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Eino Leino

Armas Einar Leopold Lönnbohm (nom de plume Eino Leino)
Born July 6, 1878, Paltimo. Died January 10, 1926, Tuusula.

Latin studies, Imperial Alexander University, 1895-99

Poet, author, translator
Reporter, Nykyaika periodical, 1898-1899
Cultural sub-editor, Päivälehti newspaper, 1899-1904
Theatre Critic and columnist, Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, 1904-1914
Editor-in-chief, Sunnuntai newspaper, 1915-1918

Honours and memorials
Finnish State Prize for Literature, 1899-1900, 1902, 1904, 1907, 1908, 1911-1912, 1915-1918, 1920
Finnish State Writer’s Pension, 1918
Eino Leino society, 1947
Streets bearing his name: in Helsinki (1948), Hämeenlinna, Parikkala, Tuusula
Memorial Statue, the Esplanade in Helsinki, 1953
The Eino Leino Prize established, 1956
Memorial plaque for his translation of Divina Commedia, Rome, 1971
The Eino Leino Building, Paltaniemi, 1978
Eino Leino commemorative postage stamp, 1978
Memorial statue, Rantapuisto park, Kajaani, central Finland, 1980
Runon ja suven päivä (’Poem and summer day’), 6th June (flag day since 1992)


Photo: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura
Written by Tomas Sjöblom
Translated by
John Calton

Eight times state prizewinner

As a child, Armas Einar Leopold Lönnbohm, or Eino Leino as he is better known, showed an interest in reading and writing. And by the turn of the century Leino had become perhaps the nation’s most influential poet and writer.

Leino’s first poetry appeared in the pages of a provincial newspaper, the Hämeen Sanomat, in 1890. The poet was a mere twelve years old. During his school lessons, apart from his own literary production, Leino busied himself with Finnish translations of the Swedish-language poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg’s works. Later his schoolmates told about his peerless stature and inspiration as a writer in their midst.

: Eino Leino’s first publication at the age of twelve – ‘Kajaanin linna’ (‘The castle at Kajaani’), the first four stanzas. Source: Hämeen sanomat newspaper, September 26, 1890.​
: Eino Leino’s first publication at the age of twelve – ‘Kajaanin linna’ (‘The castle at Kajaani’), the first four stanzas. Source: Hämeen sanomat newspaper, September 26, 1890.​

Having passed his school examinations, Leino enrolled in the Imperial Alexander University in 1895, with it in mind to study Latin. His studies however never came to much, nor did he complete his degree. Leino had turned to writing.

His early verse found inspiration in the national epic, Kalevala, together with other mythical Finnish poetry. His first collections, Maaliskuun lauluja (‘Songs of March’) and Tarina suuresta tammesta (’The tale of a mighty oak’) were published in 1896. Similar themes in what is perhaps his best known collection Helkavirsiä (1903). Leino is held to be the first and most important shaper of national romanticism in Finnish literature.

During the course of his first marriage to Freya Schoultz from 1905 to 1908 he wrote more and more prose. There was, for example, the so-called year of the frost trilogy Tuomas Vitikka (1906), Jaana Rönty (1907) and Olli Suurpää (1908), in which he satirised figures who had capitulated before their Russian cousins. In the last year of the marriage he travelled to Rome and began preparations for an ambitious project – to translate Dante Alighieri’s Divina Commedia into Finnish. Jumalainen näytelmä, ‘The divine play’, came out in the years 1912-14.

Leino’s oeuvre is voluminous. In thirty-five years he produced a total of eighty or more original works of poetry, plays and prose. He also wrote a great many essays, sketches, reviews and other pieces of journalism, not to mention countless translations. His work encompasses a wide emotional range, anything from profound love to misanthropy and biting criticism. Leino was awarded the state prize for literature on eight occasions and, at the age of forty, was granted a state pension in recognition of his writing.

In his last years as he grew sick and tired, Leino returned to the national romantic themes of his youth. His last work was the first instalment of what was intended to be an autobiography in three parts: Elämäni kuvakirja (‘My life in pictures’) was published in 1925, the year before his death.

Photo: Museovirasto.​
Photo: Museovirasto.​

Sources (in Finnish)

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