Literature from Finland is a new podcast by HLA, launched in autumn 2020. After years of discussing Finnish literature with agents and publishers from all over the world we realised that it is still somewhat of an enigma to others: Northern, but not Scandinavian; Western, but unlike anything you will find in Germany, France, the English world or anywhere else. So we decided to take the matter into our own hands.

In each episode spanning up to ca. 30 minutes, we will discuss the topic of the month with a studio guest and try to find out why indeed, literature from Finland is so unique. Above all, we hope to bring you joy, laughter and at least one new thing you didn’t know about Finland and its literature.

Follow and subscribe Literature from Finland on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and any of the usual platforms or then simply press the link of each episode below.

Episode 20: Home | Merja Mäki

Photo: Liisa Valonen

What does “home” mean for us today? In our hectic and confusing modern world, it often seems like one doesn’t even need to experience natural disasters, wars or other terrible misfortunes to feel displaced and lacking of identity. In season’s final episode before the summer break, bestselling Finnish author Merja Mäki discusses the trauma of displacement in her debut novel Before the Birds, as well as the various notions of home.

“An evacuee is not only seeking for a geographical, but also a social place to be.”

Episode 19: The Life (Un)Lived | Juha Kauppinen

Photo: Laura Malmivaara

What drives people to continue on living even in the worst of circumstances? Environmentalist and awarded author Juha Kauppinen has written about nature and environmental movement for two decades. Yet, he is still often asked the same old question: why is it important? In the new Literature from Finland episode, the author discusses the diversity of life, Kurt Vonnegut, and the integrity of action and hope.

“You have to fight yourself, somehow – change rarely comes naturally.”

Episode 18: The Art of Memory | Susanna Hast

Photo: Miikka Pirinen

How can writing help in the process of remembering? With her debut The Body of Evidence, the winner of the Helsingin Sanomat Literature Prize, Susanna Hast, brought autotheoretical literature to the Finnish literary scene, and posed the question: how to write out the truth in order to regain humanity? In the new Literature from Finland episode, the author discusses autotheoretical narration and literature of remembering.

“I’m interested in the possibilities that lie in that wound.”

Episode 17: Times | Ann-Christin Antell

Photo: Marek Sabogal

How does one write entertaining historical fiction? Ann-Christin Antell found a way to the hearts of wide readership with her commercial historical romance, the Cotton Mill trilogy. In the new Literature from Finland episode, the author discusses the exciting history of the city of Turku and reaching her audience with writing about times past.

“I had to think what was women’s position in their historical time and what was possible for them.”

Episode 16: Experiment | Laura Lindstedt & Sinikka Vuola

Photo: Laura Malmivaara

Do authors today still experiment to push boundaries, or simply out of boredom? Throughout their respective careers, writers Laura Lindstedt and Sinikka Vuola have been interested in experimenting with form and language. In 2022, together they published an Oulipo-inspired murder mystery 101 Ways to Kill Your Husband – a piece of sheer joy and fascination for readers, writers and translators. In our new episode, authors discuss literary experiments, possibilities, and… revenge.

“All writing starts with not knowing.”

Episode 15: Shame | Antti Rönkä

Photo: Marek Sabogal

Do Finns, a stereotypically shy nation, feel more shame than others? In the new episode, author Antti Rönkä, whose debut novel Off the Ground (2019) encouraged a public discussion in Finland about the mostly unspoken side of young men, discusses shame as a subject in literature, the lure of autofiction, as well as unexpectedly good sides of shamefulness.

“I think Finnish novels have often denied emotions.”

Episode 14: Youth | Ellen Strömberg

Photo: Jennifer Granqvist

Can YA literature help the youth of today cope with their lives? In the newest episode, author Ellen Strömberg discusses the unbearable lightness of the young adults’ world, understanding and handling one’s own feelings, as well as her newest YA novel, We’ll Just Ride Past.

“I grew up in a small place where I was constantly waiting for someone to drop the key to my ‘real life’ – sometimes, I still feel this way.”

Episode 13: Fiction | Marisha Rasi-Koskinen

Photo: Miikka Pirinen

What is the lure of fiction? Marisha Rasi-Koskinen, the author of the Lynchian masterpiece REC, claims that we all tell many stories, and being unreliable is just being human. In this month’s episode, we discussed the unreliable narrators, the ways of telling a story, and the need of today’s human to fictionalise their own life – and sometimes, death.

“I became interested in the people who accidentally end up in the backgrounds of our pictures – and are also eager to tell their story.”

Episode 12: Angst | Marjo Niemi

Photo: Heini Lehvälaiho

How can anxious characters enrich our lives? Finlandia-nominated author Marjo Niemi doesn’t think angst has to be a gloomy experience. In this month’s Literature from Finland episode, we discussed Niemi’s lauded novel Hearing, trauma narratives, Finnish methods of coping, and art as a way of finding communication in the world of isolation.

“Hope comes in many forms.”

Episode 11: Not Serious Enough | Sanna Pelliccioni & Tomi Kontio

Photos by Loviisa Kangas & Stefan Bremer

Children don’t read as much anymore is a statement as old as the world. But do adults themselves take children’s literature seriously enough? In the newest episode, Finlandia-winning author Tomi Kontio and the awarded author and illustrator Sanna Pelliccioni tell us more about how children read in Finland, what authors they grew up reading and what makes Finnish children’s literature truly exceptional.

