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Victors and Victims


Naturalism in Finnish literature  

Ateneum's Illusions of Reality exhibition is accompanied by Victors and Victims, presenting Naturalism in Finnish literature in the 1880s and 1890s. Inspired by Émile Zola, many Finnish authors, including Juhani Aho, Minna Canth, Teuvo Pakkala and K. A. Tavaststjerna, seized upon the problems of the modern world and described people in the light of the new world view offered by the natural sciences.

However, their unembellished descriptions of the dark sides of life - such as prostitution and crime - did not appeal to everyone. The arrival of the Naturalist movement on the young and healthy Finnish soil was considered a dangerous European disease. Nevertheless, this literature also included an optimistic message.

The shocking descriptions found in Naturalist writings were an attempt to promote awareness of social problems among readers. This exhibition highlights issues that are still relevant today, such as sexual morality, equality, biological inheritance, the workings of the human mind, and the relationship between the individual and society.

Victors and Victims also describes the rapid internationalisation of Finnish culture at the end of the 19th century, when railways and the telegraph connected remote regions to the rapid growth centres of Europe. Finnish authors who visited Paris described the modernisation of their native land as a part of European culture. Current ideologies and French literature were widely discussed in the columns of Finland's new newspapers.

The curator of Victors and Victims is literary researcher Riikka Rossi, the exhibition architecture is designed by Marjaana Kinnermä.