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Six novelists vie for Finland’s top fiction prize

None of the writers are well-known outside of Finland, nor have apparently published any works in English so far. The winner will be picked by "Finland’s most influential woman".

Tommi Kinnunen (vas), Olli Jalonen, Anni Kytömäki, Heidi Jaatinen, Jussi Valtonen ja Sirpa Kähkönen.
Finlandia nominees from left: Tommi Kinnunen, Olli Jalonen, Anni Kytömäki, Heidi Jaatinen, Jussi Valtonen and Sirpa Kähkönen. Image: Martti Kainulainen / Lehtikuva

Women and men are evenly represented in the nominations for this year's Finlandia prize, the nation’s top literary honour. This year’s six novels are all in Finnish – though there is typically at least one book in Swedish. Until 1993, poetry or short-story collections were also eligible.

Psychologist, teachers and veteran writers

None of the writers are well-known outside of Finland, nor have apparently published any works in English so far.  The most international figure is Jussi Valtonen, who earned an MA in screenwriting in England as well as studying neuropsychology in the US. The 40-year-old psychologist has written a book on depression as well as three novels and a short-story collection – all while playing in two rock bands.  

The best-known authors at home are Sirpa Kähkönen, who began writing for young adults but made her name with her Kuopio series of historical novels, and veteran Olli Jalonen. At 60, he is the most experienced writer of the bunch, having debuted in 1978. He won the Finlandia prize in 1990 for his novel Isäksi ja tyttäreksi (Becoming Father and Daughter), and was also shortlisted in 2008.

The youngest candidate at 34, Anni Kytömäki, is a first-time novelist. So is Tommi Kinnunen, a teacher and playwright from Turku. Rounding out the shortlist is another teacher, Heidi Jaatinen. Her third novel tackles the subject of children being taken into custody – following the similarly serious topics of her previous books: paedophilia and the oversexualization of society.

Top businesswoman picks winner

The half-dozen titles were selected from 114 books by a three-member jury.

Selecting the winner from the shortlist will be Anne Brunila, an economist and business executive whose CV includes senior posts at the European Commission, the Bank of Finland, Fortum, Sanoma, and many other firms. This year she was named as Finland’s most influential woman by the business magazine Talouselämä.

Brunila will name her choice on November 27, just as the holiday sales season kicks into high gear.

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