Culture - Wednesday 5.12.2001

Finlandia literature prize goes to Hannu Raittila

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"In my opinion, Canal Grande by Hannu Raittila was the best, and therefore, it gets the prize", said writer Claes Andersson, announcing his choice for this year’s Finlandia Prize for literature in Helsinki on Tuesday. After the announcement, the winner was presented with a bouquet of flowers and a cheque for FIM 150,000 (EUR 25,228).
Before announcing the winner, Andersson pointed out that simply being nominated for the Finlandia prize is an achievement.
"The way that I want to see it is that every book that has been nominated for the prize has been recognised as a book of high quality", Andersson said in his speech.
The other nominees were Espalmador by Sakari Issakainen, Laituri matkalla ("A Pier on the Way") by Daniel Katz, the Swedish-language Marsipansoldaten ("Marzipan Soldier") by Ulla-Lena Lundberg, On rakkautes ääretön ("Your Love is Infinite") by Maria Peura, and Eksyneet ("The Lost Ones") by Asko Sahlberg.
Explaining his decision, Andersson praised Canal Grande as a multi-layered work of literature open to many different kinds of interpretation. The book can be read as an allegory of Western corruption, but also as a hilarious story of a Nokia Finn trying to rescue palaces in Venice.
It does not continue the dark novel tradition which is evident among a number of this year’s Finlandia nominees.
"I read quite a bit of Swedish literature, and there are differences with Finnish literature", Andersson said. "On the other hand, there is more variation in Sweden, from ideological novels to detective stories. Here in Finland, pessimism and the merciless illumination of everyday life are much more common. There is a shortage of light effervescence."

Speaking at the ceremony, Hannu Raittila
himself agreed that it had been a good year for quality literature in Finland.
"It would have been possible to compile two or three different groups of nominees from the books which appeared this autumn. Throughout the 1990s Finnish literature has produced between five and ten books each year which would stand up to comparison with any others."
Raittila then took a critical look at Finland’s academic literary researchers.
"As far as the relationship between literature and its research is concerned, one can say that professional writing in Finland isof a higher standard than professional reading."
Raittila said that he is especially disturbed by the formulaic and abstract view that literary researchers seem to have of the methods that authors use to collect material.
Raittila’s criticism of professional readers goes beyond those in academia: "The combination of the academic tendency for classification and journalistic attempts at wit often result in absolutely ludicrous interpretations."

In Raittila’s view
, one of the most ludicrous ideas of recent times has been that of lumping middle-aged male authors published by WSOY into a single group.
In addition to Raittila himself, this "testosterone club" has been said to include writers such as Jari Tervo, Kari Hotakainen, Matti Mäkelä, and Juha Seppälä, as well as the slightly younger Jari Järvelä and Tuomas Kyrö. The members of this group have been dismissed as misogynists with an overdeveloped sense of machismo.
Raittila says that one critic who has indulged in this kind of classification this autumn is Putte Wilhelmsson, in an article in Extra, the weekend supplement of the Turku newspaper Turun Sanomat.
In the article, Wilhelmsson characterised Raittila as follows: "Work, commerce, and warfare are activities which make interaction between people necessary. The fourth is love, but Raittila usually concentrates on the first three."
Young male authors have been linked up before. Already in 2000, before his retirement, literary critic Pekka Tarkka said that he is worried that "WSOY is more clearly becoming a publisher for boys, and Otava for girls".
In his Finlandia prize acceptance speech, Raittila said that this kind of classification is both stupid, and unfounded. "We are united by a critical image of men and a nearly heroic image of women", Raittila said.

Previously in HS International Edition:
 Anorexia survivor wins Finlandia Junior literature prize (30.11.2001)

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