Alexis Kivi Day / Day of Finnish Literature

Books, Kouvola

Alexis Kivi is the father of Finnish literature. Annually 10TH of October is the day of the writer Alexis Kivi (10.10.1834–31.12.1872), the author of the first Finnish novel. His birthday is also celebrated as the Day of Finnish Literature.

Alexis Kivi was born under the surname Stenvall in Palojoki, 33 kilometers north of Helsinki, to a tailor’s family. He was one of the rare youths in this region who entered the university at 23 in the middle of the 19th century, and the only one from the people: the rest were from the upper classes. Although he studied mainly in Swedish, he received recognition for a novel written in Finnish under the pen name Alexis Kivi, the Finnish version of his original Swedish surname.

During his life, Alexis Kivi wrote relatively little – the world is especially aware of 13 works of the author: 12 plays, 1 novel, and he is also remembered by the Finns for various kinds of stories.

The most famous became his only novel, which was called “Seven Brothers” published in 1870. It is Finland’s national novel, and Kivi himself has since been considered the first professional Finnish-language writer and national writer in Finland. This work became famous because it was written in Finnish and not in Swedish. The novel has now been translated into 25 languages.

Opponents of the novel said, among other things, that everything that the author outlined in the work is lies and slander, and the people of Finland cannot be like that. In this regard, the publication of the work had to be postponed for 3 long years. In addition to the novel “Seven Brothers”, the most famous works by Alexis Kivi are the plays “Kullervo”, “Nummi’s Shoemakers”, “The Engagement”, “Leo”.

Alexis Kivi did not live long. He suffered from typhoid fever, often starved, and his placement in a psychiatric clinic with a diagnosis of schizophrenia only made the situation worse. As a result, he died on 31st of December in 1872, at the age of 38.

Nowadays, anyone can visit the house-museum of Alexis Kivi in Siuntio. Flowers are laid every year on October 10 at the writer’s monuments in Helsinki and Nurmijärvi. The national flag of Finland is raised throughout the country. And also, the Finnish Literary Society on this day announces the winner of the prestigious literary prize of the country.