Cool Swedish Titles from Finland
2013/2014 Special Issue

Editorial2013:S Issue

On a per capita basis, there are said to be more works of literature written by Swedish speakers in Finland than anywhere else in the world. This special issue of Swedish Book Review introduces a selection of recently published gems. It is part of FILI (the Finnish Literary Exchange) and the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland's investment in raising the profile of Finland-Swedish literature abroad. Finland will be the Guest of Honour at the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest and most important industry event, and FILI is in charge of coordinating Finland's presence at that event.

Space constraints have obliged us to restrict ourselves to prose fiction, poetry and young adult literature. The selection is intended to give you a taste, and we hope it will spur you on to read even more and develop a life-long addiction to Finland-Swedish literature.


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Bonus Material: Ulla-Lena Lundberg, Ice

By kind permission of Sort of Books, Schildts & Söderströms, the author and the translator, we present a bonus chapter from Ulla-Lena Lundberg's novel Is (Ice), which is reviewed in this issue (see further below). This material is exclusive to the website.
▶ Read Chapter One of Ice

The Finland-Swedish Literary Landscape Today

An Introduction to Cool Swedish Titles from Finland

Tiia Strandén of the FILI (the Finnish Literature Exchange) introduces this special issue of SBR with an overview of the Finland-Swedish Literary Landscape today.


from The Grass is Darker on the Other Side

Translated by Kevin Halliwell

Kaj Korkea-aho (b. 1983) is a writer and stand-up comedian. This, his second novel, is a psychologically convincing portrayal of a group of young people trying to find their place in life. The detailed realism of his well-crafted evocation of everyday life in small-town, Swedish-speaking Finland is spiced with tense thriller aspects and intriguing supernatural elements in a society where old beliefs still linger on.


from One Evening in October I Rowed Out on the Lake

Translated and introduced by David McDuff

The translations below represent a brief selection from the most recent book of poems by the Finland-Swedish poet Tua Forsström, En kväll i oktober rodde jag ut på sjön (One Evening in October I Rowed Out on the Lake). As in her previous collections, the poems are largely devoted to meditations on the texture of human experience, tinged with pathos and dry humour – the fragility and frailty of human relationships, the awareness of death and the dead, the acknowledgement of the world of creatures and animals and a sense of solidarity with it, the conflict and harmony between childhood, memory and present time, and above all the perceived strangeness and intensity of ‘ordinary’ lived encounters, and of the processes of life itself.



from Lola Upside-Down

Translated by Anna Holmwood

On the surface, Monika Fagerholm’s new novel seems to be a classic thriller in a contained setting, as a group of people return to a place where a crime  was committed, seventeen years earlier. But it is also a darkly humorous  evocation of the sluggish and suspicious dynamic of small-town life. As ever, Fagerholm’s innovative language is a focal point. To quote one reviewer of the novel, ‘the language is breathless and choppy, like a teenage girl running away from something in the woods’.


Beyond Moomin Valley: Tove Jansson’s Writing for Adults

2014 marks the centenary of the birth of a much-loved  writer whose breadth of output deserves to be wider known. Tove Jansson is arguably one of Finland’s best known exports and one of the country’s most widely read authors. Despite the fact the majority of her works were originally published in the middle of the twentieth century, they are still hugely popular today, not only amongst Finland’s Finnish and Swedish-speaking populations, but around the world. The works for which she is undoubtedly best known are her books following the adventures of the Moomins, which have to date been translated into 43 different languages, including Faroese, Thai, Georgian and Welsh. There is, however, far more to Tove Jansson than Moomins: she was also an accomplished artist and penned a number of books for adults.


