Envall, Markku 1944- (Markku Sakari Envall)

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Envall, Markku 1944- (Markku Sakari Envall)


Born July 28, 1944, in Hämeenlinna, Finland; son of Eero Alfred (a master painter) and Siiri Maria (a homemaker) Envall; married Tittamari Marttinen (a writer), 1990; children: Ilmari, Malva, Erasmus, Luminia. Ethnicity: "White." Education: University of Helsinki, Finland, Ph.D., 1987. Politics: Independent. Religion: Lutheran. Hobbies and other interests: Bicycling.


Home—Hollantilaisentie 9B16, 00330 Helsinki, Finland. E-mail—[email protected]


University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland, assistant professor of Finnish literature,1982-94; freelance writer, 1994—. Finnish Academy, senior researcher, 1991-94; University of Essex, visitor. Military service: Served in anti-tank defense unit, 1965; became second lieutenant.


Finlandia Prize for Literature, 1990, for a collection of aphorisms.


Rakeita (aphorisms) W. Söderström (Porvoo, Finland), 1983.

Kirjailijoiden kentät ja kasarmit, Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura (Helsinki, Finland), 1984.

Nasaretin miehen pitkä marssi: esseitä Jeesus-aiheesta kirjallisuudessa (essays), W. Söderström (Porvoo, Finland), 1985.

Pahojen henkien historia (aphorisms), W. Söderström (Porvoo, Finland), 1986.

Suomalainen aforismi: keinoja, rakenteita, lajeja, ongelmia, Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura (Helsinki, Finland), 1987.

Toinen minä: tutkielmia kaksoisolennon aiheesta kirjallisuudessa, W. Söderström (Porvoo, Finland), 1988.

Samurai nukkuu (aphorisms), W. Söderström (Porvoo, Finland), 1989.

Onni tieto tuska: tutkielmia kirjallisuudesta (literary criticism), Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura (Helsinki, Finland), 1990.

Marmorilaiva (poetry), W. Söderström (Porvoo, Finland), 1991.

Uni palaa rikospaikalle (aphorisms), W. Söderström (Porvoo, Finland), 1991.

Kivestä, valosta ja hyvästä teoriasta (aphorisms), W. Söderström (Porvoo, Finland), 1994.

Suuri illusionisti: Mika Waltarin romaanit (literary criticism), W. Söderström (Porvoo, Finland), 1994.

Käsioraakkeli ja muita esseitä (essays; title means "Manual of Oracles"), WSOY (Helsinki, Finland), 1996.

Asumaton huone ja muita esseitä (essays; title means "The Uninhabited Room and Other Essays"), WSOY (Helsinki, Finland), 1997.

Päivä katedraalissa ja muita esseitä (essays; title means "A Day in the Cathedral"), W. Söderström (Porvoo, Finland), 1998.

Synnyttämässä ja muita esseitä (essays), W. Söderström (Porvoo, Finland), 1999.

Henkiinjäämisen suunnitelma ja muita esseitä kirjallisuudesta (essays), W. Söderström (Porvoo, Finland), 2001.

Polkupyörällä ajamisen taito ja muita esseitä (essays), W. Söderström (Porvoo, Finland), 2002.

Maailma aina mukana (collected aphorisms), W. Söderström (Porvoo, Finland), 2003.

Jäät lähtevät (novel), W. Söderström (Porvoo, Finland), 2004.

Ja Job antaa anteeksi (aphorisms), W. Söderström (Porvoo, Finland), 2005.

Perheen aika (essays), Kirjapaja (Helsinki, Finland), 2005.

Kieltä terävämpi giljotiini (aphorisms) W. Söderström (Porvoo, Finland), 2006.

Ruuti etsii kipinää (poetry), W. Söderström (Porvoo, Finland), 2007.


Of Markku Envall's published works, six are collections of aphorisms; he received the Finlandia Prize for Literature for one such collection. Critic Philip Binham wrote of Envall in World Literature Today: "His experience as an aphorist has been fruitful in forging a style that is apt for the novelist."

Envall has also written literary criticism, such as his study of the author Mika Waltari, Suuri illusionisti: Mika Waltarin romaanit. Waltari was a prolific Finnish novelist, and his work was relatively well known outside Finland. Binham commented that Envall's study of Waltari and his work is "worthy" and "solid."

Käsioraakkeli is an "eclectic and insightful" collection of essays, according to Helena Darnell in World Literature Today. The title essay discusses the Chinese I Ching, or Book of Changes, an ancient text used in divination. Three other essays discuss religion and its effect on a writer's work and life, and still more essays cover the impact of music and art, and the consequences of mistakes in language use and translation. Darnell noted that although some of these topics seem weighty, Envall's style is not; she praised his "down-to-earth" and "genial" writing, and noted that the essays repay close reading: "Only by reading and rereading them can one grasp everything they have to offer."

In Asumaton huone ja muita esseitä, Envall covers a wide variety of topics, ranging from a recurrent dream of an as-yet-unused room in his house, intolerance toward foreigners, religion, social classes, emotion versus intellect, parenting, and consumerism, the environment, and censorship. Binham wrote: "These are pieces that should be read slowly and savored leisurely," praising Envall's "wit and acerbity," as well as the way the pieces "arouse opinions and ideas in the reader."

Päivä katedraalissa ja muita esseitä, another collection of essays, is loosely about a year he spent on sabbatical from his usual position, at the University of Essex in Colchester, England. In some of the pieces, such as "Mixed Class," "Walks in Colchester," and "I mean you know," he explicitly explores English customs and language. Other essays are not specifically about his personal experiences in England, but offer more general commentaries: these include "Superstore," "Safety," and "Incomparable." The book also contains three essays on religion, and some that have no connection with his English stay at all, such as "My Father's Death" and "Your Health."

"Mixed Class" is, according to Binham in World Literature Today, one of the most lighthearted of the pieces. It describes the "English-for-foreigners" class Envall attended in England, and tells about his study of television vocabulary with Abdullah, a Middle Eastern man who has never heard of Donald Duck and can't understand Envall's explanations. "I can't decide how much he is missing," Envall comments. He also writes about his explorations of English streets and fields; in Finland, anyone may walk anywhere at any time, but in England, he is constantly running up against the concept of private property.

Binham commented about the collection that Envall "seems to have developed unusually from aphorist and scholar to essayist: will he move on to historian or even novelist? As he grows older, he allows himself to be less academic, more human and humorous." He also noted that Envall's "voice is distinctive in Finnish literature today for its quiet, individual, and honest tones," and commented that "as long as there are writers crafting their words with such skill and care, the monument of the Finnish language is still in good hands."



Schoolfield, George C., editor, A History of Finnish Literature, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1998.


World Literature Today, autumn, 1984, p. 556; autumn, 1996, Helena Darnell, review of Käsioraakkeli ja muita esseitä p. 992; winter, 1996, Philip Binham, review of Suuri illusionisti: Mika Waltarin romaanit, p. 210; winter, 1999, Philip Binham, review of Päivä katedraalissa ja muita esseitä, p. 183; winter, 2002, Helena Darnell, review of Henkiinjäämisen suunnitelma ja muita esseitä kirjallisuudesta, p. 165.