Helsinki Literary Agency Authors Win Finlandia Prize for Both Adult and Children’s Books

In News by Porter Anderson

The literary agency, formed by three publishing houses, this year has captured both the ‘adult’ Finlandia Prize and the junior prize in children’s literature, honoring a Finnish and a Swedish author.

Juha Hurme. Image: Provided by Teos Publishers, Stefan Bremer

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Myth Provides the Answer’

For a fifth time in this decade, authors represented by the Helsinki Literary Agency have won the Finlandia Prize. This year, the top honor has gone to Juha Hurme for his novel Headland (also translated as Peninsula).

The Finlandia is considered the country’s most prestigious honor in literature and is awarded by the Finnish Book Foundation.

In its rationale for the award, the Finlandia Prize jury writes, “Myth provides the answer to the question about our origins and what our future will be. In other words, myth can explain the metaphysical questions about our existence.

“Juha Hurme’s Headland treats the myth of Finland and the Finns with all the knowledge that our culture contains. A scope of this breadth can only be explored with the magnificently dilettante literary style in which Hurme boldly challenges both the legendary Egon Friedell and Zachris Topelius.”

The cultural history, running to 448 pages in its publication by Teos Publishers this year, is said to show off Hurme’s “breakneck style” while “zeroing in on [Finland’s] folklore without leaning on the national epic Kalevala, revealing the headland’s original international flair in the period before the Crusades. For religious fanaticism and mindless boasting [Hurme] has little time; for culture, learning and resourcefulness, a great deal. ”

Helsinki Literary Agency is a joint venture formed by Teos Publishers, Gummerus, and Schildts & Söderströms.

The agency’s list includes four previous Finlandia-winning titles on its list:

  • Red Nose Day by Mikko Rimminen (2010, Teos)
  • Ice by Ulla-Lena Lundberg (2012, Schildts & Söderströms)
  • Our Earthly Life by Riikka Pelo (2013, Teos)
  • Watercolors From a Seaside City by Jukka Viikilä (2016, Gummerus)

Teos managing director Nina Paavolainen reports that Hurme’s book is in its fifth print run and has sold more than 20,000 copies in 10 days.

An image from ‘The Lost Key,’ Sanna Mander’s winner of the Finlandia Junior Prize

‘The Lost Key’

In the Finlandia Junior Prize competition—which goes to a children’s or YA title—Schildts & Söderströms author Sanna Mander, a transplant to Helsinki from her native Stockholm, has won for her illustrated children’s book about life in an apartment building, Nyckel-Knipan (The Lost Key).

In its commentary about the book, the jury calls it “a hilarious journey into an apartment building and the lives of its inhabitants,” adding that “the book also speaks for diversity, without preaching.

“The words and illustrations work together seamlessly both in Finnish and Swedish. The spreads with their delicious visual details give an experience where everything is in the right place.”

Mander, who is both an illustrator and author, studied graphic design in Helsinki and is also a designer of textiles, packaging, posters, and book covers.

Sanna Mander. Image: Julianna Harkki

Mander is well known in commercial graphics, her work having been seen in publications of New York Magazine, Isetan, La Cucina Italia, Condé Nast, Converse, Arla, Rolling Stone Magazine, Fazer, The Wall Street Journal, Hodder & Stoughton, Finnair, Casamica, Volkswagen, and Usborne Publishing.

In 2006, she won the Cannes Young Creatives prize and was awarded Junior of the year in 2007 at the Finnish Best of the Year advertising and design competition.

Inspired by the plants and animals of Finland, Mander’s images are mixed-media works that specialize in a sense of joyous clutter.

An image from ‘The Lost Key,’ Sanna Mander’s winner of the Finlandia Junior Prize

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.