In the news
23 May 2013 | In the news
Attention lovers of Finnish art: the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki has joined the international Google Art Project (begun in 2011), with 260 participating art institutes and more than 40,000 works of art as high-resolution images.
The website also includes information on the paintings. Among the 55 images from Ateneum on show now are many of the great works of the golden period of Finnish art (1880–1910), including Hugo Simberg’s darkly cute The Garden of Death, Albert Edelfelt’s heartbreakingly beautiful Conveying a Child’s Coffin, Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s classic portrayal of grief, Lemminkäinen’s mother, and – a personal favourite here at the Books from Finland office – Magnus von Wright’s evocative Annankatu Street on a Cold Winter’s Morning.
The Ateneum has few foreign works of art; in the Google Art collection now there are one Rodin, a Modigliani, a van Gogh and two Gauguins.
8 May 2013 | In the news
In April number one on the list of best-selling Finnish fiction titles, compiled by the Finnish Booksellers’ Association, was Seppo Jokinen’s crime novel Vihan sukua (‘Akin to hate’, Crime Time). The winner of the 2012 Finlandia Prize for Fiction, Ulla-Lena Lundberg’s Is (‘Ice’), still holds second place.
Pertti Jarla seems to have secured his place on the best-seller list: his latest serial comics book about the inhabitants of the city of Fingerpori (‘Fingerborg’, Arktinen Banaani), Lääkärileikit (‘Playing doctors’) was number three and the album Fingerpori 6 number four.
Paulo Coelho ruled the translated fiction list with his Manuscript Found In Accra. There are more people who find his books fascinating than there are people who don’t.
At the top of the non-fiction list remained, for the third time now, Kaiken käsikirja (‘Handbook of everything’, Ursa) by astronomer and popular writer Esko Valtaoja; as it doesn’t provide the reader with instructions for cooking, perhaps buyers went on to buy number two, Safkaa: parempaa arkiruokaa (‘Grub: better food for weekdays’, Otava) by Alexander and Hanna Gullichsen. Last year’s big social-media hit hails from this book: avocado pasta (chili, lime, basil, garlic, spaghetti, parmesan).
Safka, incidentally, comes from the Russian word zavtrak, breakfast. (The title of the book could also have been Sapuskaa…, the word also means ‘grub’, from the Russian word zakuska, hors d’oeuvres.)
23 April 2013 | In the news
The tradition of the international Day of the Book and the Rose derives from 1920s Barcelona, where the tradition was for men to give women roses while women gave men books.
23 April is the day – and it is (possibly) also Shakespeare’s birthday. In 1995 UNESCO proclaimed it is the World Book and Copyright Day.
(Actually, we’ve always thought the idea of what is exchanged is rather silly. As women, we would much rather be given a a book than a withering cut flower. On the other hand though, a rose is a safe bet….)
Last year, the Finnish booksellers decided to celebrate the occasion by publishing a new novel which was given for free to all customers who made a purchase worth €10. This was the only way to get hold of a copy; the print run was 3,000 copies. The author was Tuomas Kyrö, the novel, Miniä (‘Daughter-in-law’).
This year the print run is more than tenfold, and the author is Jari Tervo. His novel Jarrusukka (‘Slipper sock’) tells the story of a teacher, working in an immigrant neighbourhood, who finds out it’s not possible to lease a baby in a short term.
19 April 2013 | In the news
The theme of the next biannual International Writers’ Reunion (LIWRE), which takes place in Lahti, southern Finland, will be ‘Breaking walls’.
‘The writer always examines his own limits and boundaries, creates a new version not only of reality but of himself. He addresses, touches and jolts, awakens his readers to see alternative worlds and accept otherness. But is the writer an engine of change, or the eternal stranger?
‘Problems demand answers, answers demand questions. If attitudes harden, arms talk, and everyone erects a wall around himself, where is literature in the equation? Is the highest wall right there inside the writer? Or is literature itself a protecting wall? What happens, when walls break down?’
The 26th Reunion will take place at the Messilä Manor in Lahti 16–18 June. Among the participants – 24 foreign writers so far – will be the Havanna-born Abilio Estévez, Davide Enian from Sicily, Anna Szabo from Hungary and the Dutch-Finnish Kira Wuck.
The chairperson, author and researcher Virpi Hämeen-Anttila, who together with Jarmo Papinniemi (who died last autumn) has chaired the discussions at three Reunions, will now be partnered by writer and journalist Joni Pyysalo.
