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Tale of an Oven Wins Top Literary Prize

Antti Hyry has won the nation's top literary award, the Finlandia Prize, for his novel Uuni, or “Oven”. The unhurried 400-page novel follows the construction of a brick oven.

Kirjailija Antti Hyry.
Image: YLE

The final judge in the competition, Tuula Arkio, said at Wednesday’s award presentation that the novel leaves the reader with a good feeling, and faith that everyone can influence his or her life with the right value choices.

Hyry, 78, published his debut collection of short stories in 1958. Since then he has published 10 novels as well many short stories and radio plays.

A native of Northern Ostrobothnia, he was educated as an engineer. Asked by a YLE radio reporter how he intended to spend the 30,000 euros in prize money, he replied laconically: "Sausages and power tools."

His books have been translated into Estonian, German and Swedish. Hyry has won many other national awards, most recently the Eino Leino Prize in 2005.

Arkio says that the unhurried narrative draws the reader in a nearly hypnotic manner, and the construction of an oven begins to serve as a metaphor for the construction of a person’s life.

Arkio also pondered the significance of prizes in the arts and their use in marketing. She said that although culture is an absolute value alongside other basic human needs, she does not feel that it is a bad thing for the Finlandia Prize to be used for sales promotion, because it gets people to read literature. However, she warns against allowing art to become a single-use consumer product whose value is measured exclusively in terms of money and sales figures.

The 30,000-euro Finlandia Prize is awarded by the Finnish Book Foundation, a joint effort of the Finnish Book Publishers Association and the Ministry of Education.

The winner of the award usually becomes a bestseller in the run-up to Christmas, a season which accounts for as much as one quarter of the book trade's annual business.

Arkio, who chose this year's winner from a shortlist of five finalists, is a former director of the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art and senior director of the Finnish National Gallery.

The other four finalists were authors Turkka Hautala, Kari Hotakainen, Marko Kilvi, Merete Mazzarella and Tommi Melender.

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