A New Approach to Language – Volter Kilpi’s Alastalon Salissa (1933)

In: A Cultural History of the Avant-Garde in the Nordic Countries 1925-1950
Author: Kaisa Kurikka

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Abstract

Finnish literary criticism has faced difficulties in situating Volter Kilpi’s (1874–1939) novel Alastalon salissa (In the Parlour of Alastalo, 1933) in any literary current or tradition. Ever since its publication the novel has been linked to several categorisations, varying from modernism to surrealism and dada to epic or historical prose. This essay discusses the reception of Kilpi’s novel from the 1930s to the present day by focusing mainly on writings that connect the novel to avant-garde traditions. The reception of Kilpi’s novel seems to emphasise either the modernist character of the novel or its avant-garde quality. Rather than situating Alastalon salissa strictly at one or the other of these poles, this essay suggests that the novel can actually be seen as moving in between them. The essay also suggests that the avant-garde quality of the novel is mainly a matter of its verbal expression.