Tag: literary prizes

Poets, pastries and prizes

5 February 2015 | In the news

Joni Skiftesvik

Joni Skiftesvik. Photo: Hilkka Skiftesvik

The Runeberg Prize for fiction is awarded to Joni Skiftesvik (67) for his autobiographical novel Valkoinen Toyota vei vaimoni (‘The white Toyota took my wife’).

Today, 5 February, is celebrated in Finland as the birthday of the poet J.L. Runeberg (1804-1877), known as the Finnish national poet, and writer – among many other things – of the lyrics of the national anthem.

In addition to the eating (in the Books from Finland offices, at least) of the rather delicious Runeberg cakes, it is also marked by the annual award of the Runeberg Prize, worth 10,000 euros.

The book tells the often harrowing story of Skiftesvik’s family, including illness, estrangement and death. In making the award, the jury commented: ‘This story appeals to the emotions, it touches the reader; but most important of all, after the book is closed, a miracle happens: its weighty content lives on in the mind, growing day by day. Many good novels have been written, but a masterpiece is recognised from its lasting effects.’

Runeberg's favourite. Photo: Ville Koistinen

Runeberg’s favourite. Photo: Ville Koistinen

And the winner is… Finlandia Prize for Fiction 2014

27 November 2014 | In the news

Jussi Valtonen. Photo: Markko Taina

Jussi Valtonen. Photo: Markko Taina

The winner of the prize this year, worth €30,000 and awarded on 27 November, is He eivät tiedä mitä he tekevät (‘For they know not what they do’, Tammi) by Jussi Valtonen (born 1974), a psychologist and writer. The novel – 558 pages – is his third: it focuses on the relationship of science and ethics in the contemporary world, with an American professor of neuroscience, married to a Finn, as the protagonist.

Professor Anne Brunila – who has worked, among other posts, as a CEO in forest and energy industry – chose the winner. In her awarding speech she said: ‘The novel is an astonishing combination of perceptive description of human relationships, profound moral and ethical reasoning, science fiction and suspense…. I have never encountered a Finnish portrayal of our present era that is anything like it.’

The other five novels on the shortlist of six were the following:

Kaksi viatonta päivää (‘Two innocent days’, Gummerus) by Heidi Jaatinen is a story of a child whose parents are not able to take care of her; Olli Jalonen’s Miehiä ja ihmisiä (’Men and human beings’, Otava) focuses on a young man’s summer in the 1970s. Neljäntienristeys (‘The crossing of four roads’, WSOY), a first novel by Tommi Kinnunen, is a story set in the 20th-century Finnish countryside over three generations. Kultarinta (‘Goldbreast’, Gummerus) by Anni Kytömäki is a first novel about generations, set in the years between 1903 and 1937, celebrating the Finnish forest and untouched nature. Graniittimies (‘Granite man’, Otava) by Sirpa Kähkönen portrays a young, idealistic Finnish couple who move to the newly-founded Soviet Union to work in the utopia they believe in.

A long list of good novels

27 November 2014 | In the news

lit.award.dublin.The longlist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2015 has been announced and, among the 142 translated novels – from 39 countries and 16 original languages – are two from Finland.

Mr Darwin’s Gardener by Kristina Carlson (Peirene Press, UK, 2012), a novel set in the 1860s England, is translated by Emily and Fleur Jeremiah (see the extracts in Books from Finland).

Cold Courage, a thriller by Pekka Hiltunen (Hesperus Press, UK), is translated by Owen Witesman. Both entries were nominated by Helsinki City Library.

Among the authors writing in English are Margaret Atwood, J.M. Coetzee, Roddy Doyle, Stephen King, Jhumpa Lahiri, Thomas Pynchon and Donna Tartt.

This literary award was established by Dublin City, Civic Charter in 1994. Nominations are made by libraries in capital and major cities throughout the world, on the basis of ‘high literary merit’. In order to be eligible for consideration in 2015 a novel translated into English must be first published in the original language between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2013.

