Finnish war hero’s story gets homoerotic re-telling by American writer

The famed sniper had hundreds of confirmed kills during the Winter War and the new short story imagines 'what if' with a fellow soldier.

Composite image of Finnish sniper Simo Häyhä / Credit: Wikicommons & News Now Finland

Respected American magazine The Atlantic has raised some eyebrows with a short story in its latest issue.

Written by award-winning author Arna Bontemps Hemenway the story, called ‘Wolves of Karelia‘, is a dramatic re-imagining of the life of Finnish war hero, sniper Simo Häyhä.

While much of the tale is rooted in reality, describing Häyhä’s early life as he learned to hunt; the brutal conditions of the Winter War; and a disfiguring bullet wound to the face, other aspects of the story are entirely fictitious.

One such strand of storytelling is a close friendship with a man only known as M in the text of the piece. The author paints a picture of a relationship between Häyhä and his spotter as they worked together attacking Russian positions.

“Later, of course, I would come to know well the scent of him—rich soil and tobacco and sweat—carried under his snow cape and coat and uniform. His taste. The rough scratch of his stubble and its delicious burn” Bontemps Hemenway writes.

Other passages of the story hint at a deep love between Häyhä and M but the author, who is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Baylor University, has described the romance as a work of fiction, as he imagines something which might have been.

Bontemps Hemenway did not respond to an interview request from News Now Finland.

Simon Häyhä was one of the most famous soldiers in Finland’s short Winter War which was waged against Russia from 1939 to 1940. A skilled and patient sniper, he is reputed to have killed more than 500 enemy combatants with his sniper rifles and submachine gun.

Nicknamed ‘White Death’ by his Russian opponents, Häyhä was seriously wounded when he was shot in the face by a Russian bullet towards the end of the war.

He died in 2002 aged 96.