Kaari Utrio

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Kaari Utrio in Helsinki Book Fair, 2009

Kaari Marjatta Utrio (born 28 July 1942, proper surname Utrio-Linnilä) is a Finnish writer. She has written tens of historical novels and many non-fiction books on historical topics. She is an educated historian, holding the degree of Bachelor of Arts from the University of Helsinki, and has returned from the position of Professor in service of the Finnish State Commission of Fine Arts.

Personal history[edit]

Kaari Utrio was born in Helsinki to a middle-class family. Her father was Urho Untamo Utrio, who after the Winter War worked as CEO of Tammi, a Finnish publishing company. Her mother Meri Marjatta Utrio (née Vitikainen) worked as an editor and a translator to Finnish. There were about four thousand books in Utrio's home, and literature was greatly valued in her family.

Utrio became acquainted with literature at a young age, when her mother read her classics of world literature, such as Kipling and Shakespeare as bed-time stories. At age seven when Utrio read a whole book by herself, it happened to be the rather thick Jokamiehen maailmanhistoria (World history for the everyman). At school Utrio did rather well, also in concept writing, even though she did not have any plans to become a writer at the time. Instead she wanted to become a researcher of history. Grimberg's Kansojen historia (History of Peoples) offered a living description of history to the young Utrio.

Kaari Utrio matriculated in 1962 from Helsingin tyttölukio, a high school for girls only. After that, she studied history at the University of Helsinki and graduated as a Bachelor of Sciences in 1967. The following year, Utrio published her first novel Kartanonherra ja kaunis Kirstin (The lord of the mansion and the beautiful Kirstin), which was published by Tammi. The name was given by the publisher, and Utrio did not like it herself. The book was, however, a start for Utrio's numerous other historical novels, which have so far been published at a steady pace, usually one per year. Utrio has also published many factual books about history.

Utrio has three children: Karri Virkajärvi (1969), Antti Virkajärvi (1971) and Lauri Linnilä (1976). In 1974 Utrio married Kai Linnilä. The next year, they moved to Somerniemi in Somero. At first, the couple tried their hand at self-sufficient agriculture, but gave it up after a couple of years. Instead, in 1982, Utrio and Linnilä founded a publishing company called Oy Amanita Ltd. Amanita became a family corporation, because Meri Utrio worked there, and later also Lauri Linnilä and his wife joined the staff.

Utrio has been active in several organisations. She has been the chairman of the Minna Canth Society from 1999. Utrio is a member of Amnesty International and has been on the board of the Finnish Association of Writers for several years. She has also been active in municipal politics as a non-committed member of the Social Democratic group of the Somero municipal government from 1980 to 1988. She has also given many lectures in many events all around Finland.

Utrio was appointed an artistic professor for the years 1995 to 2000, which was a recognition for her work. Utrio has been an academic in the Väinö Tanner Foundation since 2000. She was awarded the Finnish State Publication Prize in 2002 for her life's work.

General works[edit]

A combining factor in Utrio's novels is that, save for one, they all take place in historical times, some in more ancient history, some nearer the modern times. The main character is typically a woman, often somehow connected to Finland or Finnish history, although in the novel Vaskilintu (The Brass Bird) other of the main characters is a man, Eirik Väkevä. The setting is usually Finland or its neighbouring countries, but also far-away places like Constantinople and Calabria (both more or less Greek at the time) also appear in the books from time to time.

The characters in Utrio's books are often fictional, but she also uses real persons as background characters. Utrio makes use of her knowledge of history in the details of the books, pursuing towards authenticity (save the deep superstition as she has admitted in several prefaces of her books), which create a feeling of the book's time period. History of everyday life is prominent in her books, not only great country-level events. Everyday life is described from a woman's point of view, and thus also the inferior position of women in historical times is strongly evident. On the other hand, Utrio has many strong female characters, who are able to achieve a comparably good position because of their strength and love.

Lives in past reflect in her books on basis of researched information, to stories, adventures, romantics and humor.

Utrio can be seen as continuing the tradition of the Finnish historical novel, which can be thought of including Zacharias Topelius, Santeri Ivalo, Mika Waltari and Ursula Pohjolan-Pirhonen. However, Utrio has renewed the historical novels, compared to the older male writers, by also using women as main characters, and the role of women as the constructive keeper of ongoing life and social cohesion. In addition, her style of narration is more detailed than Pohjolan-Pirhonen's, known for her somewhat light novels. Utrio also hardly ever uses the present tense in her narration, unlike some of Pohjolan-Pirhonen's work.

Utrio's factual books, like her novels, feature the history of women and children, which often have very minor roles in historical literature. Eevan tyttäret (The daughters of Eve) is one of Utrio's most notable factual books. The book describes the history of women starting from ancient Middle East and ancient Greece to modern times. In Eevan tyttäret, there is a strong background of feministic thinking and critique of patriarchan society, which however does not diminish the scientific value of the book. The book has achieved international note, and has been translated into seven languages.

Her career as widely-published author in now more than forty years.

One of most popular novelists in Finland, already since her bestselling first book over forty years ago (1968). Almost each year, a new book. Already in the seventies, her newest book was annually a steady candidate for gift (birthday, Christmas, or like) to tens of thousands of Finnish women. It has been said[by whom?] that her influence to the thinking of Finnish women is perhaps greater than any one other single person.

Works by Utrio[edit]


Factual books[edit]

Other works[edit]

  • Ruusulamppu (The Rose Lamp) (Kaisaniemen Dynamo 2002) (it was a booklet written for a company, is a story seemingly of the genre of historical fiction, and the company uses/used it as business gift - formerly: No information is available of the nature of this book)
  • Tulin onneni yrttitarhaan (I Came into the Herb Garden of my Happiness) (with Salme Sauri; Otava 1988)

External links[edit]

Media related to Kaari Utrio at Wikimedia Commons