Finnish literature is one medium to understand the unique landscape of Finnish mentality. Novels are a window to one’s mind. Even though you did not understand the original language, you can experience the culture since there are several novels translated to English.
We listed our favorite pieces that are available to foreign audiences. Dive deeper into the Finnish culture and devour these masterpieces.
Mika Waltari – The Egyptian
Mika Waltari (19 September 1908 – 26 August 1979) is one of the best known and most productive Finnish writers. His production is not limited only to novels – he wrote poetry, short stories, criminal novels, plays, essays, travel stories, film scripts and rhymed texts for comic strips.
Waltari’s bestseller, The Egyptian, is a multidimensional historical story about a fictional character Sinuhe. The events take place in ancient Egypt, during the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten of the 18th Dynasty. The novel was published in Finnish 1945 and few years later translated in English. The story is now available in 40 different languages. It is also the only Finnish novel transformed to a Hollywood movie.
Sofi Oksanen – Purge
Sofi Oksanen (7 January 1977 -) is an award-winning writer. She has written five novels and received several international and domestic literature awards from her work.
The Purge is her most known piece. The story handles the happenings during the time of the Soviet occupation of Estonia. The Purge has two strong female characters, old lady Aliide living in the countryside of Estonia, and young woman Zara, who is a victim of sex trafficking.
In fact, the novel is originally based on Oksanen’s play. The Purge is the first play that she wrote. It developed a great success internationally: it is produced now in total in 11 countries. The story came alive also on screen, and the film was a Finnish entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards. Also, an opera composed by Jüri Reinvere is based on the story, and the piece premiered at Finnish National Opera in 2012. The Purge has won several awards, which is not a surprise. The story is gripping.
Väinö Linna – The Unknown Soldier
Väinö Linna (20 December 1920 – 21 April 1992) is known for his classic pieces that describe Finnish history. His work is part of Finnish national identity. The Unknown Soldier tells a story from Continuation War with vivid characters.
Ask any Finn and she/he has read The Unknown Soldier at school. The novel is inseparable from the society and every Independence Day the movie based on the story is played on TV. The Unknown Soldier is put on the stage as well.
Arto Paasilinna: The Year of the Hare
Arto Paasilinna (20 April 1942 -) is the man of humor. He knows how to use the language and storytelling to create an entertaining piece.
The Year of a Hare is a story about a man who quits his job and leaves the old life behind. He starts a road trip in the wilderness with a tiny hare cub he found. The novel is translated to 20 languages. You can also enjoy the story on the screen.
Tove Jansson: Tales from Moominvalley
Tove Jansson (9 August 1914 – 27 June 2001) is the mother of beloved Moomins. Her work is not limited only to Moominvalley: she was a novelist, painter, illustrator, and comic strip author.
Her most loved story series is about Moomins, hippo-like creatures living peacefully in a valley. Moomin books are translated to 43 languages and the stories enjoy great international success. Moomins adventures are not limited only to novels: the story and characters live in comics, TV-show, movie, and fan products, among others.
Check these links for further suggestions:
Are you interested to learn more about Finland? Find out the top 5 things in which Finland ranks the best. Or are you a foodie? Check out some weird-looking Finnish foods! Are you planning a visit to Finland? Then you should read our bucket list for Finland!