Aleksis Kivi

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Aleksis Kivi
Earliest known image of Kivi, almost certainly by Albert Edelfelt (1873)[1]
Alexis Stenvall

(1834-10-10)10 October 1834
Died31 December 1872(1872-12-31) (aged 38)
Notable workSeitsemän veljestä ("Seven Brothers")
Nummisuutarit ("Heath Cobblers")

Aleksis Kivi (Finnish pronunciation: [ˈɑleksis ˈkiʋi] ; born Alexis Stenvall; 10 October 1834 – 31 December 1872)[2] was a Finnish writer who wrote the first significant novel in the Finnish language, Seitsemän veljestä ("Seven Brothers"[3]), published in 1870. He is also known for his 1864 play, Nummisuutarit ("Heath Cobblers"[4]). Although Kivi was among the very earliest writers of prose and lyrics in Finnish, he is still considered one of the greatest.[5]

Kivi is regarded as the national writer of Finland and his birthday, 10 October, is celebrated as Finnish Literature Day.[6]


Aleksis Stenvall was born in Palojoki village, Nurmijärvi, Grand Duchy of Finland. His parents were the village tailor Erik Johan Stenvall (1798–1866) and Anna-Kristiina Hamberg (1793–1863).[2] Aleksis had three older brothers – Johannes, Emanuel, and Albert – and a younger sister, Agnes, who died in 1851 at the age of 13.[7]

In 1846, Kivi left for school in Helsinki. In 1859, he was accepted into the University of Helsinki, where he studied literature and developed an interest in the theatre. His first play was Kullervo (1860), based on a tragic tale from the Kalevala, Finland's national epic. He also met[when?] the famous journalist and statesman Johan Vilhelm Snellman who became his supporter.[8]

During his time at school Kivi read world literature from the library of his landlord, and during his university studies, he saw plays by Molière and Schiller at the Swedish Theatre in Helsinki.[9] Kivi also became friends with[when?] Fredrik Cygnaeus and Elias Lönnrot.[9]

The unruly seven brothers

From 1863 onwards, Kivi devoted his time to writing. He wrote 12 plays and a collection of poetry. The novel Seitsemän veljestä ("Seven Brothers") took him ten years to write. Literary critics, especially the prominent August Ahlqvist, disapproved of the book, at least nominally because of its "rudeness" (Romanticism was at its height at the time).[8] Ahlqvist also wrote "It is a ridiculous work and a blot on the name of Finnish literature".[9] It is known that no other critic hated Kivi's writings as much as Ahlqvist, in which case the situation could almost be called "persecution",[10] but the Fennomans[who?] also disapproved of Kivi's not-so-virtuous depictions of rural life, which were far from their idealized point of view,[8] and Kivi's excessive drinking may have alienated some.[citation needed]

In 1865, Kivi won the State Prize for his still often performed comedy Nummisuutarit ("Heath Cobblers"). However, the less than enthusiastic reception of his books was taking its toll and he was already drinking heavily. His main benefactor Charlotta Lönnqvist, with whom Kivi lived in Siuntio at the time of his creative writing, could not help him after the 1860s.[8]

By 1870, while he was living at Franzén's cottage in Tapanila, Helsinki,[11] Kivi's health collapsed. Assailed by typhoid and attacks of delirium he was hospitalised. His doctor diagnosed melancholia due to his "injured dignity as a writer". The psychiatrist Kalle Achté concludes, based on a documentary survey, that Kivi was suffering from of schizophrenia,[8] although advanced borreliosis has also been suggested.[12]

Kivi died in poverty in 1872 (aged 38) in Tuusula, at the home of his brother Albert.[13] According to legend, his last words were, "I live" (Finnish: "Minä elän").[14]


In the early 20th century, young writers Volter Kilpi and Eino Leino raised Kivi to the status of national icon. Eino Leino – and later Väinö Linna and Veijo Meri – also identified with Kivi's fate as an author.[8][further explanation needed]

In 1936, the Aleksis Kivi Prize, awarded for contributions to Finnish literature, was established.[15]

In 1939, the Aleksis Kivi Memorial, a bronze statue of Kivi by Wäinö Aaltonen, was erected in front of the Finnish National Theatre.[16] Many streets in Finnish cities and towns have also been named after Kivi, such as Aleksis Kiven katu in Tampere.[17]

In 1941 the Aleksis Kivi Society [fi] was founded.

