Literary export campaign to highlight books and reading as sources of happiness – Finnish humour and skills are charming the world

‘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.

Contact details:

For more information on the Finnland. Cool & Happy. project:
Tiia Strandén, FILI, ,+358 (0)40 5820 975

Interview requests:
Anniina Nissinen, Mellakka Helsinki, , +358 (0)400 380010

Finnish State Award for Foreign Translators goes to Birgita Bonde Hansen of Denmark

The recipient of the 2018 Finnish State Award for Foreign Translators is Birgita Bonde Hansen, who has translated literature by numerous internationally renowned Finnish authors including Sofi Oksanen, Laura Lindstedt and Antti Tuomainen into Danish. Her output as a literary translator so far encompasses some 40 works of contemporary Finnish literature.

Birgita Bonde Hansen, who was born in 1977 and studied Finnish at the University of Copenhagen, came to translation via dramatic works. Her first translations of novels, by Kari Hotakainen and Sofi Oksanen, were published in 2011. Her career has progressed in tandem with both of these authors, and she now has four translations of works by Hotakainen and four of Oksanen’s novels to her name. She also translates Estonian literature into Danish.

Birgita Bonde Hansen enjoys linguistic challenges in her translation work. She relies on solid language skills and her training in linguistics. She is also skilled at translating works by stylistically challenging authors, such as Katja Kettu and Rosa Liksom. The depth of Birgita Bonde Hansen’s professional skill is evident in her dedication and passion for her work.

Danish has been one of the major destination languages for Finnish literature in translation in recent years. The success of Finnish books in Denmark is due in no small part to Birgita Bonde Hansen’s excellent translations. Earlier this year she was the recipient of the Blixen Award, given by the Danish Translators’ Association.

The Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture has granted the State Award for Foreign Translators since 1975. The prize sum is 15,000 euros, which is sourced from the profits of Veikkaus, the state-owned gaming company. The prize is awarded each year to a distinguished translator of Finnish literature on the recommendation of FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange.

As Sampo Terho, Finland’s Minister for European Affairs, Culture and Sport, who presented the award to Birgita Bonde Hansen, pointed out, the prize is a special mark of honour for the translators who make Finnish literature a part of world literature.

For more information, contact Communications Manager Johanna Sillanpää at FILI: , tel. +358 (0)50 4300 119



Tiia Strandén appointed as new director of FILI

The Board of the Finnish Literature Society has appointed Tiia Strandén to be the director of FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange as of 1 February.
Tiia Strandén has worked at FILI since 2011 and been the acting director since August 2016.


2016 Finnish State Award for Foreign Translators goes to Norwegian translator Turid Farbregd

Sanni Grahn-Laasonen, Finland’s Minister of Education and Culture, has awarded the Finnish State Award for Foreign Translators to Turid Farbregd of Norway.

Turid Farbregd Bild: Dorota Osinska

Turid Farbregd
Photo: Dorota Osinska

Turid Farbregd’s career as a translator of Finnish literature into Norwegian spans several decades, with an increase in pace in the 2010s leading to several books published in her translation in a single year, including titles by Sofi Oksanen, Antti Tuomainen and Pajtim Statovci. Turid Farbregd has brought these contemporary writers’ works to Norwegian readers and demonstrated her versatility as a translator, turning her hand to historical novels, crime fiction and even dramatic scripts.

These books have found a readership and achieved success in Norway. Turid Farbregd’s translation of Katja Kettu’s novel Kätilö (“The Midwife”, Norwegian title Jordmora) received the award for Translated Book of the Year in Norway, while the first print run of Tommi Kinnunen’s Neljäntienristeys (“Where Four Roads Meet”, Norwegian title Der fire veier møtes) sold out immediately. In a review of Farbregd’s translation of a novel by Juha Itkonen, one Norwegian newspaper declared that Finnish literature was in the midst of a golden age.

Turid Farbregd was born in 1941 and has lived in Finland since 1970, when she arrived to take up a position as a Norwegian language lecturer at the University of Helsinki. She has also been involved in lexicographic work, most notably on a Finnish-Norwegian-Finnish dictionary in the mid-1970s and a Finnish-Norwegian dictionary in the early 1990s.

The number of Finnish books translated into Norwegian has remained admirably high this decade, thanks in no small measure to Turid Farbregd. In addition to her own translation work, she has served as a mentor to the next generation of translators: attracting them to the field, introducing them to the profession, sharing important contacts.