The award for a translated novel is worth €75,000 to the author, €25,000 to the translator. The shortlist of ten titles will be announced by an international panel of judges in April 2015, the winner in June.

We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for our ex-Editor-in-Chief Kristina Carlson!

‘The Lion of the North’ wins the non-fiction Finlandia Prize

25 November 2014 | In the news

Thetieto Finlandia Prize for Non-Fiction 2014, worth €30,000 and awarded by Suomen Kirjasäätiö (The Finnish Book Foundation), went to the historian and author Mirkka Lappalainen on 19 November for her book on a 17th-century Swedish king.

The winning entry, entitled Pohjolan leijona, Kustaa II Adolf ja Suomi 1611–1632 (‘The Lion of the North. Gustavus II Adolphus and Finland 1611–1632’, Siltala), was chosen by from a shortlist of six finalists by Heikki Hellman, journalist and Dean of the School of Communication, Media and Theatre in Tampere. According to him, ‘Pohjolan leijona is an exceptionally well-written narrative for a non-fiction book; the author uses both earlier literature and numerous primary and secondary sources with great skill. Lappalainen succeeds in demonstrating how, during the reign of Gustavus II Adolphus, both Sweden and its easterly province, Finland, began to develop an organised society with its structure of officials and bureaucracy, how jurisdiction replaced the arbitrary rule of the aristocracy and how it was only then that Finland developed its role as part of Sweden. Pohjolan leijona sweeps the reader along and helps us to understand where we have come from and who we are.’

Hellman also commented on the growing practice of publishing non-fiction texts in English only: ‘Research is not done only for other scholars; it must also be relevant to people’s lives and be brought to their attention. We must also publish in our mother tongue, or else it will not survive as a language for research. This is one of the reasons why non-fiction is so necessary.’

Mirkka Lappalainen has received other prizes for her work. Susimessu (‘Wolf mass’), for example, was voted History Book of the year in 2010.

The Finlandia Junior Prize 2014

20 November 2014 | In the news

juniorMaria Turtschaninoff’s third fantasy book for young people, Maresi. Krönikor från röda klostret / Maresi. Punaisen luostarin kronikoita (‘Maresi. Chronicles of the Red Convent’, Schildts & Söderströms; Finnish translation by Marja Kyrö, publisher Tammi) was awarded the Finlandia Junior Prize, worth €30,000, on 20 November.

The winner was chosen by the scriptwriter and film director Johanna Vuoksenmaa who, in her awarding speech, said that it is ‘an exceptionally powerful fantasy book which, in addition to telling an exquisite, wise and exciting story, also provides a welcome correction to the gender division of fantasy book characters, which has been slightly skewed ever since Tolkien. Maresi reminds me that even today there are places in the world where readers are not sought for books, where knowledge is not on offer to young, thirsty minds. People’s opportunities to know and learn are limited and human rights trampled upon.’

The other five candidates were the following:

Written and illustrated by Saku Heinänen, Zaida ja lumienkeli (‘Zaida and the snow angel’, Tammi) is the story of a little girl whose school days are not always happy; Puiden tarinoita. Puuseppä (‘Stories by trees. The carpenter’, Books North) is a fairy-tale written by Iiro Küttner and illustrated by the graphic artist and cartoonist Ville Tietäväinen; Jyri Paretskoi’s first novel Shell’s Angles ja Kalajoen hiekat (‘Shell’s Angles and the Kalajoki sands’, Karisto) is a humorous story for young teenagers; Min egen lilla liten / Oma pieni pikkuruinen (‘My own tiny little thing’, Schildts & Söderströms, Teos) is a picture story about longing for closeness told by Ulf Stark and illustrated by Linda Bondestam; a picture book about a little squirrel by Mila Teräs, Olga Orava ja metsän salaisuus (‘Olga Squirrel an the forest’s secret’, Lasten Keskus) is illustrated by Karoliina Pertamo.

