Väinö Linna

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Väinö Linna, pictured on a trip to Florida, US, in November 1963

Väinö Linna (20 December 1920 – 21 April 1992) was described as one of the most influential Finnish authors of the 20th century. He gained literary fame with his third novel Tuntematon sotilas (The Unknown Soldier (novel), 1954) and consolidated his position with the trilogy Täällä Pohjantähden alla (Under the North Star, 1959–1962).

Quotes[edit]

Under the North Star[edit]

  • In the beginning there were the swamp, the hoe – and Jussi.
    • Opening words.

Under the North Star (1959), translated by Richard Impola (2001, ISBN 0-9685881-6-6).

The Unknown Soldier[edit]

  • As we all know, the Lord is almighty – he knows all and sees far. And so, one day, he let forest fire burn a good swath of state land, laying waste to acres of the dry, pine forest around the town of Joensuu. The people did everything in their power to put a stop to his work, as they always did, but he burned the forest undeterred, just as far as it suited him. He had his own plans.
    • Opening words, p. 1.
  • The younger troops assumed their ranks. There they stood, bumbling into lines with a bit of difficulty: Mother Finland's chosen sacrifice to world history.
    • The narrator introducing the characters of the novel, p. 2.
  • Once Koskela saw that the guns were ready to go, he called out, 'Shoot for their nuts!'
    • P. 56.
  • They made it to the swamp and Kaarna pounced immediately. 'What's going on here? What's this? Look here, you boys have made a mess of this whole thing. Ay-ay-ay! Boys, boys, this isn't how you fight a war. Noo-oo-ooo. Fighting like this isn't going to get you anywhere. Now, we're going to pull ourselves together and cross this little swamp. The others are already at the enemy positions.'
    • P. 58.
  • 'Are you motherfuckers deaf? Shoot here ... down here ... follow my voice ... my gun ... aaahh ...'
    • An ambushed and dying Lehto criticising the enemy for lack of accuracy, p. 194.
  • 'See that officer out in front? Soon as his shadow hits that lil' spruce there, he's meetin' his maker. That's what I say. 'Nen after him, I start in on'na rest of 'em. Look at them all lined up! Waddlin' along one after the other like sittin' ducks. Poor bastards! Don't know what's about'ta hit 'em. Pretty soon you're gonna see how the Lord takes His own. Now, You lissen up up there, ol' man! If any a those fella's sinned, You take mercy on him, hear? Be quick now! They're gonna start headin' up to you soon.'
    • Rokka preparing to ambush a Soviet unit, p. 277.
  • 'Koskela the Finn. Eats iron and shits chains.'
    • Koskela introducing himself while intoxicated, p. 298.
  • 'The battalion can operate very well without you. No man is indispensable in a war, no matter who he is.'
    • Major Sarastie to Rokka during a disciplinary hearing, p. 356.
  • Jorma Kariluoto had paid his dues into the common pot of human idiocy.
    • The narrator after Kariluoto's death, p. 412.
  • 'Finnish president Risto Ryti and the National Orchestra proudly present ... a polka: "Up Shit Creek Without a Fucking Paddle".'
    • P. 421.
  • 'The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics won, but racing to the line for a strong second place came feisty little Finland.'
    • Vanhala, the eternal comedian, summarizing the war after it ends, p. 466.
  • Rather dear, those boys.
    • Closing words, p. 466.

The Unknown Soldier (novel) (1954), translated by Liesl Yamaguchi (2015, titled as Unknown Soldiers, ISBN 9789510430866).

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