Paavo Haavikko Biography


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Paavo Juhani Haavikko was born on January 25, 1931, in Helsinki, the capital city of Finland, a city in which the poet has lived all of his life and which he has always found attractive and exciting, and about which he also has written a book. Haavikko’s father was a businessman, and after his high school graduation in 1951 and customary service in the Finnish Army, Haavikko also entered the business world, working as a real estate agent. Like many Finnish modern poets, Haavikko has consistently maintained a second profession alongside his literary career; in fact, he believes that an author who is solely occupied by writing loses touch with the realities of life. Indeed, in his poetry Haavikko never seems to be an observer on the sidelines; he appears to be in the middle of the events and freely uses concepts and imagery from commerce and the business world in his creative writing, most of which he has done on weekends. From the late 1960’s, Haavikko has been the literary editor for a major Finnish publishing company and a literary consultant to several printing presses. In 1955, Haavikko married poet and writer Marja-Liisa Vartio (born 1924); she died in 1966. Haavikko and literary historian Ritva Rainio Hanhineva were married in 1971.

Haavikko has always, in his work, shown a great skepticism toward any political or philosophical ideology: “If the philosophy is wrong, all deeds become crimes.” Varying political ideologies are much the same in...

(The entire section is 454 words.)

History, Politics, and Communication

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

After The Winter Palace, Haavikko turned to writing prose. He had already in his earlier collections of lyrical poetry, particularly in Synnyinmaa (native land) and Lehdet lehtiä (leaves, pages), dealt with the issues of the politics of the day, especially examining the events during the war and its aftermath, illuminating and assessing, through similar historical events, the actions and reasoning of the principal Finnish statesmen, as well as probing the Finnish national identity and attitudes. Historical themes in general increased in Haavikko’s work considerably in the next two decades; seventeen of his plays are within a historical framework.

Haavikko continued questioning the essence of power, the motives and aims of those wielding it, and how they influence the world, in particular the fate of the individual, who is tied to a historical situation. Most of Haavikko’s novels and plays deal with social problems and issues involving the state, the church, the judiciary and taxation systems, diplomacy, commerce, and the family unit. In these contexts, the writer examines the problem of communication, how different social roles are manifested in the speech act, and the ways in which language is used and manipulated by various interest groups and individuals.

For Haavikko, nonverbal communication is much less dangerous than verbal communication; generally, everything bad derives from words: “And so out of words...

(The entire section is 403 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

A poet first and foremost but also a novelist, short-story writer, dramatist, biographer, essayist, editor, historian, librettist, and screenwriter, Paavo Juhani Haavikko (HAH-vihk-koh) is Finland’s most versatile, prolific, and prominent literary artist. Haavikko was among the new generation of poets who brought about the modernist revolution in postwar Finnish poetry when he began publishing verse in the early 1950’s. He also introduced Theater of the Absurd to Finland with his play Münchhausen in 1958. In a career spanning half a century, Haavikko has produced many books of poetry; several novels; numerous stage, radio, and television plays; and more than a few works of nonfiction. Among many honors, Haavikko was awarded the prestigious Neustadt Prize in 1984 and the Nordic Prize from the Swedish Academy in 1993. He has also pursued a second career as a businessman, in real estate and later in publishing.

Haavikko was born in Helsinki on January 25, 1931, to Heikki Adrian, a stationery store owner, and Rauha (Pyykonen) Haavikko. In every significant way, Haavikko’s adult life began in 1951, when he was twenty years old. That year he left the University of Helsinki without graduating, published Tiet etäisyyksiin (roads to far away), his first book of verse, and began his mandatory two-year stint in the Finnish army, eventually attaining the rank of sergeant. That same year he also began working part-time in his brother’s real estate business, a vocation he would practice until 1967. On June 7, 1955, Haavikko married Marja-Liisa Vartio, a divorced poet and novelist seven years his senior. Their first child, Johanna, was born in 1956. A son, Heikki, was born in 1958. Sadly, Haavikko’s wife died on June 17, 1966. The following year Haavikko quit the real estate business to become a literary director at the Otava Publishing Company. He also became director of Yhtyneet Kavalehdet Oy (illustrated magazines), a position he would hold from 1969 to 1982. In 1971, Haavikko married Ritva Rainio Hanhineva, a literary scholar. In 1983, after sixteen years at Otava, Haavikko joined Art House, a publishing company founded in 1975 that specializes in high-quality literature and is particularly known for its science titles. He became managing director in 1989, a position he held until the end of 2001, when his son, Heikki, succeeded him. Now semiretired, Haavikko remains owner and chairman of the board of Art House.

When Haavikko started publishing his verse, Finnish poetry was mired in what has been...

(The entire section is 1038 words.)