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.
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.”
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.”
“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. ”
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. ”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”