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Aale Tynni

Aale Maria Tynni-Haavio (née Tynni, 1940–1960 Tynni-Pirinen)
Born October 3, 1913, Venjoki (Ingrian Kolppana).  Died October 21, 1997, Helsinki

Master of Arts (Finnish Literature), 1936 and Doctor of Philosophy, 1977, University of Helsinki

Poet, author, translator, literary and theatre critic

Awards and special achievements
State Award for Literature, 1943, 1947
Gold medallist, literature category of Art competition, for ‘Hellan laakeri’ (‘The laurels of Hellas’), London Olympics, 1948
White Rose of Finland, Ist class
Pro Finlandia Medal, 1959
Honorary Doctor of Philosophy, University of Helsinki, 1977
WSOY publisher’s translation prize, 1981
Academician (Arts), 1982
Finnish Cultural Fund award, 1982
City of Helsinki award, 1985
Henrik Steffens Prize, 1985
Italian Foreign Ministry Gold medal
Milan’s Giacomo Leopardi medal
Founding Member, Finnish-Irish Society

Photo: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura
Written by Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta
Translated by John Calton

Sentimental poet and translator

Aale Tynni was born in Ingria to the east of Finland and moved as a child with her family to Helsinki in 1919. She graduated with a Master’s degree in 1936, with Finnish literature as her main subject. During her university years Tynni practised poetry recitation and dramatic expression. She was particularly interested in poetic diction and the topic of her final work was Sappho’s metre in Finnish poetry.

Having completed her university studies, Tynni took up the teaching of Finnish in evening classes, but the urge to write proved stronger than the duty to teach. Her first poetry collection, Kynttilänsydän (‘Candlewick’), was published in 1938. Two years later she published a second collection Vesilintu (‘waterfowl’). With the outbreak of war, her poetry changed: Lähde ja matkamies (’The spring and the traveller’), Lehtimaja (‘The arbour’) and Soiva metsä (‘The ringing forest’) all reflected the defensive spirit of the country. Tynni also depicted womanhood, the experiences of women in childbirth and motherhood. Later feminist research in particular has praised Tynni as a pioneer for her lyrics dealing with childbirth.

Aale Tynni married the historian Kauko Pirinen in 1940. They had three children. Meanwhile her literary work brought her into contact with Martti Haavio, better known as the poet P. Mustapää. A deep affection sprang up between them, although both were already married.

In 1949 Tynni’s sixth poetry collection was published – ‘Ylitse vuoren lasisen’ (‘Over the glass mountain), which included one of her best loved poems ‘Kaarisilta’ (‘The arched bridge’). The poems make reference to the difficulties she faced in her own life circumstances.

Martti Haavio’s wife Elsa Enäjärvi-Haavio died in 1951 following a serious illness. Aale Tynni went through a difficult divorce from her first husband, and finally in 1960 both Tynni and Haavio were in a position to remarry.

The union of these two lyrical writers is generally seen as a happy and creative time. The partners inspired each other as a couple and as writers. Martti Haavio died in 1973 following a heart attack, and Aale Tynni-Haavio completed her husband’s unfinished memoirs and it was published as Olen vielä kaukana: Martti Haavio - P. Mustapää 20-luvun maisemassa (‘I am still distant: Martti Haavio – P. Mustapää in the 1920s countryside’, 1978).

In the mid-twentieth century Finnish literature had adopted the free verse of modern poetry. Aale Tynni however went back to a lyrical style, the ballad. Tynni’s poems were typical of ballads, offering fateful tales dealing with falling in love and sorrow, and life’s turning points. Balladeja ja romansseja (’Ballads and romances’) appeared in 1967. And Tarinain lähde (‘The source of the tales’, 1974) depicted the death of a loved one, sorrow and solitude.

Many sleep side by side
and the one detests the other,
but early on are they denied
the beloved from the lover.

Aale Tynni, opening lines from Tarinain lähde (‘The source of the tales’)

After 1938 Tynni extended her literary range and began publishing translations, children’s books, readers and essays. Tynni’s talents as a playwright meanwhile were displayed in Muuttohaukat (’The peregrine falcon’) and Rautamarskin aika (‘The age of the Iron duke’). Her Finnish translations in the 1950s and 1960s introduced newer forms of world poetry. One of Tynni’s greatest works of translation was the anthology of world verse, Tuhat laulujen vuotta (‘A thousand years of song’, 1957). It contained 225 poems by western poets.

Tynni received several literary awards between 1943 and 1982. Morever, she won the gold medal in 1948 for her poem ‘Hellaan laakeri’ (‘The laurels of Hellas’) at a time when literary composition was still a part of the non-professional Olympic games. A Pro Finlandia medal holder, Academician of the Arts and Honorary doctor, Aale Tynni died in 1997 at the age of 84. Her daughter Riitta Seppälä and son Mikko-Olavi Seppälä have written their mother’s biography, Aale Tynni – Hymyily, kyynel, laulu. (‘Aale Tynni. A smile, a tear, a song’, WSOY, 2013)

Photo: Erkki Johannes Viitasalo, Valokuvataiteen museo.​
Photo: Erkki Johannes Viitasalo, Valokuvataiteen museo.​

Sources (in Finnish):

  • Kaarina Sala, Tynni, Aale (1913–1997). National Dictionary of Biography online, Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura. Accessed March 16, 2015. (Available for free via Nelli)
  • Aale Tynnin elämäkerta on avoin ja kiehtova”, Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, October 3, 2013. Accessed March 16, 2015.
  • ’Muusan hymy. Merkintöjä Aale Tynnin ja P.Mustapään vuorolaulusta.’ (The smile of the muse. Notes on Aale Tynni and P. Mustapää’s duet’) Janolehti magazine
  • Akateemikko Aale Tynnin muistoja Irlannista’, (’Aale Tynni, Academician, remembers Ireland’) Finnish-Irish Society website
  • Pekka Tarkka ’Aale Tynni’, obituary in Helsingin Sanomat newspaper. Accessed March 16, 2015.
  • Wikipedia, Aale Tynni. Accessed March 16, 2015.
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