Should there ever be a heaven for book lovers, it might be a book fair of sorts. One gigantic hall with dozens upon dozens of stands displaying beautiful books, books that you have never heard of, and books that you’ve been looking for a long while. Add into the mix authors talking about writing and their books; publishers talking about their work; translators talking about language and the feeling that what you are about to do seems impossible – and then overcoming it.
I was granted a blogger’s pass to this year’s Helsinki Book Fair and I am truly grateful for the opportunity. This encouraged me to attend the event on two days, Friday and Saturday, and enjoy the general love for reading that oozed in the air. As I arrived to the event hall and walked towards the first stand of books, it was almost like falling into a trance. I “woke up” four hours later only to realise that I hadn’t eaten anything in the last six hours and that my feet and shoulders were killing me. But I felt happy. Not only because I’d bought a few books, but because I felt that I was among people who read and who understood what it was to look, feel and smell books.
To be fair, I did end up spending a lot more time in the second-hand book stands than among the new releases, but I guess it has something to do with my limited budget as well as the joy of discovery that comes when looking through a miscellaneous pile of books. I didn’t find Tove Jansson’s biography by Boel Werstin, but instead I stumbled upon Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces which I blew my mind the first time I read it in 2012. In terms of discussion panels, I listened to a few very enlightening and inspiring talks on literary translation as well as a very heartwarming talk on Tove Jansson where her niece was one of the panelists. In addition, I learnt a lot about another Finnish-Swedish poet, Edith Södergran, whom I now want to read more. One of my regrets is that I could have picked up a beautiful paperback collection of her poetry had I not completely forgotten to come back to it before leaving the event hall. Hopefully my local bookshops will have a copy 🙂
But now, let’s look at the books that I bought from the Helsinki Book Fair.
I already mentioned Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which is a non-fiction book about the hero myth that keeps repeating itself in storytelling. Rest of the books are in Finnish and by Finnish authors: Lapsus by JP Ahonen is a graphic novel about a group of students who are on the brink of graduating from university. It is the fourth part in the Villimpi Pohjola series, which follows the characters through their university studies. I’ve read the some of the comic strips published in the newspapers and am planning on collecting the published ones. Moreover, you just can’t go wrong with a cover reference to Nirvana’s Nevermind. Moby Doll by Saara Henriksson is a modern re-telling of Moby-Dick where a young woman and her somewhat on-off boyfriend travel to Norway to find a whale. Having read Melville’s Moby-Dick this summer, I’m very much looking forward to this one. Lastly I got Kreisland by Rosa Liksom. It is her first novel and was originally published in 1996. I’ve read some of Liksom’s later columns, but other than that I have no clue on what to expect from this book. Surprises perhaps?
And that was it. My second time at the Helsinki Book Fair was just as enjoyable – if not even more so – than the first one, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next year. However, now it’s time to get back to reality and studying. Cheers!