Väinö Linna’s magnum opus, the Under the North Star trilogy, reaches from earliest years of the 20th century up until the 1950s. In its pages, a small village in southern Finland lives an earthy, primal existence through Finland’s largest transformations.
Chronologically, the Under the North Star I falls between the decade preceding the February Manifesto and the eve of World War I. The fates of sharecroppers, landowners, the lord of the manor and the residents of the vicarage are interwoven with the flows of societal upheaval.
In The Uprising – Under the North Star II, the tragedy of the sharecroppers rises to its apex. The chain of events starts from the outbreak of World War I and comes to a close in November 1919. The Finnish Civil War provides a thematic core for the work.
Reconciliation – Under the North Star III records life under the North Star during the era of Finnish independence. The depiction begins in the early 1920s and continues to approximately 1950. This was to be Väinö Linna’s last novel, a multi-protagonist novel in the great realistic narrative tradition. The point of perspective is consistently low-keyed, the reader learns about paramount events and modern ideas through their impact on ordinary people. In this way, social and historical insights come across even stronger. Add to this Väinö Linna’s language, pervaded by sweat and poor, lean soil.
Linna deftly wields the most powerful weapons in his arsenal from beginning to end: conciliatory or bitter or black humour, characters that grow more and more complex, dialogue snatched directly from the mouths of the nation’s people. Under the North Star is a work of art. And as such, it tells more about the life of Finns than dozens of works of history combined.
The Nordic Council Literature Prize (Under the North Star III) 1963
“The Nordic Council Literature Prize 1963 is awarded to Väinö Linna for the third part of his novel trilogy “Täällä Pohjantähden alla” (Under the North Star), a majestic vision of Finland’s recent history, rendered with powerful creation of characters in a tangible realistic portrayal. The account concludes a major epic work of significance for public debate in the Nordic countries.” – Statement of the Jury, The Nordic Council Literature Prize