Salama, Hannu 1936–

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Salama, Hannu 1936–

PERSONAL: Born October 6, 1936, in Kouvola, Finland; son of Sulo Erland (an electrician) and Mirjam (Heino) Salama; children: Markku, Laura. Education: Attended Folk Academy, 1957–58.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Otava Publishing Company, Ltd., Uudenmaankatu 10, 00120, Helsinki, Finland.

CAREER: Novelist and poet. Worked variously as an agricultural worker and electrician. Military service: Sergeant in Finnish armed forces, 1957.

MEMBER: Finnish Writers' Union.

AWARDS, HONORS: Literature prize, Nordic Council, 1975, for Siinä näkijä missä tekijä; Väinö Linna award, 1979; Eno Leino literary prize, 1985; Aleksis Kivi literature prize, 1990; Kiila award, 1987; Finnish Writers' Union award, 1995; honorary award, Haavikko Foundation, 1997; awards from City of Tampere and from Government of Finland.



Se tavallinen tarina (title means "The Same Old Story"), 1961.

Juhannustanssit (title means "Midsummer Dance"), 1964.

Minä, Olli ja Orvokki (title means "Ollie, Orvokki, and Me"), 1967.

Siinä näkijä missä tekijä (title means "No Crime without a Witness"), 1972.

Kolme sukupolvea (title means "Three Generations"), Otava (Helsinki, Finland), 1978.

Vuosi elämästäni (title means "A Year of My Life"), Otava (Helsinki, Finland), 1979.

Amos ja saarelaiset (title means "Amos and the Islanders"), Otava (Helsinki, Finland), 1987.

Ottopoika (title means "Adoptive Son"), Otava, (Helsinki, Finland), 1991.

Pieni menestystarina (title means "A Small Success Story"), Otava (Helsinki, Finland), 1993.

Elämän opetuslapsia I (title means "Disciples of Life I"), Art House (Helsinki, Finland), 1997.

Elämän opetuslapsia II (title means "Disciples of Life II"), Art House (Helsinki, Finland), 1999.


Kosti Herhiläisen perunkirjoitus (title means "Inventory of Kosti Herhiläisen"), Otava (Helsinki, Finland), 1976.

Kolera on raju bändi (title means "Cholera Is a Wild Band"), Otava (Helsinki, Finland), 1977.

Pasi Harvalan tarina I (title means "Pasi Harvala's Tale I"), Otava (Helsinki, Finland), 1981.

Pasi Harvalan tarina II (title means "Pasi Harvala's Tale II"), Otava (Helsinki, Finland), 1983.

Kaivo kellarissa (title means "A Well in the Cellar"), Otava (Helsinki, Finland), 1983.


Tienviitta ja muita novelleja: valikoima teoksista Lomapäivä, Kenttäläinen käy talossa ja kesäleski (title means "Signpost and Other Short Stories"), Otava (Helsinki, Finland), 1974.

Ihmisen ääni (title means "Voice of a Human"), Söderström (Porvoo, Finland), 1978.

Näkymä kuivaushuoneen ikkunasta (title means "A View through the Window of a Drying Room"), Otava (Helsinki, Finland), 1988.

Hyva veli (title means "Dear John"), Otava (Helsinki, Finland), 1992.

Crime Stories, Otava (Helsinki, Finland), 1995.


Puu balladin haudalla (title means "A Tree on the Grave of the Ballad"), Otava (Helsinki, Finland), 1963.

Villanpehmee, taskuulämmin (title means "Soft as Wool, Warm as a Pocket"), Otava (Helsinki, Finland), 1971.

Itäväylä (title means "Easter Route"), Otava (Helsinki, Finland), 1980.

Punajuova (title means "Red Thread"), Otava (Helsinki, Finland), 1985.


Pentti Saarikoski, a Living Legend (in Finnish), Otava (Helsinki, Finland), 1975.

SIDELIGHTS: Hannu Salama is considered one of the best Finnish writers of his generation, although much of his work has been highly controversial. Although he stopped going to school early to work as a farm laborer and later in the electrical trades, he was an avid reader drawn, in particular, to existentialist writers such as Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, but also to American authors like William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and John Steinbeck. Also enthusiastic about the works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Friedreich Nietzsche, Salama contructed his literary worldview based on his fear of hereditary schizophrenia and his highly critical view of society.

Salama antagonized Finnish society when he published Juhannustanssit, a highly provocative 1964 novel that exposes the shallow values of the Finnish upper class. Because of certain words he attributed to Jesus Christ in the novel, Salama was accused of blasphemy on the basis of an outdated law. Although the novelist was convicted, the sentence was suspended and later nullified by the president of Finland.

