His full name was Ole Torvald Elis Saxberg, but he was also named Karanko after his step father, Toivo T. Karanko. In 1935 when he had moved to Helsinki for studies he changed his name to Torvalds. In 1944 he was awarded a literature prize from Svenska Dagbladet (shared with Harry Martinson, Lars Ahlin and Elly Jannes). In 1978 he received an honorary doctorate from Åbo Akademi.
He was married to Märta von Wendt and had three children with her. After a divorce he became editor of Österbottningen in Karleby. Then he remarried with Meta Torvalds, fathered two more children and later became editor of Åbo Underrättelser, of which he was the chief editor from 1958 to 1967.