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Seven Brothers by Aleksis Kivi
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Seven Brothers (1870)

by Aleksis Kivi

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (5)  Finnish (1)  All (6)
Showing 5 of 5
First published in 1870, Seven Brothers is considered the first novel written in Finnish. Previously, Finnish novels had been written in Swedish, or even Latin. The introduction tells us that the critical condemnation of Seven Brothers was fierce, for it was written in a "realistic" or naturalist style, and Finland was still enraptured with the Romantic novel. This fierce condemnation evidently led to Kivi's mental breakdown and premature death just two years later.

The seven boisterous, brawling Jukola brothers live in rural Finland. They are just entering adulthood when their mother dies, leaving them parentless. And while they bicker endlessly with each other, they remain fiercely loyal as well, presenting a united front to the outside world, which wants them to simmer down, to put it mildly. The adventures of these brothers as well as the evolution of their internal relations and their development into mature adults provide the novel's course. But the narrative seems almost as much to be a parable about life in general and Finnish rural culture in particular. One of the brothers, Aapo, is often asked to tell folk tales to the rest in moments of crisis. He does so, at fair but entertaining length, and these "set pieces" (as Borje Vahamaki's Introduction refers to them) add a lot to the novel's flow and richness, and provide insight into the culture of the time and place, as well.

The beginning of the novel was a little hard for me to get through, to be honest, as the immature bickering among the brothers made me impatient. But eventually the characters did evolve, and I became more attuned to the flow of the narrative, as well. My enjoyment was enhanced by the fact that I bought my copy of Seven Brothers at the incredible Academic Bookstore in downtown Helsinki when my wife and I vacationed in Finland a few years back. I don't know why it took me so long to actually read the book, but I'm glad that I finally have. ( )
  rocketjk | Oct 22, 2016 |
Seven brothers on the Finnish countryside, all in their late teens and early twenties and more than a little rough around the edges, find themselves orphaned as their father dies during an unfortunate bear hunt. Not entirely up to the responsibility, the eldest brother Juhani, implusive, sentimental and quick to anger, steps up to run the farm as family head. But the brothers aren’t ready for this kind of quiet life. After discovering six of them love the same woman (the exception being the silent Lauri, who’d prefer to take to the woods) they go to her to propose, and to their shame Vesla rejects them one and all. As if this wasn’t enough they get into a nasty fight with the boys from the next village, and the priest gets his hands on them to force them to learn to read and write. Unable to stand this chore, they break a window and escape to the woods – following the plan of Lauri.

The novel then deals with the ten years the brothers spend in the forest, making a life for themselves. In the beginning the focus is on hunting, comical episodes involving alcohol and fire and long quarrels, often ending in violence. But as time and the book progresses, it becomes more about their work building a homestead: clearing land, sowing crops, starving when the harvest fails and generally maturing. In the end, they return to their father’s farm as grown men, ready for marriage, learning and a humble life.

Really, this is a coming of age story in it's own peculiar way, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Published in 1870, it’s one of the first novels written in the Finnish language (Finland was still a part of Sweden then, and Swedish was the preferred language for people of stature), and considered a true classic in Finland. At first, it struck me as feeling very modern, with long gritty, dirty and rude dialogues between the brothers making up most of the text, and I thought it was perhaps in for more of a fun than a good read. But then there are the beautiful passages describing the Finnish countryside in an almost lyrical tone, creating a tender contrast. And not least, the very satisfactory development in the characters, where they are much better people in the end – but in no means free from their flaws. The last few pages move me deeply. It should also be stressed that, despite the title, this is a book with very modern female characters for its time. The women here are sturdy, sharp-tongued, tough and have a keen wit. Like those seven quarreling brothers, they are all a joy to meet.

This certainly falls under the pretty slim category “truly enjoyable classics” for me. I recommend anyone to give it a go. It’s bound to be dependent on a really good translation though, I think, so bear that in mind. ( )
2 vote GingerbreadMan | Dec 26, 2011 |
The Seven Brothers is a story that can be interpreted in different ways of course, but for me the adventures of the brothers represent more-or-less the story of every Finn. It is a story of exploration, curiosity, attraction to nature, defiance, rebellion, escape from dissolution, and in the end redemption and truce with the larger world. Kivi captured a collective shared experience and gave it narrative expression. ( )
1 vote bkinetic | Oct 15, 2010 |
Det er denne nynorsk-utgaven du må lese. Den er fantastisk godt oversatt av Hartvig Kiran. ( )
  Nonno | Feb 6, 2009 |
Not a great translation, but a window to 19th century rural Finnish life. ( )
  mr_rhumba | Aug 18, 2006 |
Showing 5 of 5
De zeven broers is een heel bijzondere roman. Bijzonder in vele opzichten. Allereerst is het een bijzonder goed geschreven roman; origineel, levendig en boeiend, ondanks het feit dat het boek al in 1870 in de vorm van een feuilleton verscheen. Bijzonder ook omdat het de eerste uitgegeven roman is die in het Fins werd geschreven. Tot op de dag van vandaag beschouwd wordt De zeven broeders door velen beschouwd als de allerbeste Finse roman die ooit is verschenen...lees verder >
 

» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kivi, Aleksisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bergbom, KaarloForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Collin, MarcusIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cygnaeus, FredrikForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fernández, JoaquínTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gallén-Kallela, AkseliIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krohn, JuliusForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ojanen, ÚrsulaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Varpio, YrjöForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warburton, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Jukola Farm, in the southern part of Hame, lies on the northern slope of a hill not far from a village called Toukola.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 188047400X, Paperback)

Along with The Kalevala, Aleksis Kivi's Seven Brothers is Finland's most celebrated literary treasure. It remains the greatest Finnish novel of all time, and is a classic among the classics in Finnish literature. 280 pages ISBN 0-9737165-2-5

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:15 -0400)

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