Under the North Star (Finnish: Täällä Pohjantähden alla) is a trilogy (Vol I: Under the North Star, Vol II: The Uprising, Vol III: Reconciliation) published between 1959–1962 by Finnish author Väinö Linna. The novel follows the life of a Finnish family from 1880 to about 1950, through the First World War, the Finnish Civil War and the Second World War. Through the lives of ordinary people, it describes the clash of ideals in Finland’s language strife and the struggle between the Whites (nationalists) and the Reds (socialists) in the movement to Independence and Civil War. The volumes share one main character, Vilho Koskela, and cover some events as another novel by the author (‘The Unknown Soldier’). Two film adaptations directed by Edvin Laine were made: the 1968 film ‘Here, Beneath the North Star’ (based on the first and second volumes of trilogy) and the 1970 sequel ‘Akseli and Elina’ (based on the third and final volume). In Finland the book is considered a classic, most of those who have not read the book are anyway familiar with the iconic opening words “Alussa olivat suo, kuokka — ja Jussi” (“In the beginning there were the bog, the hoe — and Jussi”), a reference to two verses from the Bible. The second volume in the trilogy (The Uprising) generated controversy over its portrayal of the Finnish Civil War: for the first time a novel was sympathetic (in human terms, if not politically) towards the Reds, whereas up until then, all history of the Finnish Civil War had been written by the Whites. ‘Under the North Star’ was crucial in starting a discussion in Finland over what really happened in 1918, and in healing decades-old wounds between the two factions: the trilogy was awarded the ‘Nordic Council Literature Prize’ in 1963.
Books, Culture, Finland, Literature