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Finlandia Prizes: Stories of humanity and ecology

The Finlandia Prizes for children's literature, fiction and non-fiction for 2017 have been awarded.

Kaunokirjallisuuden Finlandia-palkintoehdokaskirjat.
The shortlist of six novels that contended for the fiction category of the Finlandia Prize. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

The three Finlandia Prize winners for 2017 have been announced. This year the awards went to Juha Hurme (fiction category), Riitta Kylänpää (non-fiction) and Sanna Mander (children's literature).

The Finlandia Prize is the top literary honour in the country. The prize for each category is worth 30,000 euros. The fiction award was ultimately chosen by long-time politician Elisabeth Rehn, the non-fiction award by author and Yle reporter Matti Rönkä and the children's book prize was selected by singer-songwriter Anna Puu.

Ancient history

Hurme's novel Niemi  ('Peninsula') won out over five other books that were all described as "unusually challenging" by the organisers of the annual prize. The award-winning story is a fantastical retelling of Finland's past – starting 14 billion years ago.

Kaunokirjallisuuden Finlandia-palkinnon voittaja Juha Hurme Helsingissä keskiviikkona 29. marraskuuta.
Juha Hurme, Finlandia fiction prize winner. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

Hurme says he does not believe there is such a thing as a pure Finnish culture or nation.

"The boundaries between countries just don't matter when the scale is large enough," the winner says. "Some little hundred-year-old state is small potatoes in this historical flow. We have to be able to take responsibility for the whole planet and think about the bigger picture."

Hurme lives in Tampere and is a theater director as well as an author.

Controversial ecologist

The non-fiction book that was chosen for Finland's highest literary award this year is an autobiography of 84-year-old Pentti Linkola, one of the most controversial modern Finnish thinkers who is described as a radical polemicist and deep ecologist.

Riitta Kylänpää
Pentti Linkola (left) is the subject of the award-winning book by Riitta Kylänpää (right). Image: Ari Heino / Siltala

Among Linkola's views is the stance that human population growth should be curbed in the name of environmentalism, and the idea that democracy is an agent of wastefulness and a "religion of death".

The book, Pentti Linkola – Ihminen ja legenda ('Human and legend'), started out as a book on Finnish forests and ecology, for which Linkola would have been a star interviewee. The forest book soon turned into a full-on biography of the man himself, who has spent his entire life speaking on behalf of Finnish nature and buying up forests for preservation.

"He shared so much information, from fish species descriptions to philosophy," says the non-fiction prize winner Riitta Kylänpää. "It was a challenge to formulate all that into a coherent biography."

Societal allegory

The children's fiction category winner is a simple story that takes place in a single apartment building. Avain hukassa ('Lost key') is literally about the quest for a lost key which features a number of colourful characters.

Lasten- ja nuortenkirjallisuuden Finlandia-palkinnon voitti kuvittaja ja graafinen suunnittelija Sanna Mander kirjallaan Avain hukassa.
Sanna Mander, illustrator and author. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

The story is in poem form and is both written and illustrated by Sanna Mander, who is known for her graphic design work for giant firms such as Finnair and Volkswagen. The book turns out to be something of an allegory for social diversity, the Finlandia award board wrote.

Claims of plagiarism have also surfaced surrounding Avain hukassa, but have not been corroborated.

Singer Anna Puu says she read the book aloud to her own child before picking it as her favourite.

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