Helsinki Trilogy by Pirkko Saisio pre-empted to Penguin Modern Classics in the UK and Commonwealth

Saisio will be the first living Finnish author on the world-famous Penguin Modern Classics list. The Penguin pre-empt is the fourth for the trilogy, previously pre-empted in the Netherlands by De Geus, in Germany by Klett-Cotta and in France by Robert Laffont.

Pirkko Saisio
(Photo: Timo Ahonpää)

Pirkko Saisio, one of the most prominent figures in Finnish literary world but also in theatre and on screen, is quickly becoming also an international phenomenon. In addition to the Dutch, German, French and now the UK and Commonwealth pre-empts, the Helsinki Trilogy has been sold recently also to Czech Republik (Host), Hungary (Polar), and Romania (Pandora M). In the USA and Canada, it is published by Two Lines Press.

Consisting of three Finlandia Prize nominees and one Finlandia Prize winner, the autofictional trilogy has been a classic in Finland since the novels came out: The Lowest Common Multiple in 1998, The Backlight in 2000 and The Red Book of Farewells in 2003.

The Lowest Common Multiple in Dutch edition by De Geus (2023)

The trilogy was pre-empted by Casiana Ionita, the publishing director at Penguin Press, and the deal was negotiated by Elianna Kan from Regal Hoffmann & Associates.

First living Finnish author on the Penguin Modern Classics list, Pirkko Saisio will join authors such as Gertrude Stein, Simoine de Beauvoir, Daphne du Maurier, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Fernando Pessoa, Italo Calvino, Saul Bellow, Federico García Lorca, Stanislaw Lem, Franz Kafka, Tennessee Williams, Jorge Luis Borges, Albert Camus, George Orwell, Karel Capek and many others.

The Red Book of Farewells in German edition by Klett-Cotta (2023)

Penguin Modern Classics was established in 1961, 15 years after the Penguin Classics list. There are two previous Finnish titles on these classics lists: the Finnish national epic Kalevala on the Classics list and Väinö Linna’s Unknown Soldier (original published in 1954) on the Modern Classics list.

Interviewed in The Critic in 2020 by Alexander Larman, the creative editor of the Penguin Classics, Henry Eliot, said that “The Modern Classics series gathers the greatest books of more recent times, books that have challenged convention, changed the world or created something new. They are books that speak powerfully to the moment — and time will tell if they speak for more than that.”

Saisio’s latest novel is Passion (2021) – a color-saturated, Tarkovskian chronicle of Europe. The novel got Saisio her 7th nomination for Finland’s biggest literary award, the Finlandia Prize, and with the sales of around 30,000 copies so far, it occupied the bestseller list for a good while. Passion will come out in Estonia in May 2024, published by Varrak, and soon also in the Czech Republic, published by Host.