How Finland Rebranded Itself as a Literary Country
July 16, 2018 11:09 AM   Subscribe

Per capita, the Finns borrow nineteen books a year, compared to just seven and a half in the US. Recently the Finnish government invested €98 million in a new central library. Around the time of the global recession, the Finns set out as a nation to find the “next Nokia.” It was all we talked about. In a small socially democratic nation like ours, where so much is shared, we felt a common responsibility over our exports. Anything and everything could be the next Nokia, we said, so long as we figure out how to brand it. Tech start-ups were the obvious choice, but cultural products emerged as a strong contender. Could we sell even more great design? Leverage our architecture? Finnish heavy metal started to do well in Germany and the Anglo American world. Then something decisive happened in Finnish literature.
posted by oprahgayle (3 comments total)

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Even these last few days, the spokesperson for Finland has been Sofi Oksanen.

and yes, I just love the libraries and the system
posted by infini at 11:15 AM on July 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

“When I first heard of My Cat Yugoslavia, I said to myself: pet python, talking cat, gay Helsinki, and the fall of the Yugoslavia. I’m in!”

Me too! I just put Pajtim Statovci’s My Cat Yugoslavia on hold at the library thanks to that description.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:20 AM on July 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Also, in light of current events I've been reading Oksanen's pieces here and there, and now I'm asking myself why the hell I haven't been reading her fiction, something I intend to fix ASAP.

There is other support too. Ever since the publication of his debut novel, Statovci has held some kind of an artist’s grant, either supplied by the government or by one of the more than a dozen independent foundations supporting Finnish writing. “Even though it’s a small market, Finland has all the conditions for writers to support themselves with their work,” he said. In Finland, authors get to do what they do best: write. Statovci’s second novel, Crossing, comes out from Pantheon next year, and at twenty-eight years old, he is already writing his third novel.

This seems to me to be a really key thing, too, just like when people talk about the relative success of Finland's education system - it's called public investment in services, arts, and culture. Fancy that!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:27 AM on July 16, 2018

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