Väinö Linna was born in 1920 in Urjala in central Finland. His father worked in a slaughter-house and died when Linna was only eight. Linna worked as a farmhand and lumberjack before working in a textile mill. In 1940 he was called up to the military and served as the leader of a machine gun company in the war against the Soviet Union. After the War – and marriage – he returned to work in the textile factory but started reading extensively with a view to becoming a writer. He first published a books of poetry which did not find a publisher. His first novel was published but poorly received. It was not till the publication in 1954 of Tuntematon sotilas (The Unknown Soldier) that he received acclaim. This book sold in large quantities, was made into film and translated into several languages. However, it was also much criticised in Finland for its realistic portrait of war. His next major novel – a trilogy – Täällä Pohjantähden alla (Under the North Star) – was criticised for being historically inaccurate. Linna said that he would not publish any further novels after this book and only published essays. He died in 1992.