Kaari Utrio

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Kaari Utrio in Helsinki Book Fair, 2009

Kaari Marjatta Utrio (born 28 July 1942, official surname Utrio-Linnilä) is a Finnish writer. She has written over 35 historical novels and 13 non-fiction books on historical topics. She is a 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 over four thousand books (100 meters) 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 the age of seven, the first book Utrio read by herself was a thick volume of Jokamiehen Maailmanhistoria (World History for the Everyman). At school Utrio did well, also in composition 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 lively description of history to the young Utrio.

Kaari Utrio matriculated in 1962 from Helsingin tyttölukio, a girls only college. After that, she studied history at the University of Helsinki and graduated as a Bachelor of Arts in 1967. The following year, Utrio published her first novel Kartanonherra ja kaunis Kirstin (The Lord of the Manor and the Beautiful Kirstin), which was published by Tammi. The titel 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 non-fiction books about history.

Utrio has three children: Karri Virkajärvi (born 1969), Antti Virkajärvi (born 1971) and Lauri Linnilä (born 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, save for one, that they all take place in past times, from ancient history early Middle Ages 10th century, to modern times, early 19th century. The main character is typically a woman, often somehow connected to Finland or Finnish history, although in the novel Vaskilintu (The Bronze Bird) the other main character 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 complex and superstitious world of medieval people, as she has explained in prefaces of her books), which creates a feeling of the book's time period. History of everyday life is prominent in her books, not only great political 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. The lives of the characters in her books are based on historical research, mingled with stories, adventure, romance and humour.

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

Utrio's non-fiction novels feature history of women and children, which is usually in a minor role in the historical literature. Eevan tyttäret (The Daughters of Eve) is one of Utrio's most notable non-fiction book. 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 notice, and has been translated into seven languages.

Her career as a widely published author has lasted more than forty years. One of most popular novelists in Finland, since her first novel, published in 1968. A new book comes out almost every year. Ever since the 1970s, Utrio's latest book has been a gift (birthday, Christmas etc.) 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