Prize for the best debut book

20 November 2014 | In the news

jugoThe Helsingin Sanomat literature prize for the best first work, written in Finnish, for 2014 was awarded on 13 November to Kosovo-born Pajtim Statovci, 24, for his novel Kissani Jugoslavia (‘Yugoslavia my cat’, Otava – see translated extracts here).

The choice was made by a five-strong jury from a total of 65 books. The prize, which was this year awarded for the 20th time, is worth €15,000.

Among the ten finalists were a collection of essays, three collections of poetry and six novels. According to the jury, Statovci’s novel, ‘drowns the reader, after a realistic description of events, in a dreamlike, lyrical vision. This kind of writing is not taught anywhere. The skill either resides in the writer or it doesn’t.’

Shortlist for Finlandia Prize for Non-Fiction 2014

13 November 2014 | In the news

logoThe shortlist for the Finlandia Prize for Non-Fiction 2014 – worth €30,000 – was announced on 5 November by the chairperson of the jury, Susanna Pettersson, Director of the Ateneum Art Museum. The works on the list of six are as follows:

Pohjolan leijona, Kustaa II Adolf ja Suomi 1611–1632 (‘The lion of the North. Gustavus II Adolphus and Finland 1611–1632’, Siltala) by the historian and author Mirkka Lappalainen deals with the implications of  actions of the mighty Swedish king on the part of the kingdom that was known as Finland.

Herkkä, hellä, hehkuvainen – Minna Canth (‘Sensitive, gentle, radiant – Minna Canth’, Otava) is a fresh biography of the Finnish pre-feminist author (1844–1897), a popularised version of a dissertation by Minna Maijala.

Karanteeni. Kuinka aids saapui Suomeen (‘Quarantine. How Aids came to Finland’, Siltala) by Hanna Nikkanen & Antti Järvi records the history of the disease, its arrival and consequences in Finland.

Operaatio Elop (‘Operation Elop’, Teos) by Pekka Nykänen & Merina Salminen is the story of the mobile phone company Nokia in its declining years and its Canadian CEO (2010–2013) Stephen Elop, who did not become the saviour of the company on the global market.

Usko, toivo ja raskaus. Vanhoillislestadiolaista perhe-elämää (‘Faith, hope and pregnancy’, Atena) by Aila Ruoho &Vuokko Ilola focuses on the family life, particularly the status of the woman, of a fundamentalist religious community in Finland.

Tulisaarna. Einojuhani Rautavaaran elämä ja teokset (‘Fiery sermon. Life and works of Einojuhani Rautavaara’, Teos) by Samuli Tiikkaja (journalist, music critic and researcher) is a biography of the composer Einojuhani Rautavaara (born 1928).

The winner – according to the rules of the prize, it will be given to a deserving Finnish generalist non-fiction book – will be chosen by Heikki Hellman, journalist and Dean ofthe School of Communication, Media and Theatre in Tampere, on 19 November.

Winner of the Nordic Council Literature Prize

6 November 2014 | In the news

Kjell Westö. Photo: Kata Portin

Kjell Westö. Photo: Kata Portin

The Nordic Council Literature Prize 2014 went to Kjell Westö and his novel Hägring 38 (‘Mirage 38’, 2013; in Finnish, Kangastus 38). The prize, awarded since 1962 and worth €47,000, was given on 29 October at a ceremony in Stockholm.

Among the 13 nominees was another Finn, the poet Henriikka Tavi with her collection Toivo (‘Hope’, 2011).

The jury said: ‘The Nordic Council Literature Prize goes to the Finnish writer Kjell Westö for the novel Mirage 38, the evocative prose of which breathes life into a critical moment in Finland’s history [the time before the Winter War, 1939–1940] – one that has links to the present day.’ Here, more on Westö and his winning novel.

