AN -- Biographies

Die Grabstätten der deutschsprachigen Dichter und Denker: ein lexikalischer Wegweiser [A Guide to the Graves of German-Language Writers and Intellectuals]. Josef Walter König. 2d substantially augmented ed. Meitingen: Corian-Verlag Wimmer, 2003. 427 p. ill. 21 cm. ISBN 3-89048-320-8: EUR 28 [03-1-038]

This second edition, claims to be “substantially augmented” compared to the 2000 edition (see RREA 6:44): it contains 52 names (rather than 49) and 12 photos of tombs (compared to seven). The additions are writers of minor importance. The focus remains almost exclusively on Berlin, Munich, and Vienna, cities whose guides to their cemeteries the compiler consulted. The guide is based on the effort of an individual collector. Given the potentially vast number of writers and intellectuals who could be included one might have to expect many future “substantially augmented” editions. [sh/rs]

Personalbibliographien österreichischer Persönlichkeiten = Personal Bibliographies of Austrian Personalities = Bibliographies des personnages autrichiens. Karl F. Stock, Rudolf Heilinger, Marylène Stock. München: Saur. 30 cm. (Bibliographie österreichischer Bibliographien, Sammelbiographien und Nachschlagewerke, 3). Vol. 1 (1987)–15 (2001) printed by Selbstverlag Stock, Graz. [03-1-039]

Vol. 16. PacPri. 2003. vii, p. 5,321–5,756. ISBN 3-598-24796-6: EUR 178

Volumes 1–15 of this comprehensive bibliography of personal bibliographies and other biographical sources for Austrian personalities were self-published by the author (from 1987 to 2001) as part 3 of his Bibliographie österreichischer Bibliographien, Sammelbiographien und Nachschlagewerke [Bibliography of Austrian Bibliographies, Collective Biographies, and Reference Works]. Beginning with volume 16 this work will be published by Saur Publishers. Volumes 1 through 15 provided information on some 6,400 Austrian personalities. The database of which the printed volumes are a selection contains (up to the letter Z) entries for ca. 12,400 persons. Although additional volumes are to appear at the rate of one per year, it will still be a considerable time before the work is complete. There are plans for eventual electronic access via CD-ROM or the Internet. This would be a welcome development because of the inclusion of supplements to already published volumes and flexible search mechanisms, although purchase of the CD-ROM should probably be postponed until the volume for the letter Z is reached. Librarians who anticipate acquiring the complete version also need not purchase separately published special volumes on important figures (e.g., Grillparzer-Bibliographien), which are excerpted from the complete edition. This work is especially useful for its inclusion of “hidden” personal bibliographies. [sh/jc]

Russische Biographien: ausgewählte Bibliographie [Russian Biographies: A Selective Bibliography]. Ilya Perelmuter. Dortmund: Perelmuter, 2003. 112 p. 21 cm. ISBN 3-00-010997-8: EUR 9.95 (Dr. Ilya Perelmuter, Ordalweg 15, D-44309 Dortmund, fax [49 231] 2008712) [03-1-040]

This bibliography covers 521 works in German published from 1980 to 2002. It includes both individual and collective biographies of Russians, as well as other types of biographical literature, such as autobiographies, correspondence, documentation concerning people, belletristic portrayals, and memoirs. Despite its stated goal of comprehensiveness, there are gaps. The Grand Duchess Anastasia, about whom much has been written, is excluded, for example, as is Die russischen Zaren in Lebensbildern [The Russian Czars in Biographical Sketches] (Graz, 1996; see IFB 99-B09-741). The target group for the bibliography is not named, but it could be used as an aid for collection development, especially in public libraries, given that most of the works listed are intended for a general audience. Still sorely needed is a bibliography that would enable academic libraries to sort out scholarly from popular Russian biographical works, of which there has been a veritable flood coming onto the market in the last decade. [sh/akb]

Suomen kansallisbiografia [Finnish National Biography]. Ed. Matti Klinge. 11 vols. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2003- . 26 cm. (Studia biographica 3:1). ISBN 951-746-441-X (set): EUR 891