from Chambers of the Heart

Translated and introduced by Benjamin Mier-Cruz

Spanning over 50 years, Claes Andersson’s poetic oeuvre is as versatile and diverse as his career. In 1962 Andersson published his first poetry collection Ventil (Valve), which ushered in a blunt, lyrical expression that sharply departed from the established tradition of Finland-Swedish modernist poetry by harshly yet playfully attacking contemporary Finnish society and its political establishments. In later collections, however, the poet also looked inward and offered intimate, self-critical glimpses into the morbid world of the individual. As a psychiatrist and politician, Andersson thus delivers biting commentary on the human condition, masterfully penetrating the human psyche and the social systems that attempt to govern it. His striking use of irony, dark humor, and dizzying metaphor makes his take on Finnish life emotionally compelling, and being a jazz pianist, he has charged his poetry with a resonating musicality over the course of his career. Together, these  qualities have universalized Andersson’s unique style of expression, which  relates across many cultures and languages.


from Mirage 38

Translated and introduced by Sarah Death

It is 1938, and Hitler’s expansionist policies are causing alarm around Europe, not least among the members of the debating and drinking fraternity known as the Wednesday Club. One of its members, Claes Thune, is losing interest in both his social life and his legal practice in Helsinki. Recently divorced, he feels he is at a crossroads in his life. His outwardly efficient new secretary Matilda Wiik is tormented by memories of the 1918 civil war and terrible things she experienced as a sixteen-year-old girl in an internment camp. If she is to find any stability in her new life, she must suppress the more unruly and unstable side of herself that she calls ‘Milja’. But events are destined to make this a very hard resolution to keep.



from She-Mares (a manner for you)

Translated and introduced by Anna Tebelius

Matilda Södergran is a young, Finland-Swedish poet, born in 1987. She currently lives in Sweden. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English literature and is now pursuing the translation studies programme at the University of Lund. She is also active as a literary critic.

Maror (She-Mares) is her third poetry collection; her first, Hon drar ådrorna ut (She is Drawing Out the Veins) was published in 2008 to great acclaim. In Maror Södergran continues to investigate the female body as myth and metaphor. She examines the perceived constrictions surrounding its functions, its construction as an object to gaze upon and the discomfort that follows as well as its desires.


from Underfors

Translated and introduced by Agnes Broome

For as long as she can remember, Alva has been poised to flee. Though her teenage life in Helsinki seems perfectly, boringly normal, she is constantly pursued by a nameless fear with roots in a childhood of which she can remember nothing. Then Alva is approached by the darkly handsome, leather-clad Nide, who ― as we see in the extract below ― seems able to answer all the questions she’s never known how to ask; he reveals Alva’s true name and birthright and leads her on a journey to Shadowland, a Cimmerian realm deep underneath the city where all the creatures of Nordic folklore have found shelter from the rapaciousness of humankind. As the two descend, however, it soon becomes clear that Nide is not what he claims to be, that Alva’s life is in immediate danger and that the dark and deadly fairytale world trapped under modern Helsinki (known as Helsingfors to Finland-Swedes) is about to be unleashed. Young adult fantasy writer Maria Turtschaninoff (b. 1977) has published three novels to date and counts Philip Pullman, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula Le Guin and C.S. Lewis among her favourite authors.


from Asphalt Angels

Translated and introduced by Nichola Smalley

Johanna Holmström is a Finland-Swedish writer based in Helsinki, Finland.  She has written several prize-winning collections of short stories and two  novels. Asphalt Angels is her second novel, and follows the lives of two sisters, Samira and Leila. Both are navigating the complexities of being young, female and Muslim in Finland, and the extract we reproduce here shows the erratic path that this navigation takes for Samira and her friends. 


from Starved

Translated and introduced by Sarah Death

Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo’s striking main protagonist is a tall, slim woman  with a fringe of jet-black hair falling over her face, red gloves, and black boots  with red heels. She slips like a cat across the rooftops of Finland’s capital, hunting. She has lived for more than two centuries, growing up as tailor’s daughter Jorunn Larsdotter in eighteenth-century Stockholm, where in a time of political turmoil, illicit love blossomed between her and Baron von B. Now, in the Helsinki of the early twenty-first century, she is the last vampire, prowling the streets of the city, driven by her hunger but with only one wish: to die. She has stilled her cravings through the years in Paris, London, Vilnius and Saint Petersburg but always been forced to move on. Only vengeance on the noble von B. family can bring her rest. The translated extracts we present here are pages 34-37 and 56-58 of the novel.


