To My Brother by E. L. Karhu nominated for the best debut of the year

Nominees for one of the most important literary awards of the year, the Helsingin Sanomat Literature Prize for the best debut of the year, have been announced: we are thrilled to see one of our season’s highlights, novel To My Brother by E. L. Karhu, on the list.

To My Brother (2021)

To My Brother is a story about a greedy, lonely girl and her beautiful, popular brother. If someone were to look at the girl, they might see a loser who binges on sweets, devours soap operas, and trails her brother like a shadow but whose manic narration forces one to stare, to look more closely.

To My Brother doesn’t ask any direct questions. Even so, listening to its anti-hero prompts thoughts about sibling relationships, caretaking, lust, and social and sexual hierarchies. It’s an absurd bildungsroman germinating from internalized self-hatred, one that takes place at the fringes if the center is a multi-part mirror. A silver scooter racing at maximum speed. An eccentric is attached to its rotating axel, transforming forward momentum into back-and forth motion.

E. L. Karhu (photo: Liisa Takala)

E. L. Karhu (b. 1982) is a playwright and dramaturg. Karhu’s rewritings of classic plays and explorations of new dramatic forms, such as Princess Hamlet (2017) and Eriopis (2020), have received acclaim in Finland and Germany. A play To My Brother will be premiered in Schauspiel Leipzig in Germany in April 2021. It is translated to German by Stefan Moster, who has worked with the the author with her previous plays as well.

Congratulations to the author for the nomination, and fingers crossed!

Children’s foreign rights sales in October

Busy, busy, busy: that’s all anyone from the publishing industry can say about the crazy month of October. But, for us at HLA, this always means more Finnish literature abroad. Here are the children’s books deals from the month of Frankfurt.

The Mystery of the Helmersbruk Manor (2021)

Eva Frantz’s newest children’s novel, The Mystery of the Helmersbruk Manor, illustrated by Elin Sandström, was immediately picked up by Danish publisher Straarup & Co., who has previously acquired The Night Express by Karin Erlandsson and Peter Bergting. The new novel continues in the genre of the spine-tingling ghost stories that Frantz is known for, gripping, heartfelt, and full of adventures. The story is divided in 24 chapters, making it a perfect read in a run-up to Christmas.

Additionally, World Spanish rights for Frantz’s debut in the genre, the Runeberg Junior Prize winner Raspberry Hill (2018), have been sold to Fondo de Cultura. This is the 4th foreign rights sale for the book, which has previously been acquired in the English world, Bulgaria and Russia.

It was recently announced that Frantz’s books are in the Top 10 of the most borrowed books written in Swedish in Finland’s libraries. Raspberry Hill is #7 on the list, and her crime novels for adults Out of the Game (2020) and The Eighth Maiden (2019) are #1 and #10 respectively.

Secret Gardeners (2021)

Two other lovely children’s books from HLA’s list will now be travelling to Romania: picture book Secret Gardeners (2021) by Maija Hurme & Lina Laurent, previously sold to 3 foreign territories, was acquired by Didactica, plus there is an offer now on the table for the Romanian rights of the Finlandia Prize winner Radio Popov by Anja Portin, already sold to 20 territories.

We are so happy to see so many beautiful titles from Finland travelling around the world and winning the hearts of publishers and readers alike! Congratulations to the authors!

Matara by Matias Riikonen nominated for the Torch-Bearer Prize

One of the biggest highlights on HLA’s catalogue this season, novel Matara by the young rising star Matias Riikonen, has been nominated for the prestigious Torch-Bearer Prize.

Matias Riikonen (photo: Liisa Takala)

The Torch-Bearer Prize is given yearly to a title considered to have the most potential to succeed outside Finland. And indeed, Riikonen’s novel has been among the most requested during the Frankfurt days.

Matara is a story about boys’ games gone an inch too seriously. In the novel, boys of a summer camp spend their days in the realm they have built: the Republic of Matara. It has a law, a societal structure, plotting for power and bonds between citizens, as any real state. 

