Finland’s Literary Treasure

“A strong desire derives a person straight through the hardest rock.”
― Aleksis Kivi, Seven Brothers

Aleksis Kivi’s Seven Brothers is Finland’s most celebrated literary treasure.  It was published in 1870 and  it’s one of the first novels written in Finnish language. I am not a fan of Finnish classics but I do see why it’s loved.

Title of the books tells it all, Seven Brothers is a story of Jukola Brothers: Juhani, Aapo, Tuomas, Simeoni, Timo, Lauri and Eero. The brothers live in Finnish countryside, they quarrel with other people and also have other problems (for example, they must learn how to read)  that make them escape their responsibilitiesinto woods. Plot is mainly about how brothers spend ten next years living in distant Impivaara trying to make a life for themselves (and succeeding poorly in that).

Their flight was like the moon’s course through the blue fields of the sky. She does not turn aside for a flimsy cloud that tries to block her path, but sails through it serenely and emerges on the other side brighter than before.”
― Aleksis Kivi, Seven Brothers

I didn’t enjoy reading this book mostly because it was written in from of the play. All of the problems the brothers encountered were funny, history was fascinating and this story had good moral, yet this wasn’t my piece of cake. For me it’s OK to read but I would give Seven Brothers only 2/5 stars.

How-To Read Seven Brothers
If you’re Finn, you must read it (probably will be forced to read it in school). If you are interested in reading classics from another countries, here’s your book. Translations are not that good but some books are impossible to be translated well.
2. You know Dudesons show? It’s kind of like Seven Brothers. Some of their stunts are ridiculous and will make you laugh.
3. If you don’t like plays, do not read this. Or dialogues. Discussions between the characters are written as if it was a play.
4. The literary circles of author’s time hated this novel. They disliked the image this book gave about rural life in Finland during 19th century but it’s really good and very realistic. I think it also helps you to understand Finns and Finland today: stubborness, sisu, use of alcohol, nature.
5. You could have a look at the book here.

 Are there classics from your country that you don’t like?

                                    Buy the book: Seven Brothers on Amazon

15 thoughts on “Finland’s Literary Treasure

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  1. This is the first time I’ve heard of a Finnish classic book, so thank you for bringing it to my attention. In college, I mainly read American and British literature, and my world lit class only covered the ancient stuff (I was only required to take World Lit I, but would have liked to have taken the second half if I had had the time).

    Some translations are by far better than others, and some languages are harder to translate as well. I’ve read the translations of Cornelia Funke’s Ink Trilogy and those were very well done.

    Plays are hard to read in general, and this would annoy me too.

    Yes, there are books from my country that are considered classic that I don’t like. Catcher in the Rye, Jack Kerouac’s stuff, the transcendentalists. I’m more of a fan of Victorian stuff, especially British Victorian, which is why I took a class just on that.

    1. If you’re interested, other appreciated classics here are Rautatie (Railroad) and Juha by author Juhani Aho :) All Finnish classics describe how it was to live in Finland during that time so it is very different when to compare with French or Russian or English classics.
      Ink Trilogy was very well translated to my language as well, maybe it’s up to books :)
      I never liked Catcher in the Rye, I found it weird. Jack Kerouac I haven’t read but based on your comment I suppose it would be wiser to skip his books. I like Victorian literature as well, though only male authors haha, never quite manage to start reading books of Brontë sisters.

      1. Thanks for the recommendation, I like learning about other cultures.

        It might depend on the publisher. :)

        Kerouac was the sixties, he’s what we call a beatnik. I only read one Bronte, Anne, who according to my professor was the best.

  2. I have a lot of trouble reading classics, but I still try to read them occasionally because I know they have influenced so many other books, movies, etc. This book sounds almost like a fairy tale especially since it was written like a play.

