In the news
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.
5 December 2012 | In the news
‘It is one of the rules of quality journalism that writers aim for even-handed and impartial reporting, but at the same time challenge their respondents to account for their actions. Writers should also have the capacity for in-depth reporting and analysis,’ said Janne Virkkunen, former Editor-in-Chief of Helsingin Sanomat newspaper on 8 November, as he announced the winner of this year’s Finlandia Prize for Non-Fiction, worth €30,000.
The winner, Syötäväksi kasvatetut. Miten ruokasi eli elämänsä (‘Grown to be eaten. How your food lived its life’, Atena) by the young journalist Elina Lappalainen, is her first book.
‘The book could have fallen prey to the sensationalism of which we all probably have experience in the media, at least. This writer was able to avoid the temptation,’ Janne Virkkunen said.
The other works on the shortlist of six were as follows: Arabikevät (‘The Arab spring’, Avain), a study of spring 2011 in the Arab world by Lilly Korpiola and Hanna Nikkanen, Norsusta nautilukseen. Löytöretkiä eläinkuvituksen historiaan (‘From the elephant to the nautilus. Explorations into the illustration of animals’, John Nurminen Foundation) by Anto Leikola, Kevyt kosketus venäjän kieleen (‘A light touch to the Russian language’, Gaudeamus) by professor of Russian Arto Mustajoki, Karhun kainalossa. Suomen kylmä sota 1947–1990 (‘Under the arm of the Bear. Finland’s Cold War 1947–1990’, Otava) by Jukka Tarkka and Markkinat ja demokratia. Loppu enemmistön tyrannialle (‘Market and democracy. The end of the tyranny of the majority’, Otava) by banker Björn Wahlroos.
23 November 2012 | In the news
Their novels, respectively, are Maihinnousu (‘The landing’, Like), Popula (Otava), Dora, Dora (Otava), Is (‘Ice’, Schildts & Söderströms), Nälkävuosi (‘The year of hunger’, Siltala) and Mr. Smith (WSOY).
The jury – researcher Janna Kantola, teacher of Finnish Riitta Kulmanen and film producer Lasse Saarinen – made their choice out of ca. 130 novels. The winner, chosen by Tarja Halonen, who was President of Finland between 2000 and 2012, will be announced on 4 December. The prize, awarded since 1984, is worth 30,000 euros.
The jury’s chair, Janna Kantola, commented: ‘One of this year’s recurrent themes is the Lapland War [of 1944–1945]. Writers appear to be pondering the role of Germany in both the Second World War and in contemporary Europe. Social phenomena are examined using satire; the butt is the birth and activity of extremist political movements. Economics, the gutting of money and market forces, are present, as in previous years, but now increasingly with a sense of social responsibility.’
Popula deals with people involved in a contemporary populist political party. Dora, Dora describes Albert Speer’s journey to Finnish Lapland in 1943. Nälkävuosi depicts the year of hunger in Finland, 1868. Is takes place in the Finnish archipelago of the post-war years. Mr. Smith portrays greed and the destructive power of money both in Russian and Finnish history as well as in contemporary Finland. Maihinnousu, set in Normandy, depicts a child’s serious disease in a family that is going through divorce.
23 November 2012 | In the news
On 15 November Helsingin Sanomat Literature Prize, the Helsinki newspaper’s prize for the best first work of the year, worth €15,000, was awarded for the 18th time.
The winner was journalist Aki Ollikainen (born 1973) with his first novel Nälkävuosi (‘The hunger year’, Siltala). The jury made the choice from 80 first works.
The hard years of 1867 and 1868 almost a tenth of the Finnish population died of hunger and diseases. Nälkävuosi portrays poor people in the country who are forced to leave home and look for any food they can find, and well-to-do gentlemen in town who can afford to amuse themselves with women, for example. This slim novel speaks of life and death; finally, after a deadly winter there will be new hope for better times.
25 October 2012 | In the news
The twelfth Helsinki Book Fair opens today at the Exhibition and Convention Centre. Last year the Fair attracted more than 80,000 visitors.
During four days around 700 interviews and discussions with writers will take place on twelve stages, and there will be more than 300 exhibitors in the various fields of literature.
‘During the last 30 years the amount of public attention directed at Finnish authors has probably multiplied by ten. How has it affected the sales of literature? Not at all. The sales haven’t multiplied by ten, or even doubled. Has the increased public attention affected the content of literature? I don’t think it has….
‘The media doesn’t churn authors in its mill because literature is so exceedingly important. To the media the authors are a biomass that is able to articulate a touch more juicily than the average celebrity. An author needs less editing. It’s as simple as that.’
This time the featured country is Hungary: the guest writers are György Spiró, Sandor Zsigmond Papp, Vilmos Csaplár, Péter Esterházy and Léda Forgó. There are 30 guests from 11 countries.
The prize Rakkaudesta kirjaan, ‘Out of love for the book’, was awarded posthumously to the writer, critic and editor Jarmo Papinniemi (1968–2012), who, according to the jury of literary experts was an exceptionally versatile professional working in the field of the arts.