Farbregd is currently working on Katja Kettu’s novel Yöperhonen (“Hawk Moth”) and Tommi Kinnunen’s Lopotti (“The Light Behind the Eyes”). Both books will be published in her Norwegian translation next year.

“Translating is megalomania,” said Turid Farbregd of her own work. She expressed her delight at how Finnish literature is starting to make an impact outside Finland. “A crucial part of this is finding and training more translators,” she noted.

The Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture has granted the State Award for Foreign Translators annually since 1975. The prize includes a monetary award of €15,000, and is awarded each year to a distinguished translator of Finnish literature on the recommendation of FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange.

For more information or to request an interview:
FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange
Silja Hakulinen, Communications Manager, tel. +358 40 534 7526

Turid Farbregd:
Photo (c) Dorota Osinska

Janina Orlov receives the Finnish State Award for Foreign Translators

Janina Orlov, Ph.D. (b. 1955) has brought many works of contemporary Finnish literature to Swedish-speaking readers in her widely praised, award-winning translations. She has translated from Finnish into Swedish around thirty works. On 19 November 2015 Finland’s Culture Minister Sanni Grahn-Laasonen presented Janina Orlov with the Finnish State Award for Foreign Translators, a prize worth €15,000.

Some of Janina Orlov’s most recent critically acclaimed Swedish translations include novels by Sofi Oksanen (published by Bonnier), a winner of the Swedish Academy’s Nordic Prize; The Midwife by Katja Kettu (original title: Kätilö, published in Swedish as Barnmorskan by Albert Bonniers Förlag); and Compartment No. 6 and Passing Things by Rosa Liksom (Hytti nro 6 and Väliaikainen, published in Swedish as Kupé nr 6 and Sånt är livet by Wahlström & Widstrand). Dr. Orlov has also translated over a dozen children’s and young adult books for various publishers.

Janina Orlov at Frankfurt Book Fair 2014

Janina Orlov at Frankfurt Book Fair 2014, photo: Katja Maria Nyman (c) FILI

Janina Orlov has praised the quality of contemporary Finnish writing as well as publishers’ increased interest in cooperating across both sides of the Gulf of Bothnia. She hopes to be able to continue to make even more high-quality Finnish books for children and young people accessible to Swedish-speaking readers.

Dr. Orlov is currently working on her translation of Sofi Oksanen’s latest novel, Norma. Besides her translation work, she is a lecturer in children’s literature at the University of Stockholm. She has published many articles on the subject, written a regular column and lectured in a number of countries.

She also plays an active part in promoting the literary translation profession: she has led numerous translators’ seminars and served on various committees. She is currently a member of the Adjudication Committee for the Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize and formerly served on the executive board of the Swedish Writers’ Union from 2008 to 2013 and chaired the Baltic Writers’ Council from 2009 to 2015.

The Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture has given out the State Award for Foreign Translators since 1975. The award includes a cash prize of €15,000 and is given annually to a distinguished translator of Finnish literature as nominated by FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange.

For more information, please contact:
FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange
Communications Manager Silja Hakulinen, puh. +358 40 534 7526

Janina Orlov’s Curriculum Vitae

Publisher Leena Majander-Reenpää appointed as new director of FILI

The Board of the Finnish Literature Society has selected Leena Majander-Reenpää to be the next director of FILI – the Finnish Literature Exchange. She will take up her new post on 1 June 2015.

Leena Majander-Reenpää has had a long career with Finnish publishing houses such as Otava, WSOY and most recently Bonnier Books. She has been involved in creating new structures for the sale of translation rights. She also has extensive knowledge of the international publishing industry and is a member of several publishing-related committees and boards.

The success of the FINNLAND. COOL. project at the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair was a giant step out into the world for Finnish literature. It will be great to continue to build on that work,” Leena Majander-Reenpää commented on her appointment.

FILI’s current director Iris Schwanck will remain in her current role until the end of May.

Finnish State Translator Prize for Angela Plöger

Today at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Minister for Education and Culture Pia Viitanen awarded the Finnish State Translation Prize to Angela Plöger from Germany.

Angela Plöger (born 1942 in Danzig) received her doctorate at Hamburg University in Fennistics and has been translating Finnish literature into German for decades.

