When it comes to books, Finns seem to appreciate realism and rough-hewn folksy humour. According to a new survey, the all-time favourite Finnish writer is Väinö Linna, author of The Unknown Soldier.
Running a close second is playwright, poet and novelist Aleksis Kivi, often referred to as "Finland's national writer". In third is Mika Waltari, who scored an international bestseller with The Egyptian in 1945.
The Gallup poll of about 1000 Finns was carried out for the Finnish News Agency, STT.
According to Professor of Finnish Literature Pirjo Lyytikäinen, most Finnish readers take fiction at face value as a depiction of historical or present-day reality.
"Väinö Linna is often read as a documentarist," she says. "He seized on the crises in Finnish history and depicted them in a way that brings them close to people." Lyytikäinen predicts that Linna's status may crumble after the wartime generation dies.
Kivi Forms the Bedrock
On the other hand, she believes that Aleksis Kivi's stature is likely to withstand the test of time.
"Finnish literature is based on Kivi," Lyytikäinen says simply. She attributes the Finns' image of themselves as stubborn forest-dwellers is largely Kivi's creation.
She says that Kivi's characters, such as the heroes of The Seven Brothers, have shaped the notion of who the Finns are. Even Linna's work, Lyytikäinen argues, is based on Kivi. So is that of contemporary favourites such as Antti Tuuri and Kari Hotakainen.
Finland's Favourite Authors
1. Väinö Linna (chosen by 18% of respondents)
2. Aleksis Kivi (17%)
3. Mika Waltari (15%)
4. Kalle Päätalo (12%)
5. F. E. Sillanpää (3%)
6. Arto Paasilinna (3%)
7. Laila Hietamies (2%)
8. Kaari Utrio (2%)
9. Minna Canth, Juhani Aho, Eino Leino, Ilmari Kianto, Tove Jansson, J.L. Runeberg and Jari Tervo (1%)
Finnish News Agency