Finland, Very Cool: “A Huge Success” in Frankfurt

In Guest Contributors by Guest Contributor

Sofi Oksanen, one of Finland's star authors, embodied the theme of Finland. Cool.

Sofi Oksanen, one of Finland’s star authors, embodied the theme of “Finland. Cool.” at the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair.

Finland was a surprisingly successful Guest of Honor country at the Frankfurt Book Fair, prompting more than 7,500 news articles and numerous rights deals.

By Pasi Loman, Vikings of Brazil

Juergen Boos, the CEO of the Frankfurt Book Fair, told Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s biggest newspaper, that no other Guest of Honor country had ever received as much media attention as Finland has this year. And the statistics back up his claim. There have been over 7,500 news clippings about Finland and Finnish authors in relation to the Frankfurt Book Fair 2014 (in Germany alone). The previous record was 5,400 by Argentina. And what has particularly impressed Jan Böhler, from the media research company WBCO, is the fact that the almost all of the attention that the Finland program — dubbed Finland. Cool. — has received has been positive.

Finland Cool

All this positive attention has also led to significant increase in the number of foreign translation deals for Finnish authors. There even seems to be a breakthrough to the most difficult of markets, the USA, with a number of Finnish authors signing deals with American publishers. These include Rosa Liksom (Compartment No. 6), Katja Kettu (Midwife) and Jari Järvelä (The Girl and the Bomb), to name just three.

Germany itself saw over one hundred Finnish books translated into German this year. The German readers can now enjoy best-selling Finnish contemporary authors like Riikka Pulkkinen (True), as well as timeless classics with new translations of authors like Mika Waltari (The Egyptian). Finnish literature is also finding success in more distant markets. Days before and during the Franfurt Book Fair many Finnish authors closed deals with various Brazilian publishers. This was the case with Mauri Kunnas, Tove Jansson and Matti Rönkä, for example. And of course there have been new deals in many other countries too.

As a trade visitor to the book fair for the fourth time, what struck me this year was that all the events with Finnish authors were very well attended. In most cases it was hard or impossible to find a seat, especially at the Pavillion, whose design also seemed to get universal praise. And this was with all the invited authors, not just star names like Sofi Oksanen or Rosa Liksom. With pleasure, I also witnessed queues of German readers waiting for autographs from authors of children’s literature, such as Timo Parvela and the Finnish legend Mauri Kunnas. Even the various Finnish parties were lively affairs, despite the Finns not being famous for small talk.

The success of Finland at the Frankfur Book Fair didn’t come as a surprise to all. Anja Saile, a German literary agent, said, “We (German agents, publishers and readers) all knew in advance that you people up there in the north (Scandinavia/Nordic countries) spend your long winters reading and writing, so it’s only natural that you create great authors. So the Germans were ready to receive great stories from Finland, the demand was there already, we just needed more offers.”

Vikings of Brazil, a literary agency that has a strong focus in Finnish and Scandinavian literature, would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank FILI and the FBF for a very well organized Guest of Honor program, which undoubtedly will help promote Finnish literature, not just in Germany but all around the world.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to remind international publishers to take advantage of the many different support programs that FILI offers, such as translation grants, production grants (for illustrated books) and travel grants for authors to visit foreign countries in order to attend book launches, book fairs etc. Here’s hoping that your next best-seller comes from Finland. That would be cool.

Read a profile of Pasi Loman and his literary agency, Vikings of Brazil. 

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