Friday, September 23, 2011

150th anniversary of Juhani Aho 5.9.2011

Stamps published this fall in Finland depict national themes, as the new stamps released on September 5 celebrate the 150th anniversary of Juhani Aho. Juhani Aho (1861-1921), a Finnish icon, was one of the first professional authors in Finland. The 150th anniversary of his birth will be celebrated on September 11. In honour of the anniversary, a miniature sheet of two stamps designed by Timo Berry and Teemu Ollikainen will be published on September 5, depicting Juhani Aho’s career: his work as an author and journalist, and the strong sense of patriotism that characterized it.

One of the stamps (left one on the mini sheet) depicts Juhani Aho's extensive novel collection, which strongly represented Finnish nature, attitudes and social changes. His most beloved works include Rautatie, Papin rouva and Juha. Aho modernized Finnish prose, while filtering international influences into his works. The stack of papers depicted in the stamp is a reference to the concise type of short stories developed by the author - woodchips. The second stamp is associated with Juhani Aho's career as a journalist for Finnish newspapers. Aho was one of the founders of the Päivälehti newspaper (published between 1890 and 1904) where he discussed many of the day's burning issues, including the position of women and workers. The picture below the stamp illustrates the young editors of Päivälehti.
Aho's literary output is wide-ranging since he pursued different styles as time passed. He started as a realist and his first novel Rautatie (Railroad, 1884), which is considered one of his main works, is from this period. Later he moved towards neoromanticism with novels Panu and Kevät ja takatalvi as well as Juha. The last one is one of his most famous works and has been twice as adapted an opera, by Aare Merikanto and by Leevi Madetoja, and to film four times, most recently in 1999 by Aki Kaurismäki. His novel Yksin (Alone), published in 1890, controversially bold by the standards of Finnish literature in that epoch, is a roman à clef. Its tale of unfulfilled love is the autobiographical novel of Aho's passion for Aino Järnefelt who, at that time, was secretly engaged to Jean Sibelius, whom she would later marry. The initial feelings of anger and jealousy that reading the novel provoked in Sibelius were soon forgotten and, in later life, Aho and Sibelius were close friends as well as neighbours in Järvenpää, where the composer had a villa baptized "Ainola" (the Realm of Aino).
In addition to his novels Aho wrote a number of short stories of distinct style, called "splinters" ("lastuja" in Finnish). Their topics could vary from political allegories to depictions of everyday life. The first and most famous of the short stories is When Father Brought Home the Lamp, depicting the effect of the innovation on people living on countryside. Nowadays the title is a Finnish saying used when something related to new technology is introduced.
Aho was one of the founders of Päivälehti, the predecessor of the biggest newspaper in Finland today, Helsingin Sanomat. My dear friend Ella sent me this cover.

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