In the novel Minä, Olli ja Orvokki, Salama depicts a world of greed, deceit, and corruption. The story centers around Olli, a playboy whose only goal in life is to satisfy his ego. Olli is surrounded by shallow, hypocritical people who are as selfish as he is but spend their lives imagining that they are upstanding citizens. Pekka Tarkka, writing in critical study Salama, strongly praised the novelist as a philosophical writer in the tradition of Dostoyevsky, observing that Salama's book shows how the struggle for freedom—in particular, a freedom from capitalist exploitation—can lead to unexpected, even undesirable, consequences. As Tarkka declared, "Salama is a writer of the tragedy of freedom. His characters, whether described in the language of existentialism or of socialism, do not escape humiliation or defeat; their dreams are turned upside down. Salama's humanity lies in this empathic identification with the insulted and injured. The most important person to him is the individual making decisions in concrete situations; like Sartre, he prefers describing the consciousness of an individual to picturing the assimilation of an individual by a group."

Salama's later novel, Siinä näkijä missä tekijä, was well received by both the public and critics and was awarded the literature prize of the Nordic Council in 1975. In this novel Salama describes the dangerous world of the Finnish Communist movement during World War II. The book is primarily about deceit and betrayal. According to Philip Binham in Books Abroad, Salama excels in his descriptions of his characters. Binham especially admired the novelist's ability to present the narrative from the point of view of several characters. Naturally, as the critic pointed out, the reader encounters a story with many dimensions. "One must admire the skill," Binham asserted, "with which Salama has drawn complex threads of this theme together as well as the thoroughness, patience, and courage with which he has tackled a delicate subject that few have dared to approach."

In his five-part epic cycle, ironically named Finlandia after the title of musical composer Jean Sibelius's patriotic composition, Salama defies literary convention. A somewhat autobiographical work, Finlandia posits a narrative based on Salama's personal history against the backdrop of modern Finnish history, in particular the struggle between left-wing and rightwing political ideologies. Some of the featured characters in the cycle are alter egos of the author himself. Critics noted that, as in Salama's earlier novels, the struggles of the main characters ultimately end in defeat and despair. In World Literature Today, Reino Virtanen described the third novel in the cycle as a jigsaw puzzle, adding that Pasi Harvalan tarina I is intermittently clearly written and chaotic. According to Virtanen, "Salama evidently considers that he has a license from James Joyce and Claude Simon to move in and out between direct and indirect discourse, challenging the reader to accompany him." The protagonist of the fifth novel, Kaivo kellarissa, serves as Salama's alter ego: a novelist, Salminen is working on an ambitious narrative. As Virtanen observed, Kaivo kellarissa, "like the previous volumes of the cycle, is a personal account which includes the author's ruminations about his country's destiny and also, at a cosmic level, about the destiny of the world."

Also an acclaimed poet, Salama is known for verse that can be harshly critical of social conventions. World Literature Today contributor Kalevi Lappalainen described the pieces in the collection Itäväylä as poems with "rough edges, even cruel compositions." Citing the poet's facility with ordinary language and his occasional "wild, mad-cap effects," the critic concluded that Salama's "head-on style" in this volume merits attention. Reviewing the 1985 collection Punajuova in World Literature Today, Lappalainen again noted the poet's "uncanny slang idioms" as well as his "street-wise" sensibility but added that Salama also offers more lyrical and accessible poems in the volume. "Salama's verse," Lappalainen concluded, "creates feelings of anger and nostalgia, bringing vivid recollections of one's cherished moments to life."



Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 18, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1981.

Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Tarkka, Pekka, Salama, Otava (Helsinki, Finland), 1973.

Zuck, Virpi, editor, Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature, Greenwood Press (New York, NY), 1990.


Books Abroad, autumn, 1973, Philip Binham, review of Siinä näkijä missä tekijä, p. 801.

Dimension: Contemporary German Arts and Letters, 1994, contemporary Nordic literature issue, pp. 504-505.

World Literature Today, spring, 1980, Anne Fried, review of Vuosi elämästäni, p. 314; autumn, 1982, Reino Virtanen, review of Pasi Harvalan tarina I, pp. 727-728; winter, 1982, Kalevi Lappalainen, review of Itäväylä, p. 153; spring, 1984, Reino Virtanen, review of Pasi Harvalan tarina II, p. 300; summer, 1984, Reino Virtanen, review of Kaivo kellarissa, p. 445; autumn, 1986, Kalevi Lappalainen, review of Punajuova, p. 662.