28 March 2013 | In the news
Artist and painter Hannu Väisänen (born 1951) began writing an autobiographical series of novels in 2004. Born in the northern town of Oulu, he colourfully described his somewhat bleak childhood in a family of five children headed by a widowed soldier father. His fourth novel, Taivaanvartijat (‘The guardians of heaven’, Otava), is number one on the February list of best-selling Finnish fiction titles compiled by the Finnish Booksellers’ Association.
Number two is former number one, the Finlandia Prize -winning novel Is (‘Ice’, in Finnish Jää; also to be published in English, possibly later this year) by Ulla-Lena Lundberg.
The latest comic book by Pertti Jarla about the inhabitants of Fingerpori (‘Fingerborg’, Arktinen Banaani), Fingerpori 6, was number three.
In first and second place on the translated fiction list were Stephen King – (11/22/63) and J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit or There and Back Again).
At the top of the non-fiction list is, for the second time, Kaiken käsikirja (‘Handbook of everything’, Ursa) by astronomer and popular writer Esko Valtaoja. In these hard times Finns seems also to be interested in economics, so number two was Talous ja utopia (‘Economics and utopia’, Docendo) by Sixten Korkman, professor and specialist in international and national economics.
14 March 2013 | In the news
The journalist, critic, author and professor Kai Laitinen died on 11 March in Helsinki, aged 88.
He began his literary career as a critic in the daily paper Helsingin Sanomat in 1950. As the Editor-in-Chief of the new literary journal Parnasso he was able to promote the new trends in modernist fiction and poetry which began to flourish in post-war Finland.
Laitinen’s academic career at Helsinki University involved serving as Associate Professor and Professor of Finnish literature (1975–1989). From the 1950s onwards he was actively involved in the work of dozens of literary societies, publications and organisations, both in Finland and abroad.
Among his publications are two collections of essays, a book of memoirs and two popular books on history of literature: Suomen kirjallisuus 1917–1967 (‘Finnish literature 1917–1967’) and a more concise work, Suomen kirjallisuuden historia (1981‚ Literature of Finland in Brief), which has been published in eleven languages.
Kai Laitinen was appointed Editor-in-Chief of Books from Finland in 1976 when the little magazine, then in its tenth year, began to take the form of a proper literary journal and to be published by Helsinki University Library. He held the job until 1989.
In issue 4/1977 of Books from Finland, on the theme of the 60th anniversary of Finland’s independence and the changing role of literature, Kai wrote in the editorial: ‘Literature is, and must be, much more than a chronicle of national and social history, or the mere accumulation of changing styles and genres. So often it is an author’s critical insight or his struggle against prevailing literary norms that gives birth to the works of the greatrest artistic importance. One of the main tasks of literature, both on a national and a human level, can be summed up succinctly in two lines from T.S. Eliot’s Little Gidding – “To purify the dialect of the tribe / And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight.” This comes close to describing what Finnish literature has achieved over the past sixty years.’
T.S. Eliot was the poet who perhaps had a permanent place in Kai’s personal literary cosmos – he introduced Eliot’s poetry to Finnish readership in the late 1940s. This passage, from Little Gidding, might well serve as his epitaph.
….We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
7 March 2013 | In the news
Kristina Malmio is the new member of the Editorial Board of Books from Finland. She replaces Jarmo Papinniemi, who died last October. Kristina is a literary scholar and associate professor at Helsinki University as well as a critic who writes in both Swedish and Finnish. Her doctoral thesis (Department of Nordic Literature, University of Helsinki, 2005) examined metafictive features in Finnish and Finland-Swedish popular literature in the 1910s and 1920s. She has been a member of the Nordic Council literary prize jury since 2006.
Kristina is particularly fond of new Finnish poetry, good coffee and astanga yoga.
21 February 2013 | In the news
The winner of the Finlandia Prize for Fiction 2012, Ulla-Lena Lundberg’s novel Is (‘Ice’), also turned out to be the winner of the ‘Shadow Finlandia’ prize of the Academic Bookstore in Helsinki. The novel, set on the Åland islands in postwar years, was simultaneously published in Finnish as Jää. This book trade prize is awarded to the best-selling title of the six finalists on the Finlandia Prize list.
The best-selling Finnish debut work in the Academic Bookstore was Nälkävuosi (‘The hunger year’, Siltala) by Aki Ollikainen.
Also number one on the December list of best-selling Finnish fiction titles compiled by the Finnish Booksellers’ Association was Lundberg’s novel – in its Finnish translation; the original Swedish-language book came number ten on the same list.
