Second Finlandia Prize for author Jukka Viikilä

Jukka Viikilä has become one of the rare two-time winners of the prestigious prize for fiction.

Jukka Viikilä wrote his award-winning novel while recovering from heart surgery. Image: Benjamin Suomela / Yle

Jukka Viikilä was awarded the Finlandia Prize for fiction late on Wednesay for his novel Taivaallinen vastaanotto (Heavenly Reception), published by the Otava Publishing Company.

This year's winner was selected from a shortlist of finalists by film director Zaida Bergroth, director of the recent biopic Tove.

Viikilä is now one of only three authors to have won the prize twice, having received the award, worth 30,000 euros, for his novel Akvarelleja Engelin kaupungissa (Watercolours from the City of Engel) in 2016. Other authors who have been awarded the Finlandia Prize for two works are Olli Jalonen (in 2018 and 1990) and the late Bo Carpelan (in 2005 and 1993).

Taivaallinen vastaanotto is an experimental novel that draws the reader into a fragmented tale of a fictional writer, Jan Holmi, the creation of his work and its audience reception. The main fictional character also undergoes heart surgery, as Jukka Viikilä did just before writing the novel.

"This work is unique because of the precision of its language, its originality and relevance. Its fragmentary, experimental structure is surprisingly natural, and after reading it, one feels light but nourished," said Zaida Bergroth, who selected this year's winner.

Jukka Viikilä said Wednesday that this award feels more meaningful and personal than his first win.

"I would not have thought that such a structurally experimental novel would win. In addition, the writing process was an important part of my recovery after heart surgery," Jukka Viikilä told Yle by phone just before the award ceremony.

Viikilä himself says that Taivaallinen vastaanotto is about the invisible and imagination.

"This is a fantasy. The story is based on imagination and hearsay."