‘Finnland. Cool & Happy.’ is the name of a new initiative designed to boost exports of Finnish literature by asking how our literature helps to make us the happiest nation in the world.
Finnish literature has been gaining a foothold abroad, and a number of global cultural phenomena have originated in Finland. Every year, around 300 to 400 new translations of Finnish books are published around the world.
Some examples of recent export successes include The Little Book of Bad Moods (original title: Pieni pahan mielen kirja), Lotta Sonninen’s parody of feel-good self-help guides, which has been sold into 30 territories, as well as Miska Rantanen’s Päntsdrunk (original title: Kalsarikänni), which has been translated into over 10 languages and has given rise to an international phenomenon, resulting in the equivalent Dutch word drankhangen making it into a dictionary in the Netherlands. Crime novels by Antti Tuomainen, with their combination of ‘Nordic noir’ and black humour, have achieved popularity abroad as well as international award nominations. Translations of novels by Pajtim Statovci have been well received by literary critics in the USA, while Finnish children’s picture books are doing a roaring trade in new markets.
These export successes demonstrate that many things which are familiar and mundane to Finns may seem unusual to others around the world.
“There is a certain exotic quality to Finnish literature, and our quirky sense of humour is a hit abroad. But we also get asked about books that can explain the recipe for success behind Finland’s education system and our welfare state. Finland has an image as something of an eccentric Nordic land of learning,” explained Tiia Strandén, Director of FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange.
Literature in translation opens up new worlds
The Finnland. Cool & Happy. initiative comprises three strands. It aims to showcase the very best of our contemporary literature and demonstrate ways to capitalise on the results and long-term effects of a major cultural export project. It is an extension of the Finnland. Cool. export campaign, which was launched five years ago.
The initiative also aims to emphasise that successful literary exports also require literary imports.
“Having literature available to read in your own language is completely different from trying to decipher the multiple levels of a text when your foreign-language skills aren’t up to it. Literature in translation opens up new worlds to readers, introduces diverse voices and expands our view of the world. And translators play a key role in this,” said Outi Mäkinen, Publishing Director at Tammi, part of Bonnier Books Finland.
The project draws further inspiration from a recent United Nations report that ranked Finland as the happiest country in the world for the second time in a row. The campaign will emphasise the role of literature, reading, literacy skills and education as factors in Finnish happiness. Can we show that our literature is part of the recipe for our well-being?
Frankfurt Book Fair director to visit Finland
The official launch event for the Finnland. Cool & Happy. project will take place at Oodi, Helsinki’s new central public library, on May 17th. Among the participants will be Juergen Boos, Director of the Frankfurt Book Fair, who will chair a panel on literature in translation.
Others present will include author Laura Lindstedt, Outi Mäkinen (Publishing Director at Tammi) and several international publishing industry professionals. The Finnland. Cool & Happy. launch event is open to the public and forms part of the Helsinki Lit festival satellite programme. Find out more about the programme at Oodi here.
The Finnland. Cool & Happy. project is coordinated by FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange and funded by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.