Two HLA titles win Finlandia Prize!

HLA could not be more thrilled: both our nominees for the most important literary award of the year have won! Anni Kytömäki’s novel Margarita won Finlandia Prize for the best fiction book of the year and Anja Portin’s novel Radio Popov won Finlandia Junior, given to the best children’s and YA book.

Kytömäki’s novel Margarita portrays the destinies of forests and people in post-war Finland. It is a powerful, sensual and multilayered call to ponder the price that the building of a welfare state demands from an individual. This year’s chooser of the winner, conductor Hannu Lintu, has stated:

The language and the storytelling of the book grip the readers and carry them away. It is not only a masterful portrayal of that ground zero point where the growth of the modern Finnish society has begun, but also of the struggle of an individual in the midst of unbelievable twists and turns that this growth brings upon. The book shows that every battle – let it be war or reconstruction – claims its victims. We know that these struggles for the better future are still present today.”

In her speech, Anni Kytömäki emphasised the critical state of our world:

I have dedicated this book to the silent ones of water and earth – the ones that are in danger to be left behind in our society and in the face of [the global] ecological crisis. In my opinion, this Finlandia Prize shows that there is still room for diversity – that is, for the wide spectrum of characters and nature beings.

The winner of Finlandia Junior Prize, Anja Portin’s novel Radio Popov is a book about loneliness, friendship and the power of storytelling. A warm adventure story brings to mind such children’s literature classics as Roald Dahl and Astrid Lindgren, but at the same time is also compelling for the adult readers.

The chooser of the prize, actor Christoffer Strandberg has written in his statement:

I have always believed that a good book for children or young people is one that you can return to throughout your life, always finding new perspectives and realising that it has been at the heart of the matter all along. This is such a book. (…)

The book’s world – its time and place – fascinates me. It succeeds in being timeless while also being completely of our time. Radio Popov is a fantastical tale, but also a heart-rending story about humanity anchored in reality. The world and its people are not seen through a black-and-white filter. The parents of the forgotten children are not demonised. This is not a story about the struggle between good and evil. This is a story that focuses on the good in the small and in the large, in spite of all evil.”

Here you can read the full text of the statement.

In her speech, Anja Portin thanked the jury for the honour and talked, among other things, about the various colours of silence and the power of fiction in our everyday lives:

Literature can give space to those, whose voice disappears among noises of the world. Especially important these days feels the ability of literature to evoke compassion and show the different colours of the world, not only the black and white.

Foreign rights of Radio Popov have so far been sold to Denmark, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Finlandia Prize is the most important literary award in Finland, given annually in three categories: the best novel, the best children’s or YA book and the best nonfiction book of the year. The award sum is 30,000 euros. 

Warm congratulations, Anni and Anja, their present and future readers and translators!

Previously, several other HLA’s authors have received the award in the category of the best novel, including 
Kari Hotakainen (The Trench Road, 2002)
Pirkko Saisio (The Red Letter of Farewell, 2003)
Mikko Rimminen (Red Nose Day, 2010)
Ulla-Lena Lundberg (Ice, 2012)
Riikka Pelo (Our Earthly Life, 2013)
Jukka Viikilä (Watercolours from a Seaside City, 2016) and 
Juha Hurme (Headland, 2017)

Past nominees for the prize include
Alexandra Salmela
 (27, or Death makes an Artist, 2010)
Jenni Linturi (For Fatherland, 2011)
Aki Ollikainen (White Hunger, 2012)
Anni Kytömäki (Goldheart, 2014)
Selja Ahava (Things that Fall from the Sky, 2015)
Peter Sandström (Autumn Apples, 2016)
Pauliina Rauhala (Harvest, 2018) and, once more
Mikko Rimminen (If It Looks Like It, 2019)

Finlandia Junior Prize has been previously awarded to 4 HLA authors:

Tomi Kontio (In the Spring, Dad Got Wings, 2000)
Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen (Light, Light, Light, 2011)
Sanna Mander (The Lost Key, 2017)
Marisha Rasi-Koskinen (The Dark Side of the Sun, 2019)

Past nominees for the prize include
Anssi & Maija Hurme
(Shadowed, 2018)
Tomi Kontio & Elina Warsta (A Dog Called Cat Meets a Cat, 2019)