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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

Gloomy soliloquy

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 disapproved, while the left sang its praise.

In the work, Paavolainen portrayed war-time Finland on the basis of his own experiences. A depiction of the Karelian countryside and culture plays a central role in the first part of the work. The second part, consisting of Paavolainen’s experiences of the war in the signals, was received more critically. For example, even at the time of publication, the conclusions the writer presented on the end of the war were suspected of being fabricated in hindsight.

Paavolainen was stung by the criticism of Synkkä yksinpuhelu, and he gradually withdrew from the world of literature. As Eino S. Repo describes it, criticism of his work drew a veil between the sun and Paavolainen, who had now withdrawn from literary activity.

Synkkä yksinpuhelu formed the basis of Jaakko Paasivirta’s 1981 film Pedon merkki (‘Mark of the beast’), starring Vesa-Matti Loiri.


  • Kurjensaari, Matti, Loistava Olavi Paavolainen, Tammi 1975.
  • Olavi Paavolainen, Wikipedia. (Accessed 24 September, 2015).
  • Riikonen, H. K. Paavolainen, Olavi, National Biography online publication, SKS, (Accessed 24 September, 2015).
  • Tiainen, Leo, “Olavi Paavolainen: Synkkä yksinpuhelu”, Helsingin Sanomat 24 December, 1946, published in the critics classics series, Helsingin Sanomat 4 December, 2006 (Accessed 24 September, 2015).
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