Maritta Lintunen holds a Master of Arts in music. Lintunen has been nominated for several Finnish literature awards since 1999 and she was awarded the WSOY Literature Foundation Prize for her literary achievements in 2010.
She describes herself writing in three languages: those of poetry, short story, and novel. Her experience as a musician comes through in the skillful and controlled rhythm of her writing. As a result, her language doesn ́t give in to unnecessary vanities, and the characters in her short stories struggle, try to be brave, and continue to strive.
Her short story “Passiontide,” from the collection The Peephole, was selected for Best European Fiction 2012, published by Dalkey Archive Press.
She has published five novels, four short-story collections, and two volumes of poetry. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and literary periodicals in English, German, Swedish, Czech, Russian, Hungarian, Udmurt, Vietnam, Portuguese, Filipino and Dutch. Her fifth novel was published in Finland in 2018.
Lintunen lives in Hämeenlinna, Finland.
Be careful. The will of a well-intentioned person may be stronger than your own.
Liisa moves to Helsinki for the summer to study poetry and rents a room in a former songstress’s apartment. The summer turns into years, the old diva weaves a web around the girl, changing her forever. Liisa becomes a single mother and a nurse, who had a passion for writing poetry in her youth. Liisa’s son, Juri, was supposed to be a pianist but became a doctor. Only later do we find out why Liisa sold the piano and stopped her son’s piano lessons without asking him. By chance, Juri ends up playing the accompaniment for a mezzo soprano with a fantastic voice and interpretive style. His passion is reignited.
In her fifth novel, author and Master of Music Maritta Lintunen explores subjects close to her in a fascinating way. The grand piano and the body of a singer are delicate instruments that must be nurtured with care. But only enchantment can give music – and the best literature – a soul.
“When stars collapse, they lose their light. But when I collapsed, I became a star.”
Praise for the work
“If you’re not charmed, you’re not blinded” – In Maritta Lintunen’s masterful Stella, well-intentioned actions have terrible consequences.
– Aamulehti newspaper
“Stella is a a skilfully woven, intricate tapestry in which the protagonist shifts, from Sylvi and Liisa’s story in the beginning to Liisa’s son Juri’s story towards the end. Lintunen has depicted Juri’s life at the mercy of women in an interesting, topical way. Juri’s story forces the reader to think about the role of men in a world where women raise children.”
– Aamulehti newspaper
“The complete enchantment of music is like a star whose light keeps radiating even after it has burnt out. The novel portrays the timelessness of this art by highlighting the immortality of old masters.”
– Etelä-Suomen Sanomat newspaper
“Power games and the enchantment of music: Maritta Lintunen’s new novel is a sharp examination of the use of power in teaching and intimate relationships. (…) Maritta Lintunen’s novel both confirms and breaks down the myth of the artist. (…) Lintunen offers a clearly conceptualised problem: how to face the gift and burden of art transmitted by the past. In such situations, mythical tones and greater powers become intertwined with everyday realism. People don’t make all their choices themselves.”
– Helsingin Sanomat
“A fascinating and warm-spirited book that is pleasantly filled with different happenings of life. The stories of Sylvi Indrenius’ brilliant concerts, shown as old newspaper clippings, are exquisite. Music is a constant presence in the book.”
– Leena-Maijan kirjasto literary blog
“The artistic characters are fascinating (…) as is the idea of how people’s actions, words and energy impact the development of others. A dominant personality can, even unintentionally, bludgeon and jostle. – And do all kinds of other things. Music is not, however, the only theme of the book, although it provides a strong stage for the story indeed. Stella is also a novel about people’s capacity to live lives that resemble their dreams. A central theme is the idea that an artistic gift can be both a blessing and a curse. In the right hands, it can be harnessed into something amazing, while in the wrong ones it can lead to destruction. Finally, the novel addresses the crushing power of jealousy, whose dark shadows can even transcend generations.”
– Järjellä ja tunteella blog
“Maritta Lintunen, the chamber musician of literature”
“Many moving through the world of music deal with the topic of artistic genius from different angles. The gallery of characters includes diva-like, (head)strong and dramatically juicy personas who come off as very believable in connection with the performing arts. The author’s strong musical background is the source of the work’s credibility and attention to detail: Lintunen has a Master’s degree in music.”