Translation prize to Angela Plöger

23 October 2014 | In the news

Angela Plöger, Frankfurt Book Fair, 8 October. Photo: Katja Maria Nyman

Angela Plöger, Frankfurt Book Fair, 8 October. Photo: Katja Maria Nyman

The 40th Finnish State Prize for the Translation of Finnish Literature of 2014 – worth €15,000 – was awarded to the German translator Angela Plöger at the Frankfurt Book Fair on 8 October.

Dr Angela Plöger (born 1942) studied Finnish and Fennistics in Berlin; she first came to Finland in the 1960s after having become interested in the Finnish language as a result of learning Hungarian.

‘I had been to the restaurant at the Helsinki Railway Station where Bertolt Brecht was thinking how the noblest part of a man is his passport, and how Finns are a people who keeps silent in two languages.’

Plöger then defected to West Germany, starting her career anew. She has also translated texts from Hungarian and Russian. In her speech in the Finnish Pavilion of the Book Fair Plöger said that in her opinion translating literature is the most fascinating profession in the world.

Her first translation of a Finnish novel was Tamara, by Eeva Kilpi, published in 1974. Among the most recent of the 40 novels Plöger has translated during the past five decades from Finnish are the novels Kätilö (‘Midwife’, 2011) by Katja Kettu and Kun kyyhkyset katosivat (‘When the doves disappeared’, 2012) by Sofi Oksanen. Among the other works Plöger has translated are novels by Leena Lander, Eeva-Kaarina Aronen, Anja Snellman, Kaari Utrio, Johanna Sinisalo, Risto Isomäki and Antti Tuuri, as well as a number of drama texts by Laura Ruohonen, Juha Jokela, Aki Kaurismäki, Pirkko Saisio and Sofi Oksanen.

The Minister for Culture and Housing, Pia Viitanen, thanked Plöger for her extensive and multi-faceted work in the field of language and literature and in promoting Finnish literary culture in Germany.

The prize, worth € 15,000, has been awarded by the Ministry of Education and Culture since 1975 on the basis of a recommendation by FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange.

The Dancing Bear Poetry Prize 2014

7 August 2014 | In the news

Juha Kulmala. Photo: Kajaanin runoviikko, 2014

Juha Kulmala. Photo: Kajaanin runoviikko, 2014

The Dancing Bear Poetry Prize (Tanssiva karhu -palkinto), founded by Yleisradio, the Finnish Broadcasting Company and worth €3,500, is awarded annually to a book of poetry published the previous year. In July, at a poetry festival – Kajaanin runoviikko – in the north-eastern town of Kajaani, it was given for the 20th time.

The winner was Juha Kulmala: his collection, entitled Pompeijin iloiset päivät (‘The merry days of Pompeii’, Savukeidas, 2013), is written in the vein of the ‘beat’ tradition of the poet’s home town of Turku; the landscape of the poems includes Finland and regions in Southern Europe.

The other finalists were Ville Hytönen, Harry Salmenniemi, Pauliina Haasjoki, Sinikka Vuola and Ralf Andtbacka. The prize jury, chaired by the poet Harri Nordell, chose the winner from almost 200 collections.

Yleisradio also awards a prize for the best poetry translation (Kääntäjäkarhu-palkinto) of the year, worth €1,100; this time it went, for the first time, to an anthology. Entitled 8+8. Suomalaista ja virolaista runoutta / Eesti ja Soome luulet (‘8+8. Finnish and Estonian poetry’, NyNorden, 2014) and edited by the Estonian poet and writer Eeva Park, the book contains poems by eight Estonian and eight Finnish poets, all published in Estonian and in Finnish, translated by twelve translators.

Potentially translatable

27 March 2014 | In the news

The daily paper Aamulehti, published in Tampere, and the bookshop Tulenkantajat (‘The torch-bearers’), in the same city, founded in 2013 a prize called Tulenkantajat* for a Finnish-language writer whose book, published in the previous year, is estimated to have the ‘best export potential’. The first jury selects four to six candidates, the second chooses the winner. The prize is worth €5,000.

