Born Alexis Stenvall in Palojoki, a village 33 kilometres (20 miles) north of Helsinki, Kivi was the son of a tailor. He was one of the few boys from his area to pass the university entrance exams in the mid-1800s, and the only commoner; the others who achieved that level were all from upper-class families.
Kivi wrote poems, stories and especially plays, but is best known for the novel Seven Brothers, which was published in 1870. It has been described as the first novel in Finnish and Finland’s national novel, just as Kivi is often called the first professional Finnish-language writer and Finland’s national author. It seems natural that his birthday is also Finnish Literature Day.
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