– Suomen kuvalehti magazine
“…Maritta Lintunen skilfully weaves a web of past and present, building the dramaturgy of the work with events from the past, which could not be written about without the present. The past is embodied by Liisa, who, in her youth, falls into the magic circle of Sylvi Indrenius, a former songstress. Sylvi had been a promising singer whose career of operettas and musicals hit the rocks. The former star crushes Liisa’s dreams of being a writer. Liisa becomes a single mother and Sylvi Indrenius starts to suck both Liisa’s and her son’s life into herself in a magical way. Finally, Liisa tears herself away from this atmosphere of almost morbid manipulation. In contrast, Liisa’s adult son Juri, a doctor who in his youth was a gifted pianist, represents the present. But, perhaps out of revenge, the artistically suppressed Liisa did not allow her son to have a future as a pianist, coldly stopping the boy’s piano lessons and selling the family’s piano. In the book, however, Juri is reunited with music when he takes part in a Lied course with his singer girlfriend as her accompanying pianist.
– Risto Nordell, YLE
“I do not often read descriptions of classical music in novels without feeling awkward. Maritta Lintunen’s work is the exception that confirms the rule. The writer is profoundly familiar with her subject matter, even down to solo singing techniques and the alchemy and Lieds from the German romantic period. Her descriptions of music are poignant, touching and insightful. But despite what it may seem, Stella is not a novel about music. More than Schumann’s song cycles, the book ultimately makes the reader ponder moral questions. What become of a life when other people decide on the direction it will take? Who defines artistry and decides who can grow up to be a writer or a musician? Stella also raises questions about how much power stronger individuals have to manipulate weaker ones. Sylvi Indrenius is portrayed as a queen bee extracting nectar, but she could just as well be an orb-weaving spider.”
– Risto Nordell, YLE
“The deftly written text flows with short, clear and bright sentences. Sometimes they turn to pure lyric. The language of the novel is beautiful, but it carefully avoids the temptations of sappiness that loom over anyone who writes about music. The reading experience is complete and harmonious.” – Risto Nordell, YLE
In her earlier works, [Lintunen] has mentioned music in passing, but in Stella it lies at the heart of the events. Of particular importance is Robert Schumann’s song cycle Frauenliebe und -leben, an eight-song cycle written as a setting for poems by Adalbert von Chamisso that describes a woman’s life from her first love through her marriage to the death of her husband.”
– Risto Nordell, YLE
The Devil on My Shoulder
Why are mischief-makers always stirring things up?
In Maritta Lintunen’s masterful short stories, people are goaded into action by forces both internal and external. An author receives messages from a stranger and starts working on a novel based on promptings from the enigmatic figure.
A bright boy joins a class, vexing the teacher so badly he reveals his weaknesses. And the past is hard to escape: a girlfriend from years ago pops up at an awkward moment; suddenly someone’s forced to remember a person they thought no longer mattered.
Lintunen ingeniously portrays people of various ages whose moral compass is shaped by their life experience and generation. The line between right and wrong is faint indeed, and good intentions can lead to unexpected consequences.
A novel about the mysteries of the human mind from a virtuoso of the short story
After drifting around the world for years, forty-year-old Sara Järä opens the front door to her Helsinki home. A couple of hours later, she is sitting in her grandfather’s car, being driven through a snowstorm in the dark, headed into the unknown.
A school in a dying village is becoming a refuge for people who find themselves beyond the scope of the psychiatric care system. Locoweed is being grown in the basement. Sara is forced to reflect on what it means to be a person for whom reality does not suffice.
Locoweed Ranch is a novel about refusing to fit in, about societal pressures, about originality. It is a novel about love, frailty, and the power of the imagination.
“You be the one who won’t forget me. The one who testifies for me.”
Exploring the attic, seventeen-year-old Ronja comes across documents pertaining to her great-uncle. The fate of this blood relative, who fell during World War II, starts to stake out the path Ronja’s life will take, and in the spring of her senior year, the lonely, defiant girl changes her last name to Sachse, after the soldier she so admires.
