Letter from the Editors

In with the new?

17 December 2010 | Letter from the Editors

Abckiria (‘ABC book’, 1543): the first Finnish book, a primer by the Reformation bishop Mikael Agricola, pioneer of Finnish language and literature

In August 2010 the American Newsweek magazine declared Finland (out of a hundred countries) the best place to live, taking into account education, health, quality of life, economic dynamism and political environment.


In the OECD’s exams in science and reading, known as PISA tests, Finnish schoolchildren scored high in 2006 – and as early as 2000 they had been best at reading, and second at maths in 2003.


We Finns had hardly recovered from these highly gratifying pieces of intelligence when, this December, we got the news that in 2009 Finnish kids were just third best in reading and sixth in maths (although 65 countries took part in the study now, whereas  in 2000 it had been just 32; the overall winner in 2009 was Shanghai, which was taking part for the first time.)

And what’s perhaps worse, since 2006 the number of weak readers had grown, and the number of excellent ones gone down. More…

Just business?

24 September 2010 | Letter from the Editors

Money, money, money... Photo: Twid/Wikipedia

Through his work, a writer provides a living for both himself and his publisher. The publisher makes his profit through the work of his writers, and both parties are satisfied. Is this how it goes?

The novel Puhdistus (Purge, 2008) by the Finnish author Sofi Oksanen (born 1977) has been translated into 13 languages, including English, and by now it has sold who knows how many copies.

One would imagine her publisher would like to live happily ever after with his superstar, and perhaps also vice versa – for WSOY (est. 1878) has long been one of the most powerful, as well as the most enlightened, publishing houses in Finland. More…

What the critic said

9 July 2010 | Letter from the Editors

Illustration by Joan Barrás

Illustration by Joan Barrás

‘Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue has never been erected in honour of a critic,’ said the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.

No, probably not; but people still read what the critics write – and, sometimes, also what they wrote fifty or a hundred years ago.

An annual list of professions most highly valued by the public in Finland is always headed by surgeons. Shepherds generally feature at the bottom of the list. But critics fare none too well, either – a couple of years ago they were ranked between butchers and gravediggers. Which, of course, can be interpreted, in metaphorical terms, either as hilarious or tragicomical. More…

Grim(m) stories?

30 April 2010 | Letter from the Editors

‘There’s not been much wit and not much joy, there’s a lot of grimness out there.’

This comment on new fiction could have been presented by anyone who’s been reading new Finnish novels or short stories. The commentator was, however, the 2010 British Orange Prize judge Daisy Goodwin, who in March complained about the miserabilist tendencies in new English-language women’s writing. More…

Our favourite things

29 January 2010 | Letter from the Editors

Every reader has his or her favourite book. It is possible to define, with acceptable criteria, when a work of fiction is ‘a good novel’: do the plot, characterisation and language work, does it have anything to say? But when is a ‘good’ novel better than another ‘good’ novel? More…

Midwinter in a minor key

23 December 2009 | Letter from the Editors

Finland’s end-of-year celebrations, both Christmas and New Year, take place in a thoroughly muted mode. At noon on Christmas Eve the Christmas Peace is rung out from the mediaeval cathedral in Turku, with the pious and seldom realised hope that peace and harmony will be unbroken for the following twelve days.

It’s true, though, that there’s little of the carousing that characterises Christmas celebrations further south; by and large, people stay behind closed doors, and there’s plenty of time, in the dark mornings and evenings and the brief twilight between them, to eat and drink and sleep – and, for those whose souls are not entirely claimed by the television and food-induced torpor, to read. More…

The height of the night

15 October 2009 | Letter from the Editors

pallokarttaThe autumnal equinox is past; and as we tilt towards the winter solstice, here in these northerly latitudes, the darkness expands palpably from day to day, giving more space for introspection – high on the list of Finnish national pastimes – and for reading.

We want to make our website primarily a place for reading – not, in other words, for clicking, going on to the next thing. To think to the end what cannot be thought to the end elsewhere, as the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam said of his experience of staying in what was, at the turn of the 20th century, still Finnish Karelia. So you will not find our texts littered with links; for the most part, links appear at the end of a piece, not in it. More…

Just reading

18 June 2009 | Letter from the Editors

pallokarttaThe Books from Finland website has been live for two months, and we’re gradually settling in to our new mode of being. To say we were growing accustomed to our new environment, though, would be misleading. Since our last editorial, the Editor-in-Chief, the London Editor, the Web Editor and the Designer have actually spent physical time in the same room (yea, to cement the feeling of non-virtuality, they have even eaten pizza together). It would be fair to say that our reaction, jointly and severally, to publishing on line, could best be summarised as ‘Yay! This is great!’


All in good time

17 April 2009 | Letter from the Editors

pallokarttaSo here it is, Books from Finland’s new website. From the decision to abandon print and go online it’s been a long and sometimes circuitous journey to get here – a journey that has been far longer in the imagining than in the making. More…

Dear reader,

11 February 2009 | Letter from the Editors

welcome to the new Books from Finland website. After 42 years in print, we now navigate virtual worlds. However much Books from Finland may have changed in appearance, though, its essence remains the same – as always, we try to provide you with interesting, well-translated things to read. Made in Finland, or about Finland. More…