Juhani “Jussi” Aho (Johannes Brofeldt until 1907)
Born September 11, 1861, Lapinlahti. Died August 8, 1921, Helsinki.
Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa 1907, Imperial Alexander University
Author, journalist and translator
Written by Tero Juutilainen
Translated by Olli Silvennoinen
From ‘splinters’ to novels
Juhani Aho’s literary output changed over the years but today he is primarily known as a representative of realism and modernism. In the early years of his career, his writing also touched on societal developments in that era and the spread of technology. His breakthrough came in 1884 with the novel Rautatie (Railroad). In addition to his literary writing, he published shorter texts in newspapers.
After his trip to Paris in 1889 and 1890, his style changed somewhat but his writing was still realist in character. ‘In this new phase, the analyticity of realism was replaced by a more synthesizing way of writing, a desire to discern the great, simple features of life.’ His writings after Paris include historical novels that were based on extensive preparations as well as realist texts such as the story Helsinkiin (‘To Helsinki’). In addition, he started publishing ‘splinters’, short writings on which Aho himself was not particularly keen but that have been revered by later generations. The splinters are regarded as some of Aho’s best texts.
After the turn of the century, Aho broadened his activities in the publishing field. Translation became a fresh challenge for the author, and through his positions of trust he managed to secure stable funding for the translation of books both from and into Finnish. He also participated in the translation of his own works.
During the last ten years of his life, Aho’s writing concentrated on ideological and moral issues that culminated in the Finnish civil war in 1918. Aho did not take part in the war, supporting peace instead. This position was a source of conflict for the writer, especially since one of his sons fought in the pro-socialist Red Guards. Among the works he wrote during the 1910s, Juha in particular remains popular. Both Rautatie and Juha have been adapted to film, and Juha is also performed as a play or other kinds of stage productions every now and then.
Juhani Niemi, ‘Aho, Juhani’.National Biography of Finland online. Accessed March 27, 2015.