Tag: Finlandia Prize

New from the archive

26 March 2015 | This 'n' that

This week’s pick is a comic short story by Martti Joenpolvi about the gender divide

Martti Joenpolvi

Martti Joenpolvi.
Photo: Janne Aaltonen.

We first published this short story by Martti Joenpolvi, an acknowledged master of the genre, in 1989; it comes from the collection Pronssikausi (‘The bronze age’, 1988), which was nominated for the Finlandia Prize.

The subject – the story is about a man taking his mistress on a secret visit to his summer-house – provides plenty of opportunity for sly humour. But it’s a more unsettling read in 2015 than we’re guessing it was twenty-five years ago – not so much for the plot itself, which makes ironic fun of the idea of woman-as-chattel, as for the characterisation, which subtly places the woman exactly where the story does.



The digitisation of Books from Finland continues, with a total of 375 articles and book extracts made available online so far. Each week, we bring a newly digitised text to your attention.

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.


The Finlandia Prize for Fiction 2013

5 December 2013 | In the news

Rikka Pelo. Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

Riikka Pelo. Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

The director general of the Helsinki City Theatre, Asko Sarkola, announced the winner of the 30th Finlandia Literature Prize for Fiction, chosen from a shortlist of six novels, on 2 December in Helsinki. The prize, worth €30,000, was awarded to Riikka Pelo for her novel Jokapäiväinen elämämme (‘Our everyday life’, Teos).

In his award speech Sarkola – and actor by training – characterised the six novels as ‘six different roles’:

‘They are united by a bold and deep understanding of individuality and humanity against the surrounding period. They are the perspectives of fictive individuals, new interpretations of the reality we imagine or suppose. Viewfinders on the present, warnings of the future.

‘Riikka Pelo‘s Jokapäiväinen elämämme is wound around two periods and places, Czechoslovakia in 1923 and the Soviet Union in 1939–41. The central characters are the poet Marina Tsvetaeva and her daughter Alya. This novel has the widest scope: from stream of consciousness to interrogations in torture chambers and the labour camps of Vorkuta; always moving, heart-stopping, irrespective of the settings.’

The five other novels were Ystäväni Rasputin (’My friend Rasputin’) by JP Koskinen, Hotel Sapiens (Teos) by Leena Krohn, Terminaali (‘The terminal’, Siltala) by Hannu Raittila, Herodes (‘Herod’, WSOY) by Asko Sahlberg and Hägring 38 (‘Mirage 38’, Schildts & Söderströms; Finnish translation, Kangastus, Otava) by Kjell Westö (see In the news for brief features).

Finlandia Prize for Fiction 2013

14 November 2013 | In the news

One of the following six novels will be awarded this year’s Finlandia Prize for Fiction, worth 30,000 euros: Ystäväni Rasputin (’My friend Rasputin’) by JP Koskinen, Hotel Sapiens (Teos) by Leena Krohn, Jokapäiväinen elämämme (‘Our everyday life’, Teos) by Riikka Pelo, Terminaali (‘The terminal’, Siltala) by Hannu Raittila, Herodes (‘Herod’, WSOY) by Asko Sahlberg and Hägring 38 (‘Mirage 38’, Schildts & Söderströms; Finnish translation, Kangastus, Otava) by Kjell Westö.

Half of the writers have already won the Finlandia Prize once, namely Krohn (1992), Raittila (2001) and Westö (2006).

Four of the six works deal with a historical character or history: Koskinen with the Russian ‘holy man’ Rasputin, Pelo with the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva, Sahlberg with Herod the Great of Judea. Westö goes back to the year 1938 in Finland.

Raittila’s realistic novel takes place on contemporary airports. Krohn, again taking a look at an unknown future, presents the reader with a imaginary Earth which no longer is habitable to humans.

The runners-up were chosen by a jury – appointed by the Finnish Book Publishers’ Association – of three: the journalists Nina Paavolainen and Raisa Rauhamaa and the translator Juhani Lindholm. The winner of the 30th Finlandia Prize for Fiction will chosen by theatre manager of the Helsinki City Theatre and actor Asko Sarkola, and announced on 3 December.

The Finlandia Prize for Fiction 2012

13 December 2012 | In the news

Ulla-Lena Lundberg. Photo: Cata Portin

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.

