Waltari, Mika Toimi


Waltari, Mika Toimi
(1908-1979)
   A Finnish novelist, short story writer, and playwright, Waltari grew up in Helsinki and received a degree in philosophy from Helsinki University. Having published three books by the time he was 20 years old, he had his literary breakthrough with the novel Suuri illusioni (1928; The Great Illusion), which deals with the lives of young people in Helsinki. Walt-ari's first significant work, which may have foretold what was to come later in his career, was the trilogy Mies ja haave (1933; A Man and a Dream), Sielu ja liekki (1934; The Soul and the Flame), and Palava nuoruus (1935; Burning Youth); all three volumes were later published in one volume as Isasta poikaan (1942; From Father to Son). The trilogy gives an overview of the growth of Helsinki from 1870 to 1935.
   Waltari's strength can be observed most readily in two subgenres: the very short novel or novella, and the long historical novel. Thirteen of the former were published in one volume entitled Pienoisro-maanit (1966; Miniature Novels), which includes two that were written earlier and that have been translated into English, Ei koskaan huomispaivaa! (1942; tr. Never a Tomorrow, 1965) and Fine van Brooklyn (1939; tr. Fine van Brooklyn, 1965). All together, 10 miniature novels have been published in English: five in Moonscape and Other Stories (1953) and five more in The Tree of Dreams and Other Stories (1965), which includes both Never a Tomorrow and Five van Brooklyn.
   The long historical novel was Waltari's genre of choice, and he became internationally known for many of these works. Kaarina Maunustytar (1942; Karin Mansdotter) tells about the life of the wife of Sweden's King Erik XIV Sinuhe, egyptilainen (1945; tr. Sinuhe the Egyptian, 1949) takes place in the 14th century BCE. Mikael Karvajalka (1948; tr. Michael the Finn, 1950) and its sequel, Mikael Hakim (1949; tr. The Sultan's Renegade, 1951), are set in the 16th century and relate a story of high adventure. Johannes Angelos (1952; tr. The Dark Angel, 1953) is a diary novel set in 1453 and tells about the fall of Constantinople to the Turks. Turms, kuolematon (1955; tr. The Etruscan, 1956) is set in Etruria in Italy and elsewhere. The early period in the history of Christianity is the subject of the two novels Valtakunnan salaisuus (1959; tr. The Secret ofthe Kingdom, 1960) and Ihmiskunnan viholliset (1964; tr. The Roman, 1966). Religion is also the subject of a contemporary novel, Feliks onnelli-nen (1958; tr. The Tongue of Fire, 1959).
   Waltari published many other novels and stories, as well as mystery novels, travel books, film scripts, and 24 plays for stage and radio. His plays are not of the same quality as his fiction.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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