“Adults were afraid that the heavy topics would be too scary – but none of the children thought that. ”

Episode 10: Stunt | Harry Salmenniemi

Photo by Mikko Vahaniitty

In the world where the biggest publishing markets release tens of thousands of new titles every year, does the book have to be something more than just a book? Author Harry Salmenniemi is known in Finland for his playful, sometimes experimental and wildly humorous literary decisions. The new Literature from Finland podcast season begins with Salmenniemi discussing literary stunts, explaining the ideas behind his new short story collection Customer Coral, and revealing a surprising author who never fails to make him laugh.

“My work may be a literary gimmick sometimes – but there is also existential pain and awkwardness, a point where things are not so funny anymore. ”

Episode 9: Very Finnish Romance |
Niina Mero

Photo by Marek Sabogal

Are Finns a romantic nation? In this cheerful summer episode, Niina Mero, the author of bestselling romance novel The Death of Romance, defends the case of commercial fiction and discusses everything from stigmas related to the genre to Finnish romance writers, her newest novel and the most romantic books in the history of time.

“Commercial fiction is often seen as fast food of literature – this shouldn’t be the case.”

Episode 8: Future Visions | Piia Leino

Photo by Mikko Rasila

Piia Leino won the EU Prize for Literature in 2019 for her dystopian novel Heaven – and continued to imagine our near future in her following books. But how accurately Finns imagined their future back in the day? In the recent episode, Leino discusses her new novels Overtime and Zenith, differences between the past and future narratives, as well as a heaven-like, yet fragile life in the happiest country in the world.

“Future felt like something that is coming to us – not something we are creating.”

Episode 7: Illusions | J. P. Laitinen

Photo by Jarkko Mikkonen

What does relying on illusions say about humans as a species? Tune in the newest episode where author J. P. Laitinen discussed the connections between his impressive background in covering climate issues and his award-winning novel Fictional, whose main protagonist argues: illusion is everywhere. An inspiring conversation, ranging from the theory of fictional human to the most dangerous illusions in the world, absurd conspiracy theories and literary crushes.

“In a way, I find it relieving that we all have our unique view of the world.”

Episode 6: Atmospheres | Eva Frantz

Photo by Marica Rosengård

How do you write something that is indescribable, that is just a feeling? In the newest episode, Finland’s queen of crime and spooky stories, the spectacular Eva Frantz, discusses everything atmospheric from murders in cozy landscapes and writing scary stories for children to very Finnish atmospheres, inspirations such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the hobby of cocktail mixing.

“I think they really like to experiment with fear and phobias – and a book is a great way to do that.”

Episode 5: Indigenous | Niillas Holmberg

Photo by Marek Sabogal

On February 6th, we celebrate the National Sámi Day. Poet, musician and activist Niillas Holmberg releases his novel Halla Helle – the first one in decades focusing on the Sámi community and written by a Sámi person – and discusses growing up as an indigenous boy in the 1990s’ Finland, the right to voice indigenous people, the effects of climate change to Arctic communities, as well as his current literary crushes.

“We are often treated as children who should be protected from themselves.”

Episode 4: Femme | Anu Kaaja

Photo by Saara Salmi

Is Finland really the utopia of gender equality? One of the most original and acclaimed new voices in Finland, the author of the scandalous and spectacular novel Katie-Kate and a feminist since she was 10, Anu Kaaja, discusses images of feminists, a modern Finnish woman, and reveals her favourite sex scenes in literature.

“Just by looking at porn, we get power structures of our society.”

Episode 3: Voice | Selja Ahava

Photo by Liisa Valonen

Is voice everything nowadays? And what are the particularities of the Finnish literary voice? From authorship and critiques to WWII, to Peter Handke, to writers’ complaints and laziness, to literary crushes, to… sex from a woman’s perspective – one of the most internationally successful Finnish authors, Selja Ahava, discusses her Runeberg Prize nominee The Woman Who Loved Insects and literary voice.

“I feel particularly fed up with the lack of focus on structural decisions in the Finnish literary discussion.”

Episode 2: Myth | Juhani Karila

Photo by Laura Malmivaara

Do myths have a place in our everyday life? In the second episode of Literature from Finland podcast, wise and witty Juhani Karila, the author of last year’s dark horse, novel Fishing for the Little Pike, discusses the cuteness of mythical creatures, the Finnish North and its oddness, as well as his writing – from video games to Dan Brown and Cormac McCarthy.

“We need narratives bigger than ourselves to lean on.”

Episode 1: Literary Murder | J. P. Pulkkinen

Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

In the very first episode of Literature from Finland podcast, we discuss literary murders. Are Finns good at writing an exciting murder? J. P. Pulkkinen, the author of the celebrated Vantaa series, discusses the tortured Finn, writers from Dostoyevsky to Patti Smith, various inspirations from The Wire to inspector Maigret and Henning Mankell, and names the necessary elements for the trendiest Finnish crime novel.

“To me, murder seems to be the ultimate form of social distancing.”