Parland, Henry

Parland, Henry
© Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland

In May of 1929, the Finland-Swedish student of law and recently debuted poet, Henry Parland, born in 1908 in Viborg, was sent by his parents from Helsinki to Kaunas (Kovno), the capital of Lithuania. They wanted to save him from booze, bohemianism, and modernism. It was the final move for the young author, who died a year and a half later of scarlet fever in his exile. He was only 22 years old. He was interred in Kaunas.

The Parland family, domiciled on the Karelian Isthmus, in St. Petersburg, and in Vyborg, and, further back in time, with German-Baltic and English fore-fathers, had settled in Finland after the Russian Revolution. Like many other emigrants, the family had lost their homes and other assets in the revolution. But they had Finnish citizenship.

As a fourteen-year-old, Henry Parland, the eldest of four gifted brothers, began attending a Swedish school in Grankulla (Kauniainen) outside Helsinki. Swedish became his fourth language — after German, Russian, and Finnish — and his literary language. After he completed his secondary school studies in 1927, there followed two academic years of law study at the University of Helsinki, but even more of “life studies” and preparations for a life of letters. Parland became one of the collaborators in the journal Quosego. Tidskrift för ny generation [Quosego: Journal for New Generation] (1928–1929), together with, among others, the older modernist authors Elmer Diktonius, Hagar Olsson, Gunnar Björling, and Rabbe Enckell.

The goal-oriented Parland had already tried to get a collection of poetry published in the fall of 1927, without success. A year later, he did better, and in the spring of 1929, the through-composed collection Idealrealisation [Ideals Clearance] appeared, one of the most exciting Finland-Swedish poem collections of the 20th century.