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Mauri Antero Numminen

Born March 12, 1940, Somero

Student at the University of Helsinki 1960–67 (philosophy, linguistics and sociology, as well as Inuit and Bantu languages, folk poetry, economics, ethnography, Finno-Ugrian languages, astronomy and politics)

Musician, author, cultural all-rounder
Record producer 1970–79, Love Records
Chairman 1997–2000, Finland’s Beer Society

The works of M. A. Numminen

Finland Prize 1993
Swedish-Finnish Cultural Foundation Cultural Prize 1997
The Alexis Kivi Society’s Esko award 2005
Honorary PhD 2001, Åbo Akademi University
Honorary PhD 2014, University of Helsinki


Photo: Dex Viihde Agency
Written by Mauri Antero Numminen, Juha Merimaa and Olli Siitonen
Translated by Matthew Billington

Master’s Thesis on Esperanto

When not studying, M.A. Numminen spent time at the café in the Main Building of the University of Helsinki, where a group made up of humanists called the fifth faculty would gather. The fifth faculty was an important seat of learning for Numminen, but by no means the only one. He began his time at the university studying economics—intending to become an economic genius—but soon strayed into philosophy and sociology.

His great sociological inspiration was the book 1960-luvun sosiaalipolitiikka (‘Social policy in the 1960’) by Pekka Kuusi, which opened Numminen’s eyes to a whole new way of thinking.

From philosophy he moved onto Finnish, linguistics and Inuit and Bantu languages. Numminen is still able to pinpoint where the books on these subjects used to be located on the shelves of the National Library of Finland.

His academic path was also rememberd in a humorous introduction to student life titled Varjo-opinto-opas (‘Shadow study guide’), handed out to students in 1997. In this work, Numminen’s choice of subjects is given as an example of an unusual career choice: “M.A. Numminen studied everything he possibly could at the University and completed a dozen or more introductory courses. Now he is singing and dressing up as a rabbit.”

This brief summary, repeated from memory, does not do complete justice to Numminen’s studies. Graduation was ultimately very close; the material for his master’s thesis was already prepared.

The topic of the thesis was support for Esperanto among students at the University of Helsinki and the Umeå Socialhögskolan. He also had the results ready. Around ten percent of  respondents supported making Esperanto  the world's international language.

On the other hand, the above description of his studies does capture the endless curiosity conveyed by his book Helsinkiin (‘To Helsinki’). Who on earth has time to study for an exam when there are so many interesting things going on all the time?

University studies were in fact only a part of Numminen’s project to educate himself. At least as important were his avant-garde studies and gaining access to artistic circles. His hobbies included experimental music, and he wrote metaphysical poetry for the University magazine.

“If a person cannot shake loose the shackles of conformity before he is 30 years old, it becomes very difficult to do so later,” Numminen says.

A good example of this was provided by the journalist Ilkka Malmberg’s attempt to understand the music of the composer Kaija Saariaho. Malberg wrote on the matter for the monthly supplement of the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat in 2012.

“Malberg probably had his heart in the right place, but it is not easy when you are over 50.”

This article was part of a story written by Juha Merimaa on M.A. Numminen for the University magazine in 2013: Juha Merimaa, “Moderni ihminen” (‘Modern person’), University Magazine, 3/2013.

The cafeteria of the University Main Building in the 1940s soon after the building was completed. Photo: Helsinki University Museum.


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