The winner of the 2014 prize was announced on 24 March: it is the graphic novel Vain pahaa unta (‘Just a bad dream’, WSOY) by the father-daughter team Ville Tietäväinen and Aino Tietäväinen; see our feature; we have also reviewed three other finalists on the list of six.

The remaining finalists were the crime novel Niiden kirjojen mukaan teidät on tuomittava (‘You will be judged according to your books’, Atena) by Kai Ekholm, Piippuhylly (‘The pipe shelf’, WSOY), short stories by Katja Kettu, the novel Hotel Sapiens (Teos) by Leena Krohn, the novel Herodes (‘Herod’, WSOY) by Asko Sahlberg and Kirahviäiti ja muita hölmöjä aikuisia (‘The giraffe mummy and other silly adults’, Teos), a picture book for children by Alexandra Salmela and Martina Matlovičová.

Who can say whether the books on this shortlist will be ‘exported’, i.e. translated prolifically? Time will tell.

*) The mid 1920s saw the foundation of a group of writers called the Torch-Bearers; it first published intensely personal nature poetry but later began to import European influences into Finnish literature. The Torch-Bearers aimed for the experience of citizenship of the world as unity between people without denying one’s own fatherland or nationality. (See Vesa Mauriala’s article here.)

Puupää comics prizes 2014

13 February 2014 | In the news

Picture: Terhi Ekebom

Picture: Terhi Ekebom

The Finnish Comics Society was founded in 1971 and has since 1972 it annually awarded the Puupäähattu prize to an established Finnish comics artist. The prize is not money but a honorary hat – named after a classic Finnish cartoon character, Pekka Puupää (‘Pete Blockhead’), by Ola Fogelberg and later his daughter Toto. The Puupää comic books were published between 1925 and 1975, and some of the stories were made into films.

The 2014 Puupää prize was awarded to illustrator and comics artist Terhi Ekebom (born 1971). Ekbom began work as a comics artist in the early 1990s. Using diverse techniques, she often depicts feelings and states of minds. Her work has been shown at the Angoulême comics festival and has been published in English, French, Swedish and Czech.

A special title, sarjakuvaneuvos or ‘comics councillor’, was also awarded to two people; the comic artist Harri ‘Wallu’ Vaalio, and to the director of FILI, Iris Schwank who, as part of the Finnish Cultural Spring project held in France in 2008, commissioned a Finnish comics exhibition which attracted widespread attention. In her role at FILI Schwanck has been an energetic promoter of international visibility for Finnish comics.

3 x Runeberg: poet, cake & prize

5 February 2014 | This 'n' that

J.L. Runeberg. Painting by Albert Edelfelt. 1893. WIkipedia

J.L. Runeberg. Painting by Albert Edelfelt, 1893. WIkipedia

Today, the fifth of February, marks the birthday of the poet J.L. Runeberg (1804–1877), writer, among other things, of the words of Finnish national anthem.

Runeberg’s birthday is celebrated among the literary community by the award of the Runeberg Prize for fiction; the winner is announced in Runeberg’s house, in the town of Borgå/Porvoo.

Runeberg's favourite. Photo: Ville Koistinen

Runeberg’s favourite. Photo: Ville Koistinen

Mrs Runeberg, a mother of seven and also a writer, is said to have baked ‘Runeberg’s cakes’ for her husband, and these cakes are still sold on 5 February. Read more – and even find a recipe for them – by clicking our story Let us eat cake!

The Runeberg Prize 2014, worth €10,000, went to Hannu Raittila and his novel Terminaali (‘Terminal’, Siltala).

Hannu Raittila. Photo: Laura Malmivaara

Hannu Raittila. Photo: Laura Malmivaara

According to the members of the prize jury – the literary scholar Rita Paqvalen, the author Sari Peltoniemi and the critic and writer Merja Leppälahti – they were unanimous in their decision; however, the winner of the 2013 Finlandia Prize for Fiction, Jokapäiväinen elämämme (‘Our everyday lives’) by Riikka Pelo, was also seriously considered.

