Welcome to this special issue of Swedish Book Review, devoted to the rich literary landscapes of Finland-Swedish writing. A whole decade on from our last Finland-Swedish supplement, we hope that this bumper crop of works offers a glimpse into the breadth and depth of Swedish-language publishing from Finland.
Of course, one special issue can only scratch the surface of ten years of literary innovation, and in bringing this issue together we have had to make some difficult decisions. These decisions have largely been guided by a desire to include a balance of genres, styles, geographies and experiences, and, crucially, to give space to authors whose works have been featured less in SBR in recent years.
Ranging from gentle humour and wry social commentary to multigenerational epics and gripping psychological realism, the prose translations presented in this issue all offer something unique. These include excerpts from recent texts by emerging talents Quynh Tran, Hannah Lutz and Matilda Gyllenberg, prize-winning novels from established writers Peter Sandström, Matilda Södergran and Robert Åsbacka, and modern classics from Maria Turtschaninoff and Ann-Luise Bertell.
Poetry, one of Finland-Swedish literature’s most cherished legacies, is also in fine fettle, as attested by the translations of Emma Ahlgren and Ulrika Nielsen featured here. We also celebrate 130 years (and counting) of Finland-Swedish poetry, with a fascinating interview with Maïmouna Jagne-Soreau, Martina Moliis-Mellberg and Martin Welander, editors of a unique new anthology.
These days it is almost impossible to speak of Finland-Swedish literature without giving a nod to its flourishing literature for children and young adults, full of bold imagery and playful, uncompromising themes. We are delighted to present translated excerpts from two breakthrough works, by Sofia and Amanda Chanfreau, and Ellen Strömberg. To get to the heart of recent trends in children’s literature – and the importance of criticism in developing a thriving literary ecosystem – we also speak to esteemed critics and researchers Maria Lassén-Seger and Mia Österlund.
As usual, we are thrilled to present a diverse set of reviews of dazzling fiction, thought-provoking non-fiction, stunning graphic novels and playful children’s fiction, including works by Kjell Westö, Ulla Donner, Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo and Malin Klingenberg.
Though our intention with this issue is to raise voices that you might not have read in SBR before, that is no reason not to celebrate the voices that have already graced our pages. With this in mind, and for a limited time, we have also opened up our archive to bring you some of the Finland-Swedish highlights that SBR has covered over the past decade. Our 2013 Special Issue, Cool Swedish Titles from Finland, is also free to read, giving you the chance to well and truly immerse yourself in these works.
This issue would not have been possible without the support of Svenska Kulturfonden, the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland, to whom we express our heartfelt gratitude. We are also very fortunate to have received a grant from FILI, the Finnish Literature Exchange, which has allowed us to include a broader range of texts than would otherwise have been possible. Finally, we are immensely grateful to the contributors to this issue, whose knowledge, passion and engagement shine through on every page.
We hope that you enjoy reading this special issue, and that it spurs you on to discover more.
Composed of short poetic fragments, Emma Ahlgren's precise, multifaceted and at times dark second collection of poetry explores a young woman’s life, and the many roles and states that she comes – or is made – to inhabit.
Translated by Nichola Smalley.
The conditions that inspired Finnish emigrants to search for a better life, predominantly from agricultural Ostrobothnia, find clear-eyed, non-sentimental expression in Ann-Luise Bertell’s Turn My Heart Towards Home.
Translated by Kathy Saranpa.
Coloured by magical realism, Giraffe Island is a tale of longing to be part of a family, to find one’s place in the world, and to be loved as one is.
Translated by Julia Marshall.
Psychological realism meets sinister suspense in Matilda Gyllenberg's eerie debut, which explores parenthood, isolation and responsibility, and our conflicting needs for freedom and security.
Translated by Sarah Death.
Hannah Lutz's second novel is an uncompromising, full-bodied portrait of a complex woman who has reclaimed her life after living with death.