Finlandia Junior Prize 2012

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.

Finlandia Prize for Non-Fiction 2012

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.

Finlandia Junior Prize 2011

7 December 2011 | In the news

The musician Paula Vesala has chosen, from a shortlist of six, a book for young people by the poet Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, Valoa valoa valoa (‘Light light light’, Karisto). The story, which is set at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster, poetically describes the passion and pain of first love, longing for mother and death.

‘Not just what is told, but how it is told. The rythm and timbre of Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen’s language are immensely beautiful. Her phrases do not exist merely to tell the story, but live like poetry or song. Valoa valoa valoa does not incline toward young people from the world of adults; rather, its voice comes, direct and living, from painful, confusing, complex youth, in which young people should really be protected from adults and their blindness. I would have liked to read this book when I was fourteen,’ commented Vesala.

The other five shortlisted books were a picture book for small children, Rakastunut krokotiili (‘Crocodile in love’, Tammi) by Hannu Hirvonen & Pia Sakki, a philosophical picture book about being different and courageous entitled Jättityttö ja Pirhonen (‘Giant girl and Pirhonen’, Tammi) by Hannele Huovi and Kristiina Louhi; a dystopic story set in the 2300s, Routasisarukset (‘Sisters of permafrost’, WSOY), by Eija Lappalainen & Anne Leinonen; a novel about the war experiences of an Ingrian family, Kaukana omalta maalta (‘Far away from homeland’, WSOY) by Sisko Latvus and an illustrated book about gods and myths of the world, Taivaallinen suurperhe (‘Extended heavenly family’, Otava) by Marjatta Levanto & Julia Vuori.

The prize, awarded by the Finnish Book Foundation on 23 November, is worth €30,000.

Finlandia Prize for Fiction 2011

1 December 2011 | In the news

The winner of the Finlandia Prize for Fiction 2011, worth €30,000, is Rosa Liksom, for her novel Hytti no 6 (‘Compartment number 6’, WSOY): read translated extracts and an introduction of the author here on this page.

The prize was awarded on 1 December. The winner was selected by the theatre manager Pekka Milonoff from a shortlist of six.

Hytti nro 6 is an extraordinarily compact, poetic and multilayered description of a train journey through Russia. The main character, a girl, leaves Moscow for Siberia, sharing a compartment with a vodka-swilling murderer who tells hair-raising stories about his own life and about the ways of his country. – Liksom is a master of controlled exaggeration. With a couple of carefully chosen brushstrokes, a mini-story, she is able to conjure up an entire human destiny,’ Milonoff commented.

Author and artist Rosa Liksom (alias Anni Ylävaara, born 1958), has since 1985 written novels, short stories, children’s book, comics and plays. Her books have been translated into 16 languages.

Appointed by the Finnish Book Foundation, the prize jury (journalist and critic Hannu Marttila, journalist Tuula Ketonen and translator Kristiina Rikman) shortlisted the following novels: Kallorumpu (‘Skull drum’, Teos) by Eeva-Kaarina Aronen, William N. Päiväkirja (‘William N. Diary’, Otava) by Kristina Carlson, Huorasatu (‘Whore tale’, Into) by Laura Gustafsson, Minä, Katariina (‘I, Catherine’, Otava) by Laila Hirvisaari, and Isänmaan tähden (‘For fatherland’s sake’, first novel; Teos) by Jenni Linturi.

Rosa Liksom travelled a great deal in the Soviet Union in the 1980s. She said she hopes that literature, too, could play a role in promoting co-operation between people, cultures and nations: ‘For the time being there is no chance of some of us being able to live on a different planet.’

Finlandia Prize for Non-Fiction 2011

24 November 2011 | In the news

‘Scientific, aesthetic, timely: the work is all of these. A work of non-fiction can be both precisely factual and emotional, full of both information and soul. A good non-fiction book will surprise. I did not expect to be enthused by lichens, their variety and colours,’ declared Professor Alf Reen in announcing the winner of this year’s Finlandia Prize for Non-Fiction on 17 November.

The winning work is Suomen jäkäläopas (‘Guidebook of lichens in Finland’), edited by Soili Stenroos & Teuvo Ahti & Katileena Lohtander & Leena Myllys (The Botanical Museum / The Finnish Museum of Natural History). The prize is worth €30,000.