Unicorns and Witches: The Forgotten World of Irmelin Sandman Lilius

Respected and loved across Scandinavia, author and illustrator Irmelin Sandman Lilius (b. 1936) is largely unknown to the current British readership. Sandman debuted as a writer with the poetry collection Trollsång (Troll Song) in 1955 and started writing full-time when she married artist and writer Carl-Gustaf Lilius (1928-1998) and moved to his childhood home in Hanko/Hangö, where she still lives.

BOOKSHELF: REVIEWS, edited by Anna Paterson

En kväll i oktober rodde jag ut på sjönTua Forsström, En kväll i oktober rodde jag ut på sjön (One Evening in October, I Rowed Out on the Lake)

Schildts & Söderströms, 2012.

Reviewed by Murrell Martin and Anna-Lisa ▸Read Review

Hägring 38Kjell Westö, Hägring 38 (Mirage 38)

Schildts & Söderströms, 2013.

Reviewed by Tom Ellett ▸Read Review

IsUlla-Lena Lundberg, Is (Ice)

Schildts & Söderströms, 2012.

Reviewed by Sarah Death ▸Read Review

SamlarenRobert Åsbacka, Samlaren (The Collector)

Schildts & Söderströms, 2012.

Reviewed by Željka Černok ▸Read Review

Lola uppochnerMonika Fagerholm, Lola uppochner (Lola Upside-Down)

Schildts & Söderströms, 2012.

Reviewed by Darcy Hurford ▸Read Review

Gräset är mörkare på andra sidanKaj Korkea-Aho, Gräset är mörkare på andra sidan (The Grass is Darker on the Other Side)

Schildts & Söderströms, 2012.

Reviewed by Anna Paterson ▸Read Review

Till dig som saknasPeter Sandström, Till dig som saknas (To You Who are Missed)

Schildts & Söderströms, 2012.

Reviewed by Irene Scobbie ▸Read Review

SvultenHannele Mikaela Taivassalo, Svulten (Starved)

Schildts & Söderströms, 2013.

Reviewed by Eric Dickens ▸Read Review

AsfaltsänglarJohanna Holmström, Asfaltsänglar (Asphalt Angels)

Schildts & Söderströms, 2013.

Reviewed by B.J. Epstein ▸Read Review

Seglats i septemberJohan Bargum, Seglats i september (September Sail)

Atlantis/Söderströms, 2011.

Reviewed by Charles Harrison-Wallace ▸Read Review

Jag har letat efter digSara Razai, Jag har letat efter dig (I've Searched For You)

Schildts & Söderströms, 2012.

Reviewed by Nichola Smalley ▸Read Review

Anaché. Myter från AkkadeMaria Turtschaninoff, Anaché. Myter från Akkade (Anaché. Myths of Akkade)

Schildts & Söderströms, 2012.

Reviewed by Agnes Broome ▸Read Review

De hemlösas stadAnnika Luther, De hemlösas stad (City of the Homeless)

Schildts & Söderströms, 2011.

Reviewed by Anna Holmwood ▸Read Review

Mammuten eller Jörn Donners efterlämnade handlingar. Om illamåendets historia i Finland. Första delenJörn Donner, Mammuten eller Jörn Donners efterlämnade handlingar. Om illamåendets historia i Finland. Första delen (The Mammoth or Jörn Donner's Posthumous Papers. On the History of Nausea in Finland. Part One)

Schildts & Söderströms, 2013.

Reviewed by Anna Paterson ▸Read Review

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