Partner Olli-Matti Ronimus
Fredrikinkatu 63, 00100 Helsinki, Finland
Hietaniemi Cemetery Helsinki, Helsinki Municipality, Uusimaa, Finland
Pentti Vihtori Holappa (11 August 1927 Ylikiiminki – 10 October 2017 Helsinki) was a Finnish writer and poet who was awarded the Finlandia Prize in 1998. In 1972, Holappa served as Minister of Culture under a mandate from the Social Democratic Party in Rafael Paasio's second government. Holappa was the editor-in-chief of the Ajankohta magazine from 1967 to 1968, and with his life partner Olli-Matti Ronimus, he had the antiquarian bookstore Holappa & Ronimus on Fredrikinkatu in Helsinki. The author's other works include collections of poems, short stories, essays and novels. In addition to his own works, Holappa's work included translations of French and English literature, such as Claude Simon's novel The Flemish Way and Samuel Beckett's plays.
Pentti Holappa was born in 1927 in Ylikiiming. His parents were foreman Matti Holappa and weaver Aino Isoviita. However, his grandparents raised him in Ikaalinen. The father had abandoned the family shortly before Pentti was born, and the single mother could not support her three young children as a weaver in Tampere. After elementary school, Pentti moved in with his mother in Tampere. At the age of 18, he got a job atthe Helsinki Academic Bookstore's warehouse. He studied Swedish on his own and was promoted to salesperson.
Holappa's first work was a collection of poems in The Fool's Hall of Mirrors, published in 1950. The following works were the short story collection Goblin Kings (1952), the poetry collection Son of the Earth (1953) and the novel Lonely (1954). Holappa was influenced by French extentialist writers, especially Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. Lonely can be considered a Finnish variation of Camus's The Bystander. Holappa worked as a freelance writer from 1953 to 1956, as an advertising journalist from 1956 to 1959 and from 1959 to 1961 as an assistant director of Kauppamainos Oy. In the 1950s, he also edited the magazine Välikysymys, a magazine of radical young cultural influencers. Holappa was already aware of his homosexuality at a young age. In 1953, he met Olli-Matti Ronimus, with whom he also moved in together. In the 1950s, they lived a few times in France, where they learned French. French landscapes are strongly present in Holappa's poetry collections Nearby(1957) and Look at Your Eyes(1959), in the short story collections Metamorphoses (1959) and in the novel Tinaa (1961). In the autumn of 1961, Holappa and Ronimus moved to Paris for four and a half years. There they began to translate a new French novel into Finnish. The first to be completed in 1963 was Claude Simon's Flemish Road. They also translated, among other things, Alfred Jarry's play King Ubun and several plays by Samuel Beckett. Holappa briefly worked as the Paris correspondent for Helsingin Sanomat and wrote his fourth novel, The Characteristics of the Heir(1963). After returning to Finland in 1966, Holappa founded the cultural and opinion publication Aika, which aimed to ventilate the inward-looking Finnish way of life. After about a year of operation, Aika had to be discontinued in the winter of 1968 due to cost reasons. After this, Holappa was hired as a columnist for the culture department of Helsingin Sanomat. He wrote for standard columns for ten years. Holappa's political activity began in the mid-1960s in the Social Democratic Party. In his columns for Helsingin Sanomat, he often dealt with current affairs. From February to September 1972, Holappa was even minister of culture in Paasio's minority government. About his experiences in politics, he wrote in his 1976 novel The Long Way Travelers. In the same year, he and Olli-Matti Ronimus bought an antiquarian bookstore, which they ran for over 12 years. In 1979, Holappa published a collection of poems called Fifty-Two. It was his first collection of poems in twenty years. Holappa's renewed expression was established by the poetry collection Long Words(1980). Since then, more than ten collections of poems have been published by Holappa. Among them, Savun havua and Fingerprints in empty were nominated for the Finlandia Prize, and Anchorage was awarded the Finnish Broadcasting Company's Dancing Bear Award. In the 1990s, The Arrows of Time (1990) and Everyday Time (1995), which combine diaries, essays and memoirs, appeared. The same themes were still addressed in The War Diary, which was published in 2004. In addition, in the 1990s, he wrote the play Adieu!, which was performedat the National Theatre, and the novels The Permanent Secretary (1996) and The Portrait of a Friend (1998). The Portrait of a Friend was his main work of the 1990s, and in it he combined sensual imagery and open homoeroticism. The novel won Holappa the Finlandia Prize and Setary's Apple of Factual Information award. However, it also caused a stir about the exact description of sexual acts. Holappa is buried in the Artistinmäki area of Hietaniemi cemetery next to his spouse Olli-Matti Ronimus.
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