Frans Eemil Sillanpää (SIHL-ahn-pah), winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1939, began life as a peasant’s son in the Finnish town of Hämeenkyrö, September 16, 1888. As a child he displayed a great aptitude for science; consequently he was sent to the Imperial Alexander University at Helsingfors. There he found more excitement in the company of writers, artists, and musicians (including the composer Jean Sibelius) than he did in the laboratory. As a result of this new interest, he faced a great emotional crisis. Having decided that his vocation was writing, he left the university without taking his examinations for a degree and returned home on Christmas Eve of 1913. After that time his interests followed no other course.
He published his first novel in 1916 and in that same year married a servant girl with whom he would have seven children. His second novel, Meek Heritage, concerned with the clash of the Reds and the Whites in the Finnish Revolution, won him fame in his country and a government pension for life. Translated into a number of languages, the novel also helped to establish his international reputation. The Maid Silja, published in 1931, was equally popular at home and abroad. In 1936 Sillanpää was made an honorary doctor of philosophy by the Finnish government. Three years later he became the first Finn to be awarded a Nobel Prize.