Number two was Sofi Oksanen’s new novel set in Estonia, Kun kyyhkyset katosivat (‘When the doves disappeared’, Like), and number three the hilarious graphic story, Piitles. Tarina erään rockbändin alkutaipaleesta (‘Beatles. The story of the first stage of a rock band’, Otava), by Mauri Kunnas who has written and illustrated dozens of children’s books.
In first and second place on the translated fiction list were J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien (The Casual Vacancy, The Hobbit or There and Back Again).
Children chose Finnish books in December – or rather their parents did, buying them as Christmas presents – for the first four places were taken by popular writers such as Sinikka and Tiina Nopola, Aino Havukainen & Sami Toivonen, Mauri Kunnas (Piitles is for mums and dads, not kids!) and Timo Parvela.
On the non-fiction list there was a selection of world record books, cookbooks and biographies – not unusual, considering the season – but number one was Kaiken käsikirja (‘Handbook of everything’) by astronomer and popular writer Esko Valtaoja. A present for all occasions, then?
8 February 2013 | In the news
The Runeberg Prize for fiction, awarded on 5 February, this year for the twenty-seventh time, went to a book of poetry by Olli-Pekka Tennilä (born 1978).
Tennilä’s second work, Yksinkeltainen on kaksinkeltaista (‘Doubly simple’, a pun: yksinkertainen = simple, kaksinkertainen = double, keltainen = yellow), published by Poesia, makes use of a child’s open-minded use of language and studies the world of the bees. Tennilä is one of the founding members of Osuuskunta Poesia, a poetry cooperative, and is currently its publishing director.
The prize, worth €10,000, was awarded on 5 February – the birthday of the poet J.L Runeberg (1804–1877) – in the southern Finnish city of Porvoo.
The jury, writer Tommi Melender, critic Siru Kainulainen and theatre manager Dan Henriksson – representing the prize’s founders, the Uusimaa newspaper, the city of Porvoo, both the Finnish and Finland-Swedish writers’ associations and the Finnish Critics’ Association – chose the winner from a shortlist of eight books. In their opinion the winning work is both ‘a structurally controlled and expressively vital whole; it demonstrates how the linguistic logic of a small child can be employed again as an adult.’
The other seven finalists were a book of essays, Toinen jalka maassa ja muita esseitä (‘One foot on the ground and other essays’, WSOY) by Markku Envall, two poetry collections, Keisarin tie (‘The emperor’s road’, Otava) by Lassi Hyvärinen and Kuolinsiivous (‘Death cleaning’, WSOY) by Eeva Kilpi, two collections of short stories, Kadonnut ranta (‘Lost shore’, WSOY) by Tiina Laitila Kälvemark and Till dig som saknas (‘To you who are missing’, Schildts&Söderströms) by Peter Sandström, as well as two novels, Rikosromaani (‘Crime novel’, Otava) by Petri Tamminen and Neuromaani (‘Neuromane’, Otava) by Jaakko Yli-Juonikas.
24 January 2013 | In the news
The first anthology of Finnish comics in French will be introduced to a French (and international) audience on 1 February at the biggest European comics festival, which takes place in Angoulême, France.
La Bande dessinée Finlandaise 2013 (published by the Finnish Comics Society and the French publisher Rackham), edited by Johanna Rojola and Kalle Hakkola, features the work of thirteen Finnish female comics artists. Finland is an exception in the comics scene, because a large proportion of the artists in this field are female.
The Finnish participants in Angoulême are FILI (the Finnish Literature Exchange) and the Finnish Comics Society.
17 January 2013 | In the news
The Dancing Bear Poetry Prize, worth €3,500, is awarded annually by Yleisradio, the Finnish Broadcasting Company, to a book of poetry published the previous year.
This year’s winner – announced on 16 January – is Maria Matinmikko (born 1983) for her first collection, Valkoinen (‘White’, Ntamo). The prize has been awarded since 1994.
The winner was selected by a jury of two journalists, Tarleena Sammalkorpi and Marit Lindqvist, the culture editor Minna Joenniemi and the poet Sinikka Vuola. In their opinion, the publishing of poetry – Finnish and translated – is getting more dependent on small, dedicated publishers.
The jury found the winning work ‘a delicate, suggestive series of consecutive and simultaneous spaces transversing each other…. The layout, with the speakers of the text and the leitmotiv – the colour white, whiteness – form an exciting, spacious surface….’
In addition to the Dancing Bear Poetry Prize, the Finnish Broadcasting Company also awards a prize for the best poetry translation., worth €1,000. This time the winner is translator Jukka Mallinen, specialised in Russian contemporary literature, for his two translations: Punainen auringonlasku (‘Red sunset’) by the Belarussian poet Vladimir Nekljajev and Joulupaasto (‘Christmas fast’, on the siege of Leningrad) by Sergei Zavyalov. The jury commented that the poems have been translated with a passion typical to Mallinen, whose work is based on a profound knowledge of Russian literature.
