I’m heading off to Helsinki Book Fair tomorrow (a post covering it will come on Sunday), and I thought I’d make a (very) short list of famous Finnish authors for all of you who might not know any (for those familiar with Finnish literature, these names probably aren’t new). I picked authors whose works have also been published in English.
Sofi Oksanen has won several Finnish and international literature awards. Her books are mostly autofiction, historical novels that deal with subjects such as eating and panic disorders, violence women encounter, and life in Estonia during and after World War II.
Her latest book, When the Doves Disappeared (“Kun kyyhkyset katosivat” in Finnish), was released in 2012, and it was that month’s most sold book in Finland, even though it was released on the last day of the month. The book is the third in a series, which so far includes Stalin’s Cows (“Stalinin lehmät“, 2003) and Purge (“Puhdistus“, 2008).
Mauri Kunnas is a children’s author and a cartoonist. He has written several children’s books, which he has illustrated himself, most notably a series called Dog Hill (“Koiramäki“). The series is set in historical Finland and its characters are anthropomorphic animals, the main characters being a family of dogs.
He has also made his own versions of some Finnish classics, including the Finnish epic Kalevala, and during 1975-1986 he did a comic called Nyrok City, which parodied 1970s-1980s rock and roll culture.
Mika Waltari wrote pretty much anything: novels, poems, screenplays, fairy tales, reviews, radio dramas… His most famous work is the historical novel The Egyptian (“Sinuhe egyptiläinen“). He also wrote romance novels and detective novels, including the popular series Inspector Palmu (“Komisario Palmu“) which has also been made into movies.
Waltari was part of the Flame Bearers (Tulenkantajat) literature group in Finland during the 1920s. They wanted to bring Finland’s bookculture to the modern European level of literature, and their motto was Windows open to Europe. The group disbanded during the early 1930s.
Hannu Rajaniemi is a science fiction and fantasy author, with a background of studying mathematics and physics. His debut novel, The Quantum Thief (“Kvanttivaras“), was written and published first in English, followed by a Finnish translation the next year.
The Quantum Thief is the first novel of the Jean le Flambeur trilogy. The second novel, published in 2012, is The Fractal Prince (“Fraktaaliruhtinas“), and the third and final novel, published in 2014, is The Causal Angel (“Kausaalienkeli“).
Tove Jansson was a novelist, comic strip author, painter and illustrator. Her best known works are the Moomin (“Muumi” in Finnish, “Mumin” in Swedish) books and comic strips. There is also a TV series called Moomin (“Muumilaakson tarinoita” / “I Mumindalen“), which is based on the Moomin stories.
While the Moomin are considered children’s books (mainly because of the popular series), the original comic strips and books also include adult themes, such as depression and alcoholism, although in the end things tend to turn out okay.
Hopefully you found some of these authors interesting and will check out their work! Unfortunately there are many authors who are very famous in Finland, but whose books haven’t been translated into English, and thus couldn’t make this list. This list also isn’t very comprehensive (obviously Finland has way more authors than five), so maybe I’ll make a “part 2” later.