Ronja ends up a member of the ultrapatriotic Heartline network, but comes to learn that the community of comrades dominates, manipulates, and demands services of its members. The stark black-and-whiteness of youth takes on shades and tones as the network tightens its hold on her. What are heroism and loyalty; what does the realization of the slogan “No man left behind” require? Doesn’t every hero and victim deserve to be remembered and mourned? To what extent do we carry our pasts with us?
Praise for the work
“Lintunen’s sentences are considered, her narration honed and in instances extremely spare. With a few carefully crafted sentences, she is capable of creating fully formed characters and constructing dense, intense moments.”
– Suomen Kuvalehti
“Lintunen is a good, short story-style writer, which is also evident in this novel’s details.”
– Helsingin Sanomat
“The dense, complex work gradually peels back, revealing new layers and storylines that overlap in thematically intriguing ways. Heartline gets a fresh grip on the theme of generational rebellion.”
–Nuoren Voiman Kritiikki
“Lintunen writes a psychologically precise and believable story about a young person’s blind idealism and absolutist views. [–] Heartline is like a mirror where the reflection shifts according to the viewer’s perspective.”
– Pohjolan Sanomat
“The work focuses on a theme rarely dealt with in Finnish literature: extremist movements and the treatment of individuals within them.”
“Heartline is a warning against monomaniac fervour and the use of sanctions to bend individuals to blind fealty. It is an important statement at both the societal and universal levels.”
“Heartline solidifies Lintunen’s role as a portrayer of extreme emotional experiences.”
– Satakunnan Kansa
“Lintunen’s character depictions are fantastic.”
– Turun Sanomat
A perceptive short-story writer reveals where the hurt lies.
Terror experienced by a pensioner begins a grotesquely realistic week of suffering. The peephole captures the neighbour, peeping becomes an obsession. A successful player is forced to run the gauntlet through painful memories. A pair of struggling small brothers, the absent mother’s men of the house…
The characters in Maritta Lintunen’s short stories will not give up. They struggle, act brave and continue to run the gauntlet. A perceptive short-story writer recognises where hurt lies: childhood traumas, real and imagined threats and fears, human loneliness. Dramatic juxtapositions are constructed into provoking short stories, where warm humour and perceptive irony work as counterpoints to each other. This collection is a brilliant new departure from the author.
The short story Passiontide (Piinaviikko) was published in English to a huge critical acclaim in the Best European Fiction Anthology (Dalkey Archive Press, 2012). Passiontide has also been publishd in Swedish (in an Anthology entitled Rådjurens himmel; Tranan, 2012) and in Hungarian (Magyar Lettre Internationale, 2014); and the short story The Message Bearer (Viestintuoja) has appeared in English in the Words Without Borders online journal.
Praise for the work
“These short stories expand into a research about the multiple ways in which a human being can be abandoned of broken down, and how relentlessly a human being holds on to the hope of a better tomorrow.”
– Statement of the Jury, Runeberg Prize
“Maritta Lintunen cuts open the souls of people like the pathologist’s knife cuts the body. She writes mercilessly about oppression, selfishness and co-dependency – exposing the bitter evil which is in you, in me, in us all. The skilful short stories of Peephole center around the use of power, sexuality, feeling of death, and almost masochistic submission. They question: when and why does proximity suffocate us, and from which border do the responsibilities begin?”
“Lintunen writes about subordination, oppression, weakness and strength. She shows the reader the counterparts of the reader’s internal motives, and the evil that is in all of us. ”
“Well, may I say, this is a real treat. A first person narrative that tells the story of a woman and what she experiences after she regains consciousness from a terrible domestic accident. Not only first person, she is the only character to speak of. And how Lintunen holds a beautiful grip over us throughout. (…) This is a delight, which I will certainly return to.”
–ThreeSixFiveStory on Passiontide
“Maritta Lintunen’s Passiontide, a masterful story which reminds us that perhaps the most baffling and scary events occuring in the world, still happen in the realm of our own fallible minds and bodies.”
– The Short Review on Passiontide
“Passiontide by Maritta Lintunen is a story I enjoyed reading, because it was written without any complexities, no confusions with respect to time or characters and it deals with family.”
“One of the best in this volume of short stories, believe you me.”
– Biblioteca do Fabio, Brazil, on Passiontide