In 1995 to 1996, Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara wrote an opera about Kivi's life and works.[18] Two films have also been made: "I Live" [fi] (Finnish title: Minä elän) from 1946, directed by Ilmari Unho;[19] and The Life of Aleksis Kivi (Finnish title: Aleksis Kiven elämä) from 2002, written and directed by Jari Halonen.[20]


See also[edit]

Kivi in English[edit]

  • Impola, Richard A., trans. Aleksis Kivi, Seven Brothers (English translation of Seitsemän veljestä). New Paltz, NY: Finnish-American Translators Association, 1991.
  • Matson, Alex, trans. Aleksis Kivi, Seven Brothers (English translation of Seitsemän veljestä). 1st edition, New York: Coward-McCann, 1929. 2nd edition, Helsinki: Tammi, 1952. 3rd edition, edited by Irma Rantavaara, Helsinki: Tammi, 1973.
  • Robinson, Douglas, trans. Aleksis Kivi's Heath Cobblers and Kullervo. St. Cloud, MN: North Star Press of St. Cloud, 1993.
  • Robinson, Douglas, trans. The Brothers Seven. Bucharest, Romania: Zeta Books, 2017


  1. ^ "Ellei: Runoilija Aleksis Kivi", Suomen Kuvalehti, 15 May 1873
  2. ^ a b Aleksis Kivi at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  3. ^ Translated as Seven Brothers by Alex Matson (in 1929) and again by Richard Impola (in 1991). Translated as The Brothers Seven by Douglas Robinson (in 2017).
  4. ^ Translated as Heath Cobblers by Douglas Robinson (in 1993).
  5. ^ Robinson, Douglas (1 January 2017), "Majoritizing Kivi: Towards nl Hypercanonization", Aleksis Kivi and/as World Literature, Brill, pp. 84–146, doi:10.1163/9789004340268_004, ISBN 978-90-04-34026-8, retrieved 27 December 2023
  6. ^ "Aleksis Kivi paves the way for Finnish lit – thisisFINLAND". 2 February 2023. Archived from the original on 2 February 2023. Retrieved 27 December 2023.
  7. ^ Rahikainen, Esko. "Kansalliskirjailija". Aleksis Kivi (in Finnish). Nurmijärven kunta. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Sihvo, Hannes (2014). "Kivi, Aleksis (1834–1872)". The National Biography of Finland. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  9. ^ a b c Liukkonen, Petri (2008). "Kivi, Aleksis (1834–1872)". Authors' Calendar. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  10. ^ Aristoteleen kantapää: Aleksis ja August (in Finnish)
  11. ^ IL: Helsinki aikoo myydä Aleksis Kiven entisen kodin – tältä se näyttää (in Finnish)
  12. ^ "Yle Teema". Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  13. ^ "Aleksis Kivi (1834–1872) – VisitTuusulanjärvi". Archived from the original on 24 September 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  14. ^ "Mitä Kivi sanoi kuolleessaan?" (in Finnish). 13 April 2010. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  15. ^ Pääkkönen, Sirpa (7 October 1999). "Kulttuuri: Miksi Suomessa jaetaan kaksi Kivi-palkintoa?". Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  16. ^ "Aleksis Kiven muistopatsas : Wäinö Aaltonen – HAM" (in Finnish). Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  17. ^ Niemelä, Jari (2013). "Kansalliskirjailija sai nimensä yhteen tärkeimmistä kaduista". Tammerkoski (in Finnish). No. 2. pp. 6–7.
  18. ^ "Aleksis Kivi". Finnish Music Information Centre. Archived from the original on 10 October 2007.
  19. ^ "'Minä elän'". Elonet. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  20. ^ "Aleksis Kiven elämä". Elonet. Retrieved 17 July 2020.

Secondary sources[edit]

  • Robinson, Douglas, Aleksis Kivi and/as World Literature. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2017.
  • Tarkiainen, Viljo, Aleksis Kivi: elämä ja teokset. WSOY, 1950.

External links[edit]