Read more about the 2014 Runeberg shortlist In the news.

How much did Finland read?

30 January 2014 | In the news

hirvisaariThe book year 2013 showed an overall decrease – again: now for the fifth time – in book sales: 2.3 per cent less than in 2012. Fiction for adults and children as well as non-fiction sold 3–5 per cent less, whereas textbooks sold 4 per cent more, as did paperbacks, 2 per cent. The results were published by the Finnish Book Publishers’ Association on 28 January.

The overall best-seller on the Finnish fiction list in 2013 was Me, Keisarinna (‘We, tsarina’, Otava), a novel about Catherine the Great by Laila Hirvisaari. Hirvisaari is a queen of editions with her historical novels mainly focusing on women’s lives and Karelia: her 40 novels have sold four million copies.

However, her latest book sold less well than usual, with 62,800 copies. This was much less than the two best-selling novels of 2012: both the Finlandia Prize winner, Is, Jää (‘Ice’) by Ulla-Lena Lundberg, and the latest book by Sofi Oksanen, Kun kyyhkyset katosivat (‘When the doves disappeared’), sold more than 100,000 copies.

The winner of the 2013 Finlandia Prize for Fiction, Riikka Pelo’s Jokapäiväinen elämämme (‘Our everyday life’, Teos) sold 45,300 copies and was at fourth place on the list. Pauliina Rauhala’s first novel, Taivaslaulu (‘Heaven song’, Gummerus), about the problems of a young couple within a religious revivalist movement that bans family planning was, slightly surprisingly, number nine with almost 30,000 copies.

The best-selling translated fiction list was – not surprisingly – dominated by crime literature: number one was Dan Brown’s Inferno, with 60,400 copies.

Number one on the non-fiction list was, also not surprisingly, Guinness World Records with 35,700 copies. Next came a biography of Nokia man Jorma Ollila. The winner of the Finlandia Prize for Non-Fiction, Murtuneet mielet (‘Broken minds’, WSOY), sold 22,600 copies and was number seven on the list.

Eight books by the illustrator and comics writer Mauri Kunnas featured on the list of best-selling books for children and young people, with 105,000 copies sold. At 19th place was an Angry Birds book by Rovio Enterntainment. The winner of the Finlandia Junior Prize, Poika joka menetti muistinsa (‘The boy who lost his memory’, Otava), was at fifth place.

Kunnas was also number one on the Finnish comic books list – with his version of a 1960s rock band suspiciously reminiscent of the Rolling Stones – which added 12,400 copies to the figure of 105,000.

The best-selling e-book turned was a Fingerpori series comic book by Pertti Jarla: 13,700 copies. The sales of e-books are still very modest in Finland, despite the fact that the number of ten best-selling e-books, 87,000, grew from 2012 by 35,000 copies.

The cold fact is that Finns are buying fewer printed books. What can be done? Writing and publishing better and/or more interesting books and selling them more efficiently? Or is this just something we will have to accept in an era when books will have less and less significance in our lives?

Reading matters? On new books for young readers

9 January 2014 | Articles, Children's books, Non-fiction

Pixon brothers: a story book by Malin Kivelä and Linda Bondestam

The Pixon brothers don’t read books, they love the telly: story by Malin Kivelä, illustrations by Linda Bondestam (Bröderna Pixon och TV:ns hemtrevliga sken, ‘The Pixon brothers and the homely shimmer of the telly’)

Finnish picture books for children have long been reliable export goods around the world. In the last few years, a number of novels for children have come along in their wake: works by authors such as Timo Parvela and Siri Kolu have been translated into a good many languages.

Now young adult literature has also blazed a trail on to the international market – in what also seems to be almost a matter of precision timing with regard to the Frankfurt Book Fair 2014. Finnish publishers have been investing in their home-grown lists of children’s and young adult books ever since the turn of the millennium, and now the time has come to harvest the fruits of their long-term efforts.