The other works on the shortlist of six were the following: Kustaa III ja suuri merisota. Taistelut Suomenlahdella 1788–1790 [(‘Gustav III and the great sea war. Battles in the Gulf of Finland 1788–1790’, John Nurminen Foundation), written by Raoul Johnsson, with an editorial board consisting of Maria Grönroos & Ilkka Karttunen &Tommi Jokivaara & Juhani Kaskeala & Erik Båsk; Unihiekkaa etsimässä. Ratkaisuja vauvan ja taaperon unipulmiin (‘In search of the sandman. Solutions to babies’  and toddlers’  sleep problems’ ) by Anna Keski-Rahkonen & Minna Nalbantoglu (Duodecim); Operaatio Hokki. Päämajan vaiettu kaukopartio (‘Operation Hokki. Headquarters’ silenced long-distance patrol’), an account of a long-distance patrol strike in eastern Karelia during the Continuation War in 1944, by Mikko Porvali (Atena); Trotski (‘Trotsky’, Gummerus; biography) by Christer Pursiainen; and Lintukuvauksen käsikirja (‘Handbook of bird photography’) by Markus Varesvuo & Jari Peltomäki & Bence Máté (Docendo).

Finlandia Prize candidates 2011

17 November 2011 | In the news

The candidates for the Finlandia Prize for Fiction 2011 are Eeva-Kaarina Aronen, Kristina Carlson, Laura Gustafsson, Laila Hirvisaari, Rosa Liksom and Jenni Linturi.

Their novels, respectively, are Kallorumpu (‘Skull drum’, Teos), William N. Päiväkirja (‘William N. Diary’, Otava), Huorasatu (‘Whore tale’, Into), Minä, Katariina (‘I, Catherine’, Otava), Hytti no 6 (‘Compartment number 6’, WSOY) and Isänmaan tähden (‘For fatherland’s sake’, Teos).

Kallorumpu takes place in 1935 in Marshal Mannerheim’s house in Helsinki and in the present time. Laila Hirvisaari is a popular writer of mostly historical fiction: Minä, Katariina, a portrait of Russia’s Catherine the Great, is her 39th novel. Gustafsson’s and Linturi’s novels are first works; the former is a bold farce based on women’s mythology, the latter is about guilt born of the Second World War.

The jury – journalist and critic Hannu Marttila, journalist Tuula Ketonen and translator Kristiina Rikman – made their choice out of 130 novels. The winner, chosen by the theatre manager of the KOM Theatre Pekka Milonoff, will be announced on the first of December. The prize is worth 30,000 euros. It has been awarded since 1984, to novels only from 1993.

The fact that this time all the candidates are women has naturally been the object of criticism: why are the popular male writers’ books of 2011 missing from the list?

Another thing that these novels share is history: five of them are totally or partially set in the past – Finland in 1935, Paris in the 1890s, Russia/Soviet Union in the 18th century and in the 1980s, and 1940s Finland during the Second World War. Even the sixth, Huorasatu, bases its depiction of the present day in women’s prehistory, patriarchy and the ancient myths.

The jury’s chair, Hannu Marttila, commented: ‘This book year is sure to be remembered for a generational and gender change among those who write literature about the Second World War in Finland. Young woman writers describe the war with probably greater diversity than before. From the non-fiction writing of recent years it is clear that the struggles and difficulties of the home front are increasingly being recognised as part of the general struggle for survival, and on the other hand the less heroic aspects of war, the shameful and criminal elements, have also become acceptable as objects of study.’

Marttila concluded his speech: ‘When picking mushrooms in the forest, I have learned that it is often worth humbly peeking under the grass, and that the most glaring cap is not necessarily the best…. Perhaps it is time to forget the old saying that there is literature, and then there is women’s literature.’

Finland(ia) of the present day

2 December 2010 | In the news

Mikko Rimminen. Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

The Finlandia Prize for Fiction 2010, worth €30,000, was awarded on 2 December to Mikko Rimminen (born 1975) ; his novel Nenäpäivä (‘Nose day’, Teos) was selected by the cultural journalist and editor Minna Joenniemi from a shortlist of six.