Under the guidance of his older brother, a young boy trains to be a scout. While spying, the pair come upon an enemy camp: war is at hand.

Matara (2021)

“Matias Riikonen writes about the boys’ wargames as if they were the most important thing in the world. The result is a magnificent work, among the best contemporary Finnish prose.”
– Suomen Kuvalehti magazine

5 authors altogether are nominated for the Torch-Bearer Prize, and the winner will be announced on the 4th of December.

HLA’s authors have been awarded the prize for the two previous years in a row: Minna Rytisalo received it for her novel Mrs C. in 2019, and last year, the winner was Marisha Rasi-Koskinen’s Lynchian masterpiece REC. In 2015, the prize was given to another HLA author, Finlandia Prize winner Anni Kytömäki for her debut novel Goldheart.

Congratulations to all the nominees and fingers crossed for Riikonen’s success!

Halla Helle sold to France

Some exciting news to announce in the midst of the hectic Frankfurt days: Halla Helle, a striking debut from the indigenous voice Niillas Holmberg, has been sold to Éditions du Seuil in France!

Niillas Holmberg (photo: Marek Sabogal)

Le Seuil, as it is often simply called, is a well established publishing house, with a publishing history dating back to 1935. Nowadays, it is dedicated to represent as diverse literature as possible: French and translated fiction and nonfiction, thrillers, books on human sciences and philosophy, children’s and YA literature…

The acquiring editor Bénédicte Lombardo was convinced that “Holmberg’s strong, very literary voice” will be a perfect fit to her list.

Halla Helle is a story about a young man Samu, who leaves Southern Finland behind and moves to Sápmi. Something strange and powerful is taking him to Utsjoki: Elle Hallala, the best-known Sámi person in Finland, known by her artist alias Halla Helle. She, however, abandons her art, withdraws from the world and moves on an arctic mountain to live her life according to her ancestors. Can Samu, a child of mainstream culture, understand the Sámi symbols and eventually, help the artist heal?

Halla Helle (2021)

Niillas Holmberg’s poetry collections have been nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize twice. Halla Helle is the first novel published in decades that is written by a Sámi author dealing with Sámi identity and culture.

Don’t forget about the Literature from Finland podcast episode INDIGENOUS, where Niillas discussed his childhood in the Sámi community, his activism and creative work.

3 HLA illustrators nominated for the Rudolf Koivu Prize

HLA is proud to have not only extraordinary and original authors, but also some spectacular and lauded illustrators on its list. The Rudolf Koivu Prize, given every two years to the best illustrator of children’s or young people’s books, nominated three HLA illustrators this year.

I Remember You With Love (2020)

Sanna Pelliccioni received a nomination for her newest work I Remember You With Love (2020), a picture book which offers a new, beautiful way to face the loss of our dear ones. Pelliccioni’s sensitive illustrations enrich the story about little Alma and her family dealing with losing their grandma. Alma’s classmate Diego teaches her about the Mexican Día de los Muertos, letting Alma experience a new way to grieve and remember loved ones. Foreign rights of the book have been sold to Estonia.

The Illustrated Book of Awelings (2021)

Tuomas Kärkkäinen was nominated for The Illustrated Book of Awelings (2021), an enchanting and inventive guide to spot little creatures that live in cities that offer explanations for humming pipes, broken kerbstones, splashes on walls and noisy traffic lights. With tips and tasks, the readers are taught to notice the most fascinating phenomena in an urban environment. Never before has a children’s book presented stony cities in such spellbinding guise!

Crap (2019)

Ulla Donner was nominated for her 2019 Graphic Novel Crap, a story about capitalism, potatoes and the will to flush yourself down the toilet. As the Hufvudstadsbladet newspaper has noted, “Donner’s graphic novels have the elements that form the bedrock of the new boom for Swedish-speaking graphic novels: inner angst and social criticism.” Crap was awarded the Finlandia prize for the best Finnish graphic novel in 2019, and has been sold to 4 foreign language territories so far.

The nominees were selected from 133 books, and the winner will be announced on the 20th of October.

Congratulations to the nominated illustrators, and fingers crossed!