10 January 2013 | In the news
With the winter solstice now over, the darkness will begin to diminish, albeit very slowly: additional artificial light is still much appreciated. Fiat lux! The early days of the new year Lux Helsinki (from 4 to 8 Jan) brought light and colour to the city-dwellers in the form of 13 light installations in various parts of the city.
The Cathedral was lit by the German duo Casa Magica – light designers Friedrich Förster and Sabine Weißinger – whose work entitled ‘Emergence’ painted the church with fantastic shapes and colours. One of the works was an illuminated, silvery tram – unfortunately it was not possible to get on board though.
Among the other works of light art was the recently opened and very popular Baana, an old train track now serving as a passageway for cyclists and pedestrians through the city centre: the creation entitled ‘Reveal’ by the London-based media artist Dan Shorten made the stone walls change colour and the total mood of Baana.
A pity Lux Helsinki – staged now for the fifth time – lasts for a few days only, as it will take a while for the increase of daylight to be apparent….
13 December 2012 | In the news
The winner of the 29th Finlandia Prize for Fiction 2012, worth €30,000, is Ulla-Lena Lundberg for her novel Is (‘Ice’, Schildts & Söderströms), Finnish translation Jää (Teos & Schildts & Söderströms). The prize was awarded on 4 December.
The winning novel – set in a young priest’s family in the Åland archipelago – was selected by Tarja Halonen, President of Finland between 2000 and 2012, from a shortlist of six.
In her award speech she said that she had read Lundberg’s novel as ‘purely fictive’, and that it was only later that she had heard that it was based on the history of the writer’s own family; ‘I fell in love with the book as a book. Lundberg’s language is in some inexplicable way ageless. The book depicts the islanders’ lives in the years of post-war austerity. Pastor Petter Kummel is, I believe, almost the symbol of the age of the new peace, an optimist who believes in goodness, but who needs others to put his visions into practice, above all his wife Mona.’
Author and ethnologist Ulla-Lena Lundberg (born 1947) has since 1962 written novels, short stories, radio plays and non-fiction books: here you will find extracts from her Jägarens leende. Resor in hällkonstens rymd (‘Smile of the hunter. Travels in the space of rock art’, Söderströms, 2010). Among her novels is a trilogy (1989–1995) set in her native Åland islands, which lie midway between Finland and Sweden. Her books have been translated into five languages.
Appointed by the Finnish Book Foundation, the prize jury (researcher Janna Kantola, teacher of Finnish Riitta Kulmanen and film producer Lasse Saarinen) shortlisted the following novels: Maihinnousu (‘The landing’, Like) by Riikka Ala-Harja, Popula (Otava) by Pirjo Hassinen, Dora, Dora (Otava) by Heidi Köngäs, Nälkävuosi (‘The year of hunger’, Siltala) by Aki Ollikainen and Mr. Smith (WSOY) by Juha Seppälä.
5 December 2012 | In the news
The Finlandia Junior Prize 2012 went to the illustrator and writer Christel Rönns for her book Det vidunderliga ägget (‘The extraordinary egg’, Söderströms & BonnierCarlsen).
The winner was chosen from the shortlist of six by the film director and actor Mari Rantasila. Awarding the prize, worth €30,000, on 29 November she said:
‘The book has masterly, original and clear illustrations that support the story; the drawings include amusing details. It is refreshing to read a story about a family that all pulls in the same direction.
‘Det vidunderliga ägget deals with important matters, in a way that is suitable for small children: toleration of difference and the difficulty of loss, underlining that difference is not frightening or negative.’
The following five books also made it to the shortlist: Nörtti: new game (‘The nerd: new game’, Otava), about a schoolboy, bullying and social media by Aleksi Delikouras, Tatu ja Patu pihalla (‘Tatu and Patu on the yard’, Otava), a new picture book in the series about two curious little boys by Aino Havukainen and Sami Toivonen, Hurraa Helsinki! (‘Hurrah Helsinki!’, Tammi), a picture book about Helsinki by Karo Hämäläinen and Salla Savolainen, Puhelias Elias (‘Talkative Elias’, Tammi), an illustrated story about a little boy and his parent’s separation by Essi Kummu and Marika Maijala, and Kirkkaalla liekillä (‘With a bright flame’, Robustos), about 15-year-old Maaria, who lives through difficult times, by Venla Saalo.