Frans Eemil Sillanpää
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1939
Born: 16 September 1888, Hämeenkyrö, Russian Empire (now Finland)
Died: 3 June 1964, Helsinki, Finland
Residence at the time of the award: Finland
Prize motivation: “for his deep understanding of his country's peasantry and the exquisite art with which he has portrayed their way of life and their relationship with Nature”
Prize share: 1/1
Frans Eemil Sillanpää was born into a farm family in Hämeenkyrö in southern Finland. After five years of medical studies, he returned in 1913 to his home village without a degree, but with a modern scientific worldview, to devote himself to writing. Although several of his works were published, his precarious financial situation led to an itinerant lifestyle at times. After treatment for alcoholism and stress, he returned to public life, and his radio appearances became popular. Sillanpää was married twice and had eight children.
Sillanpää made his debut with short stories published in a newspaper in Helsinki. His first novel, Elämä ja aurinko (1916) (Life and Sun) attracted attention for its daring description of young love and at the same time a Darwinian way of observing the characters. Humans as elemental beings pervaded his creative works. The novel Hurskas kurjuus (1919) (Meek Heritage) depicts the life and tragic death of crofter Juha Toivola and explains the rebellion of the Finns during their civil war. Sillanpää published seven novels and 10 collections of short stories.
Their work and discoveries range from the Earth’s climate and our sense of touch to efforts to safeguard freedom of expression.
See them all presented here.