen talo: runoja, 1943
  • Hellyys: runoja, 1944
  • translator: Erle Stanley Gardner, Kleptomaanin jäljet, 1944
  • editor: Suomalainen äiti: äitikuvauksia uudemmasta kotimaisesta kirjalloisuudesta, 1945
  • editor (with Otto Varhia): Viesti mereen: antologia Ruotsin uutta runoutta, 1946
  • Suljetuin silmin: runoja, 1946
  • Till havets fåglar, 1948
  • Någonstans, 1949
  • Siivitetyt kädet: runoja, 1949
  • Hyvä on meri, 1950
  • Yksinäisiä naisia: novelleja, 1950
  • Vihreä kartta: novelleja, 1951
  • translator: Walter Bayer, Viimeinen paimen, 1953 (radio play)
  • editor: Pär Lagerkvist, Runoja, 1953
  • translator: Walentin Chorell, Matkamies, 1953-54 (play)
  • translator: Inger Hagerup, Terveisiä Katarinalta, 1954 (radio play)
  • Jokainen meistä: runoja, 1954
  • Muuttumatta: runoja, 1955
  • translator: Felix Braun, Jairuksen tytär, 1955 (radio play)
  • translator: Tarjei Vesaas, Suojailma, 1955 (radio play)
  • translator: August Strindberg, Uninäytelmä, 1955 (radio play)
  • Ennen iltapäivää: runoja, 1956
  • translator: Tarjei Vesaas, Sininen nappi, 1956 (radio play)
  • Peikot: saturunoja, 1956 (illustrated by Annele Tahkolahti-Synterä)
  • Lintukauppias, 1957
  • Tuliteema: runoja, 1957
  • Nuoruuden aamu ja ilta: romaani, 1958
  • Taivaan sineen, 1959
  • Kosketus, 1959
  • Viljo Kajavan kauneimmat runot, 1959
  • Kymmenen ilmansuuntaa: runoja, 1961
  • Ne tuovat viestin..., 1962
  • Ei kukaan ole voittaja, 1962
  • translator: Elmer Diktonius, Runoja, 1963
  • translator: Gösta Ågren, Tykinlaukaus, 1965 (radio play)
  • translator: Rudolf Värnlund, U 39, 1966 (radio play)
  • Ruusuja lunta: runoja, 1966
  • Tampereen runot, 1966
  • Käsityöläisen unet: runoja, 1968
  • Valitut runot, 1969
  • Reykjavikin valot: runoja, 1970
  • Vallilan rapsodia: runoja, 1972
  • Rannan tasangot vuoret: runoja, 1974
  • Läheltä: runoja, 1975
  • Rannat, rannat: runoja, 1977
  • Kosketus: runoja
  • Valveilla kuin unessa: runoja, 1980
  • Jäähyväiset eiliselle: runoja, 1982
  • Tuli, valo, meri: runoja vuosilta 1935-1982, 1984
  • Talvituuli: runoja, 1987
  • Tähän saavuin: runoja, 1989
  • Aika rakasta, aika laulaa: runoilija muistelee, 1990 (edited by Kristiina Lyytinen),
  • Maan ja meren runot: runoja, 1992
  • Vielä piirrän viivan: runoja, 1996
  • Valoksi maan päälle – Viljo Kajavan kauneimmat joulurunot, 1998 (edited by Jarkko Laine)
  • 1930-luvun runot, 2000
  • Sinusta, minusta, hissistä ja jazz-bandista: nuoruudenrunoja 1927-1931, 2000 (edited by Jarkko Laine)

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