An RREO Original Review

The project of the Finnish national biography was started in 1993 by Suomen Historiallinen Seura [Finnish Historical Society]; it is currently conducted at Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura [Finnish Literature Society] and is expected to be complete in 11 volumes by 2007. This review is based on the first volume of the planned set of 10 biographical volumes plus an index volume. Over 700 specialists will have contributed to the 6,000 biographies that the complete set will include. So far three volumes have been published, bringing the set up to the surname Hirn. According to the editors, Suomen kansallisbiografia is the largest publishing undertaking in Finland’s history. It is twice the size of the previous national biography published in the 1920s under the title Kansallinen elämänkerrasto [National Biography]. The Swedish period (up to 1809) and the Russian period (from 1809 to 1917) each count for one-quarter of the articles. As approximately half of the biographies deal with persons active since Finland gained independence in 1917, it is certainly a much needed reference work for 20th-century Finnish culture and history.

The entries vary in length from half a page to six pages. Arrangement is alphabetical by surname, and portraits have been included whenever possible. The name of the subject is followed by dates and one or more words describing the profession or field of activity. A brief synopsis of the person’s main accomplishments precedes the main biography. At the end of each article there is a listing of personal and family information with appropriate dates, when known, and further sources on the life of the subject. As can be expected, statesmen and politicians represent the largest group of biographies, about 14%. According to the editor’s statistics, 13% of the entries deal with women. The website (see below) provides a more accurate breakdown of the subjects’ fields of activity.

Who, then, has had the honor to be included in this important reference work? The chief editor, the eminent Finnish historian Matti Klinge, humbly admits in the introduction that in spite of the editors’—most of whom were historians—own expertise, in the end their opinions and knowledge, or lack thereof, have influenced the inclusion of selected persons. For instance, based on one volume only it is not possible to tell whether the editors have included the less accomplished, yet notorious citizens, such as rogues, rebels, and criminals, or how they have dealt with such persons. Other than Finnish individuals, the first volume also contains biographies of some foreigners who have influenced Finnish history or culture; some compound articles on particularly influential families with many individual sub-entries; and even a few fictional characters, such as the maiden Aino from the Finnish epic Kalevala.

The first volume includes a list of contributors, a bibliography, and an extensive name index with article entries indicated in italics. There are also cross-references from names in an article to separate entries elsewhere in the set. Summaries of the biographies can be found free of charge at http://www.kansallisbiografia.fi, while access to the full text of the articles is fee-based. Currently the full web version contains 3,600 biographies, which will be updated when necessary. Further, the website indicates that part of the Finnish National Biography will also be published in Swedish under the title Biografiskt lexikon för Finland and is expected to be complete in 2007. Libraries not interested in the full 10-volume work, the full fee-based website, or the abbreviated Swedish version may consider acquiring a one-volume English translation titled 100 Faces from Finland (Helsinki, 2000; see RREA 9:36), which contains biographies of the most internationally known Finns.

In the introduction Professor Klinge regrets decades of Finnish lack of interest in historical biography, seeing this as the reason that some biographies may lack the accuracy and liveliness they deserve. His wish is that this biographical compilation will again spark historians’ interest and call attention to the relevance of historical biography. At least this reviewer, however, found all the examined articles engagingly written and competently edited. Altogether, one can state without hesitation that the Finnish original is a meticulously prepared reference work and for large academic libraries well-worth acquiring, in whatever format they prefer.

100 Faces from Finland. A Biographical Kaleidoscope. Ed. Ulpu Marjomaa. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2000. 625 p. 26 cm. (Studia Biographica, 2). ISBN 1456-2138, ISSN 951-746-215-8: $37.95 (hbk.)

An RREO Original Review

100 Faces from Finland is an important new English-language reference tool about this Nordic country. The publication is part of a much bigger enterprise: Suomen kansallisbiografia [Finnish National Biography], a compilation of biographies in Finnish of the 6,000 most important Finnish personalities—historical and contemporary (see RREA 9:35). This giant project was launched by the Suomen Historiallinen Seura [Finnish Historical Society] in 1993 and is on its way to completion.