Translated by Andy Turner.
A poem-essay looking at the things that surround us, how they shape us and how we relate to them, Ulrika Nielsen’s The Things is thought-provoking, amusing and moving by turns.
Translated by Darcy Hurford.
Written in a beautiful prose with a comic melancholy, Peter Sandström's Autumn Apples is the portrait of a middle-aged man reflecting on his past and trying to make sense of the present.
Translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner.
Ellen Strömberg captures just what it feels like to be a teenager struggling with the demands of close friendship, an irritatingly cool big sister, and heartache.
Translated by Fiona Graham.
In her first work of prose, poet Matilda Södergran turns her finely honed lyricism to themes of loneliness and loss, writing with astute psychological depth and striking, at times dreamlike, imagery.
Translated by Bradley Harmon.
Revolving around a Vietnamese family of three navigating small-town life in Finland of the 90s, Quynh Tran's poignant and suggestive debut plays out through a series of oblique yet intimately detailed tableaux.
Translated by Kira Josefsson.
Maria Turtschaninoff’s first work of literary fiction for adults, Inherited Land is an enchanting novel that depicts human relationships with nature across the generations.
Translated by Annie Prime.
Robert Åsbacka uses gentle humour to satirise elements of contemporary society and the increasing commercialisation of all aspects of life, even under a Social Democratic government.
Translated by Ruth Urbom.
2021 saw the publication of an anthology of Finland-Swedish poetry covering 130 years. Swedish Book Review interviewed its editors to talk about their selection, as well as more broadly about poetry and publishing in Swedish in Finland.
Researchers and critics Maria Lassén-Seger and Mia Österlund speak to Swedish Book Review about Finland-Swedish children’s literature and the art of literary criticism
We open up our archives to highlight some recent works by Finland-Swedish writers featured in SBR.
curated and edited by Darcy Hurford
In Mia Franck's Gallantry, four young friends find a novel way around some of the restrictions faced by women in Helsinki in 1912.
A classic dystopia, The Land of Sleep is simultaneously a pandemic and a postbellum novel, where human life nosedives amidst a potent mix of societal collapse and rampant infectious disease. For sex worker Nolan, there appears to be no possible change on the horizon — until he meets the political wunderkind Lum and is thrown right into the eye of the storm.
Set in quiet Ostrobothnia, Nilla Kjellsdotter’s The Girl in the Stone Park proves that horror – including the worst kind imaginable – can lurk anywhere.
Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo's short, fragmented gem of a novel in which a woman ponders her impossible relationship with a married man, trying to figure out what to do with a love that is not supposed to exist. In a lovely poetic prose that glimmers with dark humour she tries to write her way back to inner strength and her own true self.
Dusk 41, number nine in Kjell Westö’s group of novels reflecting twentieth-century Finnish history, follows a handful of people ‘like you and me’ who lead their lives as best they can while their country is at war and, after a brief, anxious peace, is drawn into an even bigger war.
In Ulla Donner’s The Natural Comedy a lost leaf, a jilted mushroom and a senile forest deity come together for an unusual road trip through a destroyed forest in a visually stunning, multi-layered tale of environmental destruction that references Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Books for children
A Giraffe’s Heart is Unbelievably Large is a gorgeous, moving middle-grade adventure about acceptance and belonging.
The Skeleton is a picture book about a boy who breaks his arm and learns to conquer his fear of his skeleton.
In Annika Sandelin’s My Flying Grandma, Joel’s parents are off on a trip and have left him behind with a grandma he scarcely knows and has no desire to get to know either. She’s not a good cook, an engaged grandparent, a friend to anyone or a particularly interesting person. Or is she?
Have you ever thought that some important events in world history might have been influenced by circumstances other than just plain politics? Well, in his book The Weather that Changed the World, Marcus Rosenlund comes up with another reason – the weather!
Generously supported by Svenska Kulturfonden and Finnish Literature Exchange (FILI).