Kianto, Ilmari

(1874-1970)
   A Finnish novelist, Kianto (originally Calamnius) was an immensely productive writer who kept publishing into the 1950s. Drawing extensively on his own experience, he wrote most interestingly about poor backwoods people in the district of Suomussalmi, close to the Russian border in north central Finland. He had strong patriotic leanings that caused him to also wish for that border to be moved farther east, so as to include Russian Karelia as part of Finland. These sentiments were expressed in Suomi suureksi, Viena vapaaksi (1918; For a Greater Finland, and a Free Russian Karelia).
   In his youth Kianto studied in Moscow and later became a teacher of Russian. He rebelled against his childhood Lutheran faith—his father was a pastor—in the book Vapaauskoisen psalttari (1912; The Freethinker's Psalter). But his first novel was Väaralla uralla (1896; In the Wrong Career), which tells about a young man with military aspirations who realizes that it is the wrong thing to do. After a few collections of rather undistinguished poetry, Kianto wrote several novels that have love as their theme, Pyha viha (1908; Sacred Wrath), which is critical of the church, Karsimys (1909; Suffering), and Pyha rakkaus (1910; Sacred Love), in which the erotic becomes an increasingly strong force.
   One of Kianto's most important novels is Punainen viiva (1909; The Red Line), which tells about the promise of free elections as it relates to the life situation of poor backwoods people. The red line of the book's title is first and foremost the line used to mark the ballots in the elections of 1906; however, a much more meaningful red line in the lives of Kianto's characters is the streak of blood running from the neck of the book's protagonist, who gets killed while fighting a bear. Another novel set in the same poor, rural environment is Ryy-syrannan Jooseppi (1924; Joseph of Ryysyranta), a humorous tale of a rather indolent but all too enterprising peasant who tries to make money on moonshine. In his inquiry into the fundamental reasons for poverty in Finland, Kianto writes with great sympathy for the downtrodden and the oppressed, and his protagonists in both ofthese novels are shown to be people whose human worth is indisputable. But with large families to support and little opportunity to develop lasting economic security, somebody's need for booze offers more promise for the future than political self-determination.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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