Three fiction and one nonfiction title are on the run for the biggest literary award of the year.
Marjo Niemi’s Hearing, Matias Riikonen’s Matara, and Pirkko Saisio’s Passion are among the six best Finnish novels of the year.
Reviews have characterized Matias Riikonen’s fourth novel Matara (Teos, 2021) as “among the best Finnish contemporary prose” and “a masterpiece.” It is a book about boys’ wargames that is utterly serious, and an homage to the richness of children’s imagination.
The Finlandia Prize jury writes:
“Matara is a novel about childhood, the child’s gaze, and loyalty, but also an adventure novel, a depiction of hierarchies and power struggles within the frame of a role-playing game reflecting the times of Caesar. In terms of language and idiom, Matara is as complex and rich as the natural world it portrays. The world of Matara is unique but recognizable.”
Matara is a story about boys’ games gone an inch too seriously. 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.
Marjo Niemi’s Hearing (Teos, 2021) is the latest novel from the Runeberg Prize-winning author, in which a middle-aged woman shuts herself in the closet to write letters – to be heard. Ferocious, funny, and continuously surprising, this novel paints a picture of not only the contemporary individual but also the world in which we live.
The Finlandia Prize jury says:
“Linguistic virtuoso Titta K. has withdrawn into isolation to tap out furious letters to various parties. The letters ooze a compulsive need to be heard. Irresistible, fresh, and permeated by black humor, this is a world that is built language first. Its frank discourse and structurally interesting whole speak to readers who are unafraid of the new.”
In Hearing, a relatively ordinary, privileged, middle-class individual gripes, confesses, rationalizes, and begs to be… something. Her own special persona who deserves the lot she imagines for herself, maybe a little money too. Niemi masterfully weaves a black comedy about a person who takes her share of hard knocks and doesn’t get discouraged or give up, but keeps trying again and again, if for no other reason than to fail a little more spectacularly next time.
With her novel Passion (Siltala, 2021), Pirkko Saisio becomes a seven-time Finlandia Prize nominee. She received the prize in 2003 for The Red Book of Farewells, the final work of an autofictional trilogy. In Saisio’s extensive oeuvre, Passion is a wholly new sort of work: a prolific, Tarkovskian chronicle of Europe centered on life’s purpose and the search for meaning, which a reviewer has characterized as “the glittering golden crown of the literary season.”
According to the Finlandia Prize jury:
“Passion is narrative art, a cultural-historically rich work that leads the reader through the centuries from the 1400s to the 1950s. The language of the novel flows effortlessly and evocatively. The characters are loving or have lost their love, greedy or guileless, throw themselves into their lives heart and soul. Death, spirituality, and the narrator’s heartfelt humor are intensely present.”
Passion is a story of an extravagant necklace that begins its journey at the dawn of 16th century, in the hands of a princess in Florence, and continues travelling on through ages, generations and countries – eventually reaching today’s Finland. The novel is a grand vision: a color-saturated, Tarkovskian chronicle of Europe centered on life’s purpose and the search for meaning.
Julia Thurén’s nonfiction book Everything You Need to Know about Consumerism (Gummerus, 2021) is a smart piece of nonfiction that explains where to direct your gaze in a world where the climate crisis isn’t going to be solved through KonMari and vegetarianism alone. In this profound but entertaining and engagingly written work, Thurén explains why we feel the need to consume and offers genuine answers.
The Tieto-Finlandia jury had this to say:
“The work fulfills nonfiction’s important democratizing mission by pondering the structures and laws underpinning consumer culture in a way that helps readers understand them without feeling blamed for everyday choices and that opens up easily to readers from a range of backgrounds.”
Everything You Need to Know About Consumerism is a smart piece of nonfiction that explains where to direct your gaze in a world where the climate crisis isn’t going to be solved through KonMari and vegetarianism alone. In this profound but entertaining and engagingly written work, Thurén explains why we feel the need to consume and offers genuine answers.
The Finlandia Prize is Finland’s most prestigious literary recognition, awarded annually in three categories: the best novel, the best children’s or YA book, and the best nonfiction book of the year. The prize for each category is 30,000 euros.