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Finlandia literary prize shortlist unveiled, half of candidates are previous winners

Winners and nominees for the nation's top literary award are virtually guaranteed brisk sales in the run-up to Christmas.

Authors Jukka Viikilä, Matias Riikonen, Marjo Niemi, Rosa Liksom and Joel Elstelä are finalists for the Finlandia literature prize, along with Pirkko Saisio, who did not attend the announcement event. Image: Lehtikuva

Six nominees for the Finlandia Prize for Fiction were announced on Thursday. A three-member jury selected the finalists from around 200 books.

Those shortlisted include first-timers Joel Elstelä, Marjo Niemi and Matias Riikonen, along with previous laureates Rosa Liksom, Pirkko Saisio and Jukka Viikilä.

The best known of these may be Liksom, who won the Finlandia Prize in 2011 for her novel Hytti nro 6 (Compartment No. 6).

A film based on it won the Grand Prix at this year's Cannes Film Festival and is the Finnish entry for Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards.

Her latest book is written in meänkieli, a dialect spoken in the Tornio River Valley on both sides of the Finnish-Swedish border, where Liksom was born. It tells the story of a young girl's escape to Sweden during the destruction of Lapland towards the end of World War II.

No debuts nominated

It is rare for so many previous winners to be nominated. Only two writers, Olli Jalonen and the late Bo Carpelan have won the award twice.

No debut works were nominated this year, nor any novels written in Swedish.

The Finlandia Prize is the nation's most important literary award, with winners and nominees virtually guaranteed brisk sales in the run-up to Christmas. The prize is worth 30,000 euros.

This year the winner will be selected by film director Zaida Bergroth, director of the recent biopic Tove.

Last year, Anni Kytömäki won the Finlandia for her novel Margarita.

Between 1984 and 1992, the prize was awarded to works in any field of literature, but since then has only been given for novels published in Finnish, or occasionally in Swedish.

That same year, the rules were changed so that the final winner is chosen by one judge from a shortlist of 5-6 books nominated by a three-member panel.

The final arbiter is not necessarily known for a connection to literature, with judges including people from other fields of art, business executives and former politicians – even an ex-president's spouse.

The winners of the fiction and other Finlandia awards will be announced on Wednesday 1 December, with the awards ceremony broadcast on Yle TV1 and Areena.