    I had one other English comment because I know that idioms are so difficult from one language to another. “Piece of cake” refers to something that is easy like, “That test was a piece of cake.” If you are speaking about something that is of interest to you, you would say “cup of tea”. For instance, “Reading is my cup of tea.” I don’t know why we use such weird phrases, but I thought I would share! :)

    1. Classics are good to read though and luckily there are not that many classics :) Haha, comparison with fairytale is funny, though reading this in English before I reviewed this kind of reminded me of Shakespeare o.O

      Thanks for sharing! Idioms and differences in languages are interesting.
      In Finnish we would say “se on helppoa kuin heinänteko” = it’s as easy as making hay (which compared to a piece of cake sounds a lot harder “easy”) or we could also say “helppo nakki” = easy sausage (nakki is mini sausage so that I understand) or “helppoa kuin mikä” = easy as what. Then in English you kill two birds with one stone. In Finnish/Swedish/Danish languages you would never kill a bird, we kill flies in stead. In Russian and some other slavic languages they kill two rabbits with one stone. I think it’s interesting to think about it. Were Swedes/Finns not interested in food, was the personal hygiene that bad or was it because everyone were farmers or did we just not want to brag because how it’s even possible to kill two rabbits with one stone o.O

  3. To be honest,although they have their works published by Gallimard ( a prestigious French publishing house ),I’ve never read anything by Ananda Devi or Shenaz Patel,both of whom are celebrated Mauritian authors…
    I don’t know,I’m not enticed to them!

    1. What about in school, what were the books that were required reads? Were there some Mauritian or French authors? Reading makes you a psychologist in a way because authors open their minds for you and you understand people better. I think maybe it’s the reason I never enjoyed Finnish authors. I know how they think, what they think, their imagination and I know my own culture so perhaps as they had nothing to offer, so I never (few exceptions) found Finnish literature interesting.

      1. Oh sorry.It’s only now that I’m seeing this reply!
        The required reads were always classics from English or French literature.Only once,when I was 12 or something like that,we had to read a Mauritian story heavily inspired by The Little Prince.It was not great literature,or whatsoever.

        And yes,you’re spot on.I think I’m not drawn to Mauritian authors,as I feel they won’t make me discover something new..

        1. WordPress updates are hard to keep up with o.O at least we all learn adaptation skills. I see, that’s interesting, here they somehow glorify Finnish literature.

  4. Nice review; that’s an honest and interesting opinion. I do feel I would like to read this just for the experience, culturally, if nothing else. As for American classics . . . I would have to say my nemesis is James Fenimore Cooper. I can not stand his writing. But then, neither could Mark Twain, so I feel I’m in good company there. :)

    1. :) Culturally I think it would be very interesting. Hmmm I was struggling quite long with The Last of the Mohicans and I think I haven’t read anything else of him after that book o.O Mark Twain is amazing.
      What about hmm Nathaniel Hawthrone, have you read his books? My English teacher said she loved his book and for her to love something like that (her words) is as weird as Finnish person would like Seven Brothers.

      1. Hawthorne I actually like, although I enjoy his short stories much more than his books. I guess I feel like he really brings out the spirit of his time, makes it alive. If you like Mark Twain, you might want to check out his essay “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offences.” It never fails to make me laugh! :D

  5. Your post has inspired so many interesting comments not only about literature but also about language. Pressure from school teachers to read certain “classics” was usually met with resistance in my experience. One of the books I was given to read was Joseph Conrad’s ‘Lord Jim’. I never wanted to read Joseph Conrad again. People I know feel similarly about other authors. Idioms are funny things. When you want to say ‘good luck’ to a friend who is about to (for example) perform on stage, you tell them to break a leg. In Germany, they tell you to break your neck as well as your leg! It’s always interesting to research the origins of these peculiar sayings.

    1. I see, it’s fascinating how we all love reading but we all dislike the books they made us read at school. I love idioms! And I did not know that you tell people to break their legs before performing on stage! Here we don’t wish them good luck before premiere but we don’t wish anything bad either. Maybe our theatre culture is so young that we don’t worry about jinxing it as much.

  6. I’ve never read nor heard of this one before, but I think I would like it. Even the way the book seems to be written (from your photo) appeals to me. Definitely going to look out for this one! Thanks for the review and bringing this book to your readers’ attention! :)

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