The English-language volume at hand is a selection and translation of 100 entries from the 6,000 biographies mentioned above. It covers all of Finnish history, from medieval times to the 20th century, with the exception of those famous contemporary Finns whose lifework is considered to be in progress by the editors. This category, as one can imagine, is not perfectly clear: we do read a biography of Aki Kaurismäki, a film director born in 1957, but do not find the biographies of Mikka Hakkinen, World Champion Formula 1 driver, or Jorma Ollila, CEO of Nokia.

An eight-page chapter titled “Finnish History in a Nutshell” precedes the alphabetic listing of biographies. Almost every biography begins with a picture of the personality as well as a very brief summary of his/her importance. The editors made a special effort to include women: 24 names, some of them “unknown figures to the reader” are listed. The biographies are two to ten pages long, and all end with an “Appendix” listing genealogical data: birth and death dates; names of parents; spouses; parents of spouses; and children if they are known. An index of names completes the volume.

In addition to biographies of the conventional types of personalities—politicians, clergymen, scientists, inventors, writers, etc.—the volume includes information on a few unusual personalities as well. One is Martti Kitunen, 1747–1833, the most famous Finnish bear-hunter of all time, who by 1799 had shot 103 full-grown bears and continued hunting until the age of 74. Another is Marketta Punasuomalainen, a nature healer and witch in the first half of the 17th century. Accused of cursing and killing two men, a clergyman and a peasant, she was the first woman to be sentenced to death during the witch trials of the time. Lastly, Lauri Törni’s life story is more contemporary, but no less gruesome. He was a professional soldier and served in a number of armies in the course of his career: the Finnish Army, participating first in the Winter War (1938) and then in the Continuation War; between these stints and then afterwards, he volunteered and served in the German SS. An Allied prison camp and prison sentence followed 1945. After his emigration to the USA, we find him in the Green Berets in 1957, with postings with the Special Forces in Germany, a secret operation in Iran, field officers’ training in Fort Benning, Georgia, and finally in combat in Vietnam, where he died in action in 1965. He is one of those soldiers whose body has not yet been found.

The text of the printed volume—except for the brief chapter on history—is freely accessible on the web at http://www.kansallisbiografia.fi/english.html. An English-language search engine is available for searching by fore- and surname, profession/ occupation, birth and death dates, and places. Free-text searching in the texts of the articles is also possible. The user can also browse among professions/occupations as well as the 100 names.

100 Faces from Finland is not a profit-driven work, as evidenced by its free accessibility on the Internet. Its publication has been supported by the Finnish Ministry of Education as well as a number of funds and foundations. The English version probably serves the spreading of Finnish culture all over the world, as does the original work and its Internet version. The inclusion of the printed or online version of this work in the reference collection of any academic and public library is strongly recommended.

Biografický lexikón Slovenska [Slovak Biographical Dictionary]. Ed. National Biographical Institute of the National Library, Martin. Martin: Slovenská Národná Knižnica, Národný Biografický Ústav. 25 cm. ISBN 80-89023-15-0 (set) [03-1-041]

Vol. 1. A–B. 2002. 638 p. ill. ISBN 80-89023-16-9: EUR 40

This is a new and significantly revised edition of the Slovenský biografický slovník, which appeared from 1986–1994 and was shaped by the limiting political context in which it was published. The lacunae created by these limitations comprised various emigrants and religious figures; they are now included, along with individuals who died between 1984 and 1995, as well as “newly discovered individuals” dating as far back as the Middle Ages. On the other hand, the newer work excludes several entries from the earlier edition, particularly those that had been included due to contemporary political criteria or whose connection to Slovakia was deemed too marginal. A sample of entries that span from Aba to Adamkovič in both editions reveals that the new work contains 40 entries, 11 new, as opposed to 35 in the older work, of which six were omitted. The generally short articles are occasionally illustrated with small black-and-white portraits; the short title bibliography divides the biographical works from the secondary literature. This excellent national bibliography belongs in all large research libraries. [sh/dsa]

Next Section
Previous Section
Table of Contents

Comments, suggestions, or questions
Last update: March 6, 2006 [BG]
2006 Casalini libri - VAT no. IT03106600483