Olavi Paavolainen
Humanist of the day

Olavi Paavolainen

Olavi Paavolainen is considered one of the most controversial figures of Finnish cultural life. This writer, essayist and critic, influential in the Tulenkantajat (Flame Bearers) literary group during his youth, sailed between the extremist causes and ideas of his time. Paavolainen was fascinated by Karelian tradition and national landscapes, but as a globetrotting cosmopolitan he was also drawn to the topics of the day, from futurism to fascism.

Olavi Paavolainen

Olavi Paavolainen (nom de plume Olavi Lauri)
Born September 17, Kivennapa. Died July 19, 1964, Helsinki

Studies at the University of Helsinki (aesthetics, literary science, art history)

Freelance writer
Director of the theatre department of the Finnish Broadcasting Company 1947–64
Head of advertising 1935, Kudos Oy Silo, Kestilän pukimo Oy
Employee at Suomen ilmoituskeskus Oy, 1933-34, 1936
Editor in chief of the periodical Tulenkantajat 1930

Nuoret runoilijat (‘Young poets,’ 1924) (under the nom de plume Olavi Lauri)
Valtatiet (‘Highways,’ 1928) (under the nom de plume Olavi Lauri, together with Mika Waltari)
Nykyaikaa etsimässä (‘In search of modern time,’ 1929)
Keulakuvat (‘Figureheads’, 1932)
Suursiivous eli kirjallisessa lastenkamarissa, (‘The great clean up, or in the literary nursery’ 1932)
Kolmannen valtakunnan vieraana, (‘A guest of the Third Reich,’ 1936)
Lähtö ja loitsu. Kirja suuresta levottomuudesta, (‘Departure and incantations. A book about the great unrest,’ 1937)
Risti ja hakaristi. Uutta maailmankuvaa kohti, (‘The cross and the swastika,’ 1938)
Synkkä yksinpuhelu. Päiväkirjan lehtiä vuosilta 1941–1944, I–II, (‘A gloomy soliloquy, pages from a diary 1941–1944, I–II, 1946) Pietari–Leningrad, (‘St. Petersburg–Leningrad,’ 1946)

Order of the Cross of Liberty, fourth class
Order of the Lion of Finland – Pro Finlandia Medal 1962
Eino Leino Prize 1960
Honorary member of Kiila (Finnish socialist cultural organisation) 1953

Photo: Finnish Literature Society, literature archives
Written by Olli Siitonen
Translated by Matthew Billington

Photo: Otava Publishing House

The return from the war to everyday life was difficult for Olavi Paavolainen, whose hometown was now behind the border. Based on diary entries and newspaper cuttings, his almost 1000-page work Synkkä yksinpuhelu (‘A gloomy soliloquy’) divided the opinions of the nation and its politicians; patriots…

Read more

Olavi Paavolainen, who has been described as a dandy, was extremely careful about the public face he presented, and his elegant, gentlemanly dress was honed to perfection, down to the smallest detail. Like his contemporaries, Paavolainen still maintained his style of dress into old age. Paavolainen was also a…

Read more