|People of The Kalmar Union|
|The Kalmar Union|
August Justander was an Álengsk writer sometimes called the first of Álengiamark's modern novelists.
August's parents were Finnish and had emigrated to Álengiamark in 1778. At that time Álengiamark had only recently brought its regions back under central control thanks to the reforms of Herridr I and had welcomed many thousands of Finns and Svealanders following the Great Baltic War. These new settlers were mostly directed to the underpopulated region of Nanticokeland Fylk. Settlement of this peninsula had been slow in previous centuries and the government in St. Hafdiss saw an opportunity to use the influx of new farmers to help develop the fylke. Therefore August's parents, after a short stay in Kristjanaborg were loaned funds to buy a plot of land and travelled to start their new lives in Nanticokeland. August, the youngest of ten children was born in 1789 in the small village of Kolmonen, some fifteen miles northwest of Yrsakavelyk, in which his father Yrjo was a prominent member of the farming community and his mother Katerina ran the local school.
With almost all of the family's land already claimed by elder brothers young August was trained for a career as a notary. To subsidise his income he submitted stories to the local newspapers and was eventually hired to write serialised fiction for Nanticokeland's largest periodical: 'Yrsakavelykannáll'. These short stories tackled the loves and lives of tended to be written and were generally well-received. However by the beginning of 1813 Justander had notified the paper he was interested in writing something much longer.
The House at Kastablíthurán
His most celebrated work The House at Kastablíthurán was written between March 1813 and June 1814 and published in weekly installments in the 'Yrsakavelykannáll'. The breakneck pace of writing required to meet the deadlines probably explains the occasional lapse into cliché and inaccuracies. Justander would later complain the deadlines caused him great 'delirium' and he largely abandoned his regular job and employed his sister Karoliina as an editor (some question how much of the book she herself wrote) to meet the demands. Despite the exertions the work was greatly admired and was republished in Kristjanaborg's largest journal 'Támarít' before being printed in book form after his death.
The narrative centres on the Kempii family, a farming family of Finnish descent. Finding farming life good they buy the old Álengsk manor house at Kastablíthurán despite warnings that the building is haunted. At first the family does well, renovating the house and restoring the farmland to good order. However after cutting down a copse on the grounds voices begin to plague the youngest children as they play in the grounds while items go missing from the house itself. At first the Álengsk authorities put blame squarely on the local Leifians, the poor and superstitious Maraughquaick. A Svealandic preacher, Malmberg, convinces the family that something more otherworldly is responsible. Malmberg and a young Álengsk policeman, Halfdansson, proceed to investigate the strange happenings around the farm. A Maraughquiack farmhand apparently spontaneously combusts as, under pressure he clears out a old ceremonial site from the copse. Eventually the culprit is found; a young man from the village skilled in ventriloquism who was denied the hand of the eldest daughter Alexandra as he was too poor. However even as he is led away the youngest child complains that one voice still remains.
Many literary critics overlook the gimmicks of the plot, ventriloquism and spontaneous combustion (which while appealing to the masses got little praise from more serious minded readers), and see the book as a gothic evocation of a Finnic Nanticokeland that has to many extents disappeared. Justander reserves much ire for nosy Álengsk officials (particularly the school inspector) who attempt to impose the Álengsk language and customs on the villagers. This appears to have been inspired by his mother's own experiences and it seems likely she was censured for teaching in Finnish on more than one occasion. It also delves into a landscape that was still dominated by old Álengsk and Marauqhquaick structures and mines them for atmosphere. The castle at Breithrumma is described in fine detail preceding its poorly-thought out reconstruction several years while the Maraughquiack 'barn-temple' is a evocation of a practice long-since disappeared.
After the Novel
Justander invested heavily in the 'Cheasapeake Company' which had made huge profits from the expansion of farmland in Nanticokeland and Unamiland Fylk. However he was financially ruined when the shares became worthless during the Leifian Crisis. He had written several shorter stories for the 'Yrsakavelykannáll' after the novel was finished but the toll of the deadlines plus the utter ruin of his finances seems to have hurt his mental state. When 'Yrsakavelykannáll' itself folded in August 1817, itself ruined by the Crisis, Justander was left without an income. He disappeared two weeks later. His family suggested he had committed suicide, possibly by drowning in Cheaspeake Bay.
Karoliina spent a year rewriting The House... and his other short stories, eradicating various errors and turning the weekly prose into a more coherent narrative before she allowed it to be published as a single volume. It was an instant success and future writers often cite The House... as a prime influence on their own work not only in the way he evoked farm life in Nanticokeland with its but also in the way he used the landscape to conjure up a dark and sinister atmosphere.