“God damn you, I’ll put a bullet through the first one of you who takes a step backward!”
― Väinö Linna,
The Unknown Soldier (Tuntematon sotilas) is author Väinö Linna’s first major novel and his other major work besides Under the North Star. Published in 1954, it is a story about the Continuation War between Finland and the Soviet Union as told from the viewpoint of ordinary Finnish soldiers. In general, I avoid reading Finnish books because I don’t get ‘high’ from reading them and they are often very dull. However, I like Tuntematon sotilas (The Unknown Soldier). It took me a very long time to read it through but I’m glad I finished it. I like how it represents some kind of a Finnish collective consciousness.
“The things we have to do, we do – otherwise, we might as well be Lulu’s chickens on the loose.”
― Väinö Linna,
The prose is short, direct, and to the point. It was a very different from reading it in English than in Finnish. I like the scale of different characters in Tuntematon sotilas. There are Finns from different parts of Finland, speaking in different dialects, from different backgrounds and social classes and having very different personalities and characteristics. I also liked how well this book represented Finland during Continuation War. Nation was still torn apart after the Finnish Civil War and in WW2, many who had fought on opposite sides, fought now on the same side.
1. If you like war tales and if you don’t know what happened in Finland during World War II, this might be interesting read for you. It’s gritty and realistic and it describes Finnish soldiers all the way behind god’s back, in the very small little corner of World War II.
2. Finns are not great with small talk so here’s something to discuss :D I think every Finn has read this book / or they have definitely read Under the North Star.
3. You should read this if you like books that have great dialogue.
4. The novel has approximately 338 pages, I wasn’t especially fond of the translation though I read that Penguin Books had published a new English translation of the book in this year. Of course, I think it’s hard to translate books like this.
5. If you’re looking for more Finnish literature like this, Väinö Linna has also written a trilogy called Under the North Star which follows closely life of Finnish family during Finnish Civil War.
Hyvää itsenäisyyspäivää! Happy independence day, Finland!