Her first translation, Tamara by Eeva Kilpi, was published back in 1974. Following this a total of 40 translations of Finnish novels were published and she also participated as a translation in numerous anthologies.

Her newest translations that are currently being talked about a lot are the novelThe Midwife by Katja Kettu (Finnish: Kätilö), whose sophisticated way of expressing herself and fluent German is being praised by critics, as well as When the Doves Disappeared by Sofi Oksanen (Finnish: Kun kyyhkyset katosivat). She also translated two earlier works by Sofi Oksanen.

Angela Plöger also translated work by Leena Lander from whom seven translations have been published, and also five novels by Eeva-Kaarina Aronen as well as four by Anja Snellman.

Angela Plöger also made a significant contribution to make contemporary Finnish drama well-known in German-speaking countries: she has translated more than ten Finnish plays. She also translated a large number of non-fiction books and scientific literature.

This year the Finnish Ministry for Education and Culture is awarding the Finnish State Translation Prize for the 40th time. The prize that is endowed with 15,000 Euros is awarded annually based on the nomination from the export organisation for Finnish literature FILI (Finnish Literature Exchange) to distinguished translators of Finnish literature. This year as an exception, the award was presented at the International Frankfurt Book Fair at which Finland is the guest of honour.

For more information, please contact:
FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange
Director Iris Schwanck, tel. +358 40 5080 331

FinnlandCool_mg_8781 AngelaPalkinto



Learning Comes from Finland – Finnish expertise in educational materials also featured at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Finland is the Guest of Honour in 2014 at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest event in the book publishing sector. The guest of honour project Finnland. Cool. also presents a Finnish account of the importance of reading, learning and education and their accessibility on an equal basis.

”The greatest assets of the Finns are not in the forests or the mines – though they are needed, too. The Finns’ greatest asset is education, high standards of expertise, the ability to understand what one reads and to gain knowledge.”

It was in these words that Finnish Minister of Culture Paavo Arhinmäki summarized the foundations of Finnish skills and competencies at the Frankfurt Book Fair of 2013. He defined education to be the cornerstone of equality and democracy in Finland: Almost all children and young people participate in publicly funded high-standard basic-level education of a uniform type. Professionally skilled teachers, who are required to complete a broad-based university-level degree of high requirements, are a guarantee of high-standard teaching. According to Minister Arhinmäki, investing resources and effort in education and learning explains why Finland has been successful.

Focus on learning and education

”For the first time in the long history of the Frankfurt Book Fair the national exhibit of the Guest of Honour extends to two exhibition halls and features both general publishing and the publishing of educational materials,” notes Iris Schwanck, director of FILI, which is also the coordinating body of the project.

Finnish skills and competency in education is a success story, the results of which are confirmed by results of surveys carried out world-wide. Finnish teachers are among the best in the world and fluid cooperation in developing schools, from the highest level of government down to the pupils, is a significant asset for educational success in Finland. The Frankfurt 2014 project presents Finnish expertise in education and educational materials to international professionals in learning and education in a focused manner with broad scope. The strategic aim is to increase Finnish exports of educational solutions. The fair pavilion and the graphic aspects of the project were designed by students in association with Aalto University.

The Guest of Honour project is coordinated by the FILI organization for the export of Finnish literature. The Learning Comes from Finland section presenting educational materials is by the educational materials working group of the Finnish Book Publishers Association. Department for Higher Education and Science Policy of the Ministry of Education and Culture has also granted seprate funding for this purpose.

This is the largest cultural export event of its kind held by Finland and its programme will be prepared in association with Finnish publishers, other literature experts and leading ministries and cultural actors. Owing to Finland’s status as Guest of Honour, Finnish literature and solutions in educational matters will be the subject of a great deal of attention at the Book Fair and throughout the year in German and international media.

For more information, please contact:
Iris Schwanck / FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange, Tel. +35840 5080 331,
Teuvo Sankila / Educational Materials Working Group of the Finnish Book Publishers Association Tel. +358 50 3737474,

The value of exports in literature rises significantly in Finland

In the spring of 2013 FILI and the Finnish Book Publishers Association launched a study on the value of literature exports from Finland from 2011 to 2015 to obtain further information and statistics on the development of this sector. FILI and the Finnish Book Publishers Association commissioned Media Clever to gather information from publishers and literary agents for the years 2011 and 2012, with results reflecting overall observations of developments in the field. > Read more