Helsinki Book Fair 2015: book talks, queens & zen

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The Helsinki Book Fair took place from Thursday the 22nd to Sunday the 25th of October, and I attended the event on Saturday and quickly on Sunday. The HBF is an annual book fair held in the Messukeskus Convention Centre that brings together readers, authors, booksellers and publishers. This year over 80,000 visitors gathered at the Convention Centre to celebrate books. Aside from promoting Finnish literature and reading in general, each year also features a guest of honour country. This year the guest of honour was Russia, which meant that a number of Russian authors – and their translators – held talks or took part in panel discussions at the event. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to catch up with any of these, so I cannot give you an up-to-date report on the contemporary Russian literature scene. I clearly need to up my blogging game. This was my third time attending the book fair, to which I was kindly sent a blogger’s pass by the fair organizers.

This year my calendar was too full to spend the entire book fair weekend in Helsinki, which meant I only got to experience the hustle and bustle of the Convention Centre for one and a half days. Still, it is wonderful how the time spent walking from stall to stall, chatting with friends and catching up with people you haven’t seen in a while can be so uplifting and fulfilling. Time flew by as I focused on taking in and participating in the book fair experience. I listened with rapt attention as one of my favourite Finnish authors recalled the books she enjoyed as a child; I leapt for joy when I found the Finnish edition of The Rabbit Back Literature Society underneath a big pile of second-hand books; and I admired together with my friend the details of the cover poster of the new illustrated Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

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Literally #book.

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Although I sometimes feel that I know more about what’s going on in the literary scene outside of Finland than within, it was hard not to spot the two “queens of literature” of this year’s Helsinki Book Fair: Katja Kettu and Sofi Oksanen. Katja Kettu is a contemporary Finnish female author whose books have captured the hearts of the public and projected their darkest secrets into the pages of her novels. Her bestseller Kätilö (eng. The Midwife) was recently made into a film and the rights for English translation have been sold to AmazonCrossing – expected publication date sometime in early 2016. Her latest novel came out weeks before the book fair and the reviews have all been extremely positive. Kettu is definitely high on my author TBR!

Sofi Oksanen, of Purge and When the Doves Disappeared fame, is already a household name in Finland and her latest novel, Norma, was possibly the most anticipated release of this year. Norma centres around the eponymous Norma Ross, a young woman with luscious and constantly growing hair that holds magical powers. The novel is said to intertwine reality with magical realism, crime, and sexual politics. From what I’ve heard of this novel, it sounds wonderful and I can’t wait to read it!

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Although events such as the Helsinki Book Fair focus mainly on promoting new books, my favourite parts of the fair are the second-hand book shops and the panel discussions. I adore going through piles and shelves filled with old books, looking for new titles that I haven’t yet read or titles that I’ve read through library and would like to get my own copy. I guess it’s the joy of discovery that makes second-hand book shopping so addicting; you never know what you’ll find. This year three of my four purchases were second-hand.

Aside from books and reading, I think it’s also fun to listen in on discussions. I sat in on a few panel discussions, ranging from the multitude of Finnish idioms to investigative journalism, but my favourite of this year’s HBF was the panel discussion on e-reading and ebooks. The  panel consisted of both online innovators, literary critics and editors plus the presenter of Fabula, a new ebook service that launched in Finland this autumn. In short, Fabula is the Finnish version of Oyster and the concept is already in use in Estonia and Latvia. The panel questions were constructed around the topic of reading versus online media, and all of the panelists had their own insights to give. The main question of the panel discussion, i.e. Will the subscription model help to boost the industry and lure in new readers?, was left unanswered, but the panelist all presented valid arguments and shared their ideas of ebooks. There were so many interesting points to this discussion, that I’ll probably write a separate post about it!

All in all, I had a wonderful time at the Helsinki Book Fair. In the midst of the craziness that is Master’s, the weekend served as the best type of relaxation. I’m holding fast to my opinion from last yearShould there ever be a heaven for book lovers, it might be a book fair of sorts.

Books that I brought home from HBF 2015:

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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. I haven’t read any Joyce, but I’ve heard this is a good place to start with him. The cover of this Oxford Classics edition is brilliant.

Kadonnut Pariisi by Markus Nummi. Markus Nummi is the author of Kiinalainen puutarha (eng. The Chinese Garden) which I read (and loved) earlier this autumn. The cover of this one is a bit … quirky, but the premise, that is, Paris has disappeared from the surface of the Earth, is exciting.

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen (the Finnish edition). I got this from the library earlier this year and loved it so much that I needed to get my own copy. So glad to add this to my collection!

AND

Valomerkki by JP Ahonen. It’s the fifth volume in the Villimpi Pohjola (Northern Overexposure) comic series that I love and adore. I’ve blogged about the series in here, here and here. This one came out in August and I’m glad to finally own all of the volumes published so far ❤IMG_20151122_170428

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