Appointed by the Finnish Book Foundation, the prize jury (Marianne Bargum, former publishing director of Söderströms, researcher and writer Lari Kotilainen and communications consultant Kirsi Piha) shortlisted the following novels:

Joel Haahtela: Katoamispiste (‘Vanishing point’, Otava), Markus Nummi: Karkkipäivä (‘Candy day’, Otava), Riikka Pulkkinen: Totta (‘True’, Teos), Mikko Rimminen: Nenäpäivä (‘Nose day’, Teos), Alexandra Salmela: 27 eli kuolema tekee taiteilijan (’27 or death makes an artist’, Teos) and Erik Wahlström: Flugtämjaren (in Finnish translation, Kärpäsenkesyttäjä, ‘The fly tamer’, Schildts). Here’s the FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange link to the jury’s comments.

Joenniemi noted the shortlisted books all involve problems experienced by people of different ages. How to be a consenting adult? How do adults listen to children? Contemporary society has been pushing the age limits of ‘youth’ upwards so that, for example, what used to be known as middle age now feels quite young. And, for example, in Erik Wahlström’s Flugtämjaren (now also on the shortlist for the Nordic Literature Prize 2011) the aged, paralysed 19th-century author J.L. Runeberg appears full of hatred: being revered as Finland’s national poet didn’t make him particularly noble-minded.

According to Joenniemi, Rimminen’s novel ‘takes a stand gently’ in its portrayal of contemporary life – in a city where a lonely person’s longing for human contacts takes on tragicomical proportions. Joenniemi finds Rimminen’s language ‘uniquely overflowing’. Its humour poses itself against the prevailing negative attitude, turning black into something lighter.

Rimminen has earlier published two collections of poems and two novels (Pussikaljaromaani, ‘Sixpack novel’, 2004, and Pölkky, ‘The log’, 2007) . Pussikaljaromaani has been translated into  Dutch, German, Latvian, Russian and Swedish.

Antti Hyry: Uuni [The stove]

22 January 2010 | Mini reviews, Reviews

[The stove]
Helsinki: Otava, 2009. 400 p.
ISBN 978-951-1-23845-4
28 €, hardback

Many authors have inspired imitators, at least for a brief period, but few prove to be so original that they lend their name to an entire stylistic movement. Antti Hyry (born 1931), whose debut work was published in 1958, is a member of this most influential class of writers. His pared-down ‘Hyryesque’ sentences, which convey in a stark, crystal-clear manner only that which his characters think or observe, have been at the core of Finnish modernism for over half a century now. His latest novel, a tranquil, even meditative work, describes in minute detail – virtually brick by brick – how a man constructs a great wood-burning hearth in his house. Alongside the building work, Hyry provides minutely observed details of the natural surroundings and nearby people. Rich in content and brilliant in its simplicity, this novel was awarded the 2009 Finlandia Prize for fiction.

How to build a Finlandia Prize-winning novel

4 December 2009 | In the news


Antti Hyry

The Finlandia Prize for Fiction 2009, worth €30,000,  was awarded to Antti Hyry (born 1931) on 2nd December; his novel about building a stove, Uuni (‘The stove’, Otava), was chosen by the art historian and former director of the Finnish National Gallery, Tuula Arkio, from a shortlist of six. More…

Marjo T. Nieminen: Tiedon tyttäret [The daughters of knowledge]

20 March 2009 | Mini reviews

Tiedon tyttäretTiedon tyttäret. Oppineita eurooppalaisia naisia antiikista valistukseen
[The daughters of knowledge. Female European scholars from antiquity to the Enlightenment]
Helsinki: WSOY, 2008. 445 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-0-31824-9
€ 52, hardback

This richly illustrated work, the winner of the 2008 Finlandia Prize for Non-Fiction, tells the story of female scholars representing 25 different fields of study. The book also contains shorter introductions on more than a hundred women who have influenced the development of science. Hypatia of Alexandria, the prominent mathematician and astronomer murdered in 415 A.D. because she was considered politically dangerous, is one of the most famous of them, while others have been forgotten: in the 1660s – at the age of only thirteen – the pioneering entomologist, naturalist and explorer Maria Sibylla Merian made findings which would have called into question the current teachings of natural history, had they entered into wider public knowledge. Marjo T. Nurminen (born 1967). is an archaeologist specialised in the philosophy of science, and she works as the science editor for the Finnish Broadcasting Company.