Go Back

Pentti Saarikoski

Pentti Ilmari Saarikoski
Born September 2, 1937, Impilahti. Died August 24, 1983, Joensuu.

Studied at the University of Helsinki (Roman and Greek Literature, Aesthetics, Folk Poetry) 1954–

Author, translator
Editor-in-chief 1963–1967, Aikalainen magazine

Commemorative plaque 2004, Kerava
Finnish State Prize for Literature 1963, 1966, 1970, 1973, 1981, 1982
Radio Play Award of the Blind 1982
Finnish Cultural Foundation Award 1975
WSOY Translation Award 1974
Aleksis Kivi Award 1974
Pro Finlandia 1973
Otava Translation Award 1970
Mikael Agricola Award 1966
Union of Finnish Writers Award 1963
Tammi Translation Award 1962
Karisto Prose Award 1961
Kalevi Jäntti award 1959

Photo: Helsingin kaupunginmuseo
Written by Tomas Sjöblom
Translated by Johanna Spoof

From Christianity to causeries and communism

While he was well known as a contrarian and a bohemian artist, in his youth Pentti Saarikoski was a religious and exemplary young man. As he got older, however, Saarikoski began to question and rebel against social norms.

Saarikoski became an active critic of society and the authorities. He developed a writing persona, “Nenä” (‘The Nose’), based on the causerie writers of the time, as well as classical satirists. According to Pekka Tarkka, his best causeries appeared in the University of Helsinki’s student newspaper Ylioppilaslehti during the years 1959–1960. Under the guise of his pseudonym Nenä, Saarikoski criticised authorities in the fields of sciences, arts and politics by inverting their statements and ideas. He never took a specific political stance, but criticised the mouthpieces of various political parties.

A young Pentti Saarikoski. Photo: Helsinki City Museum.​
A young Pentti Saarikoski. Photo: Helsinki City Museum.​

In 1961, Saarikoski managed to cause a small-scale political scandal as the columnist for the Coalition Party-supporting newspaper UusiSuomi. He openly criticised the collaboration between the Coalition Party’s presidential candidate Olavi Honka and the Social Democrats as being inconsistent. In spite of this, Saarikoski’s own political stances were contradictory, too: he wrote for five different political parties’ newspapers over the course of two years in the early 1960s.

Saarikoski got interested in leftist politics through his Christian ideologies in the early 1960s. According to him, his decision to become a communist was a protest against society. The decision started out as a demonstration, but later formed into an actual philosophy. Saarikoski actively took part in communist youth gatherings. He was the face of the 1962 communist youth festival, held in Helsinki, and the following year he urged young people “to completely overturn Finnish society once and for all, and start a socialist society.”

Saarikoski also strove to take part in national politics. He was a parliamentary candidate for the Finnish People’s Democratic League in 1966 and 1970, but failed to secure enough votes both times. Saarikoski also worked as the editor-in-chief for the cultural magazine of the Communist Party of Finland, called Aikalainen, from 1963 to 1967.


Saarikoski, communism and “the new Europe”



“What we think of society is fleeting­– one must think on the scale of the stars.” Pentti Saarikoski reflects on social and philosophical questions in this recording provided by Yle’s Eläväarkisto (‘Living archive’).




  • Pekka Tarkka, Saarikoski, Pentti (1937–1983), The Finnish National Biography Online. Accessed March 31, 2015. In Finnish.
  • Wikipedia, Pentti Saarikoski. Accessed March 31, 2015. In Finnish.
  • PekkaTarkka, Pentti Saarikoski, HelsinginSanomat online eulogy. Accessed March 31, 2015. In Finnish.
  • Otava, Pentti Saarikoski, Otava’s author profile. Accessed March 31, 2015. In Finnish.
  • Yle, Saarikoski, Pentti Saarikosken haastattelu (‘Interview of PenttiSaarikoski’), Saarikoski, kommunismi ja ’uusi Eurooppa’” (‘Saarikoski, communism and “the new Europe”’), Yle’s Elävä arkisto (‘Living archive’) recording. Accessed March 31, 2015. In Finnish.
Go Back