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Newcomer Pelo wins Finlandia Prize

The nation's top literary award, the Finlandia Prize, has gone to Riikka Pelo for her second novel Jokapäiväinen elämämme (Our Daily Life). All the other five finalists were veteran authors, including several previous winners of the prize.

Riikka Pelo.
Riikka Pelo won this year's Finlandia prize. Image: Yle

The prize is worth 30,000 euros -- and traditionally guarantees strong sales in the crucial Christmas period.

Born in Helsinki in 1972, Riikka Pelo debuted in 2006 with Taivaankantaja (which roughly translates as Carrier of Heaven). It will be published in English in 2014. In addition to her work as a novelist, Pelo also studies film and has written several screenplays.

Her winning novel is a fictionalised account of the life of Russian poet Marina Tsvetajeva, who died during the Second World War. It focuses on her efforts to remain in contact with her daughter during a series of crises -- echoing the themes of Sofi Oksanen's award-winning novels set in Soviet-occupied Estonia.

Righting a historical wrong

Picking this year's winner from a shortlist of six was the director of the Helsinki City Theatre, Asko Sarkola.

The other finalists were Leena Krohn's Hotel Sapiens, Kjell Westö's Kangastus 38,  Hannu Raittila's Terminaali, J-P Koskinen's Ystäväni Rasputin and Asko Sahlberg's Herodes.

Westö's work, which highlighted anti-Semitism in the 1930s, was praised by Sarkola for bringing attention to a decades-old injustice that was finally corrected this year. In 1938 Jewish runner Abraham Tokazier had been denied a victory despite crossing the line first at the opening athletics meet at Helsinki's brand-new Olympic Stadium.

The Sports Federation finally corrected that earlier this year after an outcry prompted by Westö's novel.

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