Eeva Kilpi (b. 1928), is one of Finland’s most distinguished writers. Over her career spanning several decades, Eeva Kilpi has focused on depicting female emotion. She did not begin writing until she was thirty-one, and since then has published several novels, collections of short stories, poetry, and autobiographical works.
Kilpi grew up in Karelia, an area of Finland ceded to the Russians after World War II. The traumatizing move from Karelia to Finland, from the countryside to the city, left its mark on her early work, in which a childhood idyll is often contrasted with a sense of alienation and pointlessness in urban life.
Kilpi subsequently shifted her focus increasingly to the problems experienced by a women striving for independence in a world dominated by men and money. Her feminism, if it may be called that, is neither theoretical nor programmed but empathetic and practically oriented. Throughout her work she has placed special emphasis on a theme scorned by many writers – ordinary life, its joys and sorrows.
One fascinating exception in her career is the experimental erotic novel Tamara, 1972, a portrayal of the relationship of a sexually active woman and a disabled man. The sexual focus of Tamara created a great stir in Finland, which had no tradition of erotic literature. When asked why she chose to tell her story through the eyes of a paralyzed scholar, she explained: “The disability of the narrator is based on my notion that we are all emotionally injured; the world is so unkind to emotion that it either dies or becomes crippled, trodden like a weed between the pavement stones”.
In the 1970’s Kilpi began to shift her genius from narrative prose to poetry vividly depicting the everyday life of women. Between 1989 and 1993 Kilpi published a critically acclaimed trilogy of autobiographical novels portraying the passage from childhood to youth in an atmosphere of perpetual leave-taking during the precarious war years. In her later poetry and prose the principal themes are love, ageing, old-age and death.
In 2017 Eeva Kilpi was awarded the Aleksis Kivi Award by the Finnish Literarture Society: “Eeva Kilpi has been a bold trailblazer and forerunner in her works dealing particularly with problematics of womanhood and motherhood, as well as the relationship of people to nature. With a sensitive but decisive approach, she has untangled the shackling nature of cultural conceptions of motherhood, as well as the difficulties of balancing life as a mother and as an artist. In Kilpi’s works, social and philosophical explorations entwine together naturally with intimate, autobiographical elements, and, in its artistry and uniqueness, the personal is always extremely political. The jury of Finland’s oldest literary award has the joy and honour of presenting the award to Eeva Kilpi in gratitude for her work, which has brought hope, comfort and joy to the lives of readers over the course of decades.” – Aleksis Kivi Award of the Finnish Literature Society, Statement of the Jury
Eeva Kilpi’s work has been translated into the following languages:
Albanian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Vietnamese.