The Natural Comedy by Ulla Donner, The Ribbon Bow by Anu Kaaja and more HLA authors nominated for The Most Beautiful Book of 2023

The Ribbon Bow by Anu Kaaja, A Wooden Prayer by Antti Hurskainen, The Natural Comedy by Ulla Donner, Storm and Light by Ilja Karsikas and Endless Winter by Miila Westin are nominated for the Most Beautiful Book of 2023.

We may be a bit biased when saying that our books are absolutely beautiful, but it seems that the Finnish Book Art Committee agree: The Ribbon Bow by Anu Kaaja, A Wooden Prayer by Antti Hurskainen, The Natural Comedy by Ulla Donner, Storm and Light by Ilja Karsikas and Endless Winter by Miila Westin are nominated for the Most Beautiful Book Award 2023.

The Natural Comedy is Finlandia Comics award winner Ulla Donner’s third work, published in Finland by Schildts & Söderströms and distributed in Sweden by Galago. In The Natural Comedy, Ulla Donner takes readers on a Dantean road trip in a Finnish forest, or rather what is left of it after mankind has wrought havoc on it.

The Natural Comedy by Ulla Donner (Den Naturliga Komedin, 2023)

It is autumn and Birch the birch leaf is floating away from its forest tribe and runs into Candy, a mixed mushroom who’s just suffered a breakup. In Dantean fashion, the two roam through artificially modified natural reserves, coming across the ancient, grimy Mother Nature, a wellness cult headed by a Kombucha mushroom, as well as other woodland dwellers forced to adapt to their new habitats. 

The sylvan fairytale grows into a hilarious satire about the Finns’ “special” relationship with nature. It is a tale about a society in which nature is subordinate to the human pursuit of profit and in which heaven and hell are only separated by how well each species manages to fit around people’s needs. The author also touches on xenophobia, comical features of young people’s dating rituals, and the societal terror of old age and hagsploitation in her characteristically wry manner. The Natural Comedy has been collecting glowing reviews in both Finland and Sweden, by critics and readers alike.

The Ribbon Bow (Rusetti, 2023)

The Ribbon Bow by Anu Kaaja, published in Finland by Kustantamo S&S, is nominated for the stunning work of its graphic designer Jenni Saari. The title is also nominated for the Adlibris Award and was one of this year’s nominees for the Runeberg Prize. It follows a heartbroken writer who sets out on a European trip in the style of the Grand Tour, visiting museums and enjoying art. The writer’s wanderings bring a fresh, at times irreverent perspective on some of the world’s most famous works of art and is a razor-sharp criticism of capitalism and the objectification of humans at the expense of the humanisation of objects. Everyday objects, like a bow, a coffee cup and a napkin, come to life and engage in conversation, while the human characters are difficult to reach and even harder to let go of.

A Wooden Prayer (Suntio, 2023)

A Wooden Prayer by Antti Hurskainen is published in Finland by Siltala and is nominated for its cover designed by graphic designer Aleksi Salokannel. A Wooden Prayer was also nominated for the Finlandia Prize, the Runeberg Prize, the Savonia Award and the Torch-Bearer Prize.
A Wooden Prayer follows Turtola, the verger  in a small congregation in the countryside. He spends his days sawing wood, raking the churchyard, praying, and taking his five-year-old daughter Monika to the nursery.  Sirén, the vicar, is getting more and more dependent on alcohol whilst trying to write his doctorate and tolerate God’s silence. But then, Monika’s health takes a turn for the worse and Turtola is abruptly faced with an impossible choice. Turtola chooses mercy, and the consequences are merciless, resulting in a novel that asks big and difficult questions about ethos, life, death and religion. 

The rights have been so far been sold to Denmark and Hungary.

Storm and Light (Myrsky ja Valo, 2023)

Storm and Light by Ilja Karsikas is a stunning, colourful and heart-warming illustrated book for children about the friendship between Storm and Light, who are complete opposites: Storm dreams of seeing the world, while Light prefers daydreaming and imagination as means of exploration.
Storm and Light was also nominated for the Arvid Lydecken Prize. Ilja Karsikas‘ other works have already travelled to South Korea and Estonia.

Endless Winter is the first volume in the Mythical Trilogy by Miila Westin, known for her illustrations of award-winning Radio Popov.

Endless Winter (Loputon Talvi, 2023)

In Endless Winter, it’s June and there’s a snowstorm. Nature has gone haywire, and no one knows what to do. Returning home from the funeral of her grandfather, 10-year-old Eevi runs into the guardian elf of barley. Eevi finds out the mystery behind the strange weather, and that if something isn’t done soon, winter will last forever: Eevi is thus drawn into a magical adventure with a group of elves.

Their mission is to free the awakener of spring, whom the powerful and evil Kalevala witch Louhi has imprisoned in the Underworld. On the journey, Eevi encounters various magical creatures, gets lost in the forest and finally slips through a crack into the Underworld.

Endless Winter begins the Mythical Trilogy, a series of graphic novels that introduces ancient Balto-Finnic folklore to children. The second book Dangerous Dreams will be out in spring 2024. 

The winners will be announced in March 2024. Congratulations to our beautiful nominees, and fingers crossed!