Paavo Haavikko belongs to the generation of Finns who experienced World War II as children, growing into maturity in the immediate postwar years, a period which in many ways constituted a watershed for the Finnish society, in which a major, still ongoing culture change began in the 1950’s. The largely rural society (seventy percent of the population lived in the countryside until the postwar years) had been a major source of literary themes for the prewar writers and poets. Finnish as a creative literary language was still relatively new, Finland having been part of the Swedish kingdom for six hundred years and of the Russian empire for one hundred years, during which time Swedish was the language of culture and education. In the nineteenth century, a smoldering nationalistic movement gained impetus, under the influence of the ideas of the German philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder, and, in 1863, the Finnish language was granted equal status with Swedish. The following decades produced an abundance of writers of Finnish-language literature, which reflected Continental European trends and the “national neo-Romanticism.” The latter was partly a product and a culmination of the struggle for the country’s independence, which was gained in 1917.
World War II broke the continuity of Finnish literature. The war experience and the resulting circumstances and conditions caused a reevaluation of prewar ideas and ideology. It was a time of careful...
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