Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Paavo Haavikko is one of the most prolific Finnish writers; he has published more than fifty books in his native language and has written equally masterfully in every literary genre. He made his debut in the 1950’s with collections of lyrical poems, and in the following decades he published novels, short stories, epic poems, and plays, in addition to which he has written two opera librettos, based on his plays: Ratsumies (1974; The Horseman, 1974) and Kuningas lähtee Ranskaan (1984; The King Goes Forth to France, 1984). The music for both operas was composed by Aulis Sallinen, and they were first performed at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland. They have since been staged in West Germany, New Mexico, and London’s Covent Garden.

History has provided some of the major themes for Haavikko’s poetry and plays, and he has also published nonfiction in that field. His literary work includes collections of aphorisms, scripts for films, and radio and television plays. Some of Haavikko’s work has been translated into English, French, German, and Swedish. Haavikko also published three volumes of memoirs and continued to write opera libretti. In 2000, he collaborated with the composer Tuomas Kantelinen on an opera about the early twentieth century Olympic long-distance runner Paavo Nurmi. This work, titled Paavo Suuri, Suuri juoksu, Suuri uni, was directed by Kalle Holmberg and received widespread exposure throughout Europe.