August 25th, 2010
Las Chicas de la Tienda de Mascotas (Lemmikkikaupan tytöt) by Anja Snellman is going to be published in October. Publisher: Maeva, Spain.

July 25th, 2010
Anja Snellman's new novel Balcony Gods was published in June. It's been a smash hit in the Finnish literature debate:

”Snellman’s new book arrives at the centre of a debate on multiculturalism. It provides a powerful angle on problems that so-called assimilation may bring. It looks at the use of power, the submission of women, and the acceptance of crimes against human rights on cultural pretences.” Keskisuomalainen

"Balcony Gods can undoubtedly be considered one of the best books in Snellman’s long career. It belongs to a minority in today’s Finnish literature, in that, instead of looking inwards and wondering how we become what we are, it looks outwards towards our evolving city, and seeks to get a handle on it." Helsingin Sanomat

"Balcony Gods, Snellman’s 19th novel, is one of her best, because it does not insist on one truth or one particular line of thought." Turun Sanomat

"Snellman manages to captivate the reader with her story.[...] (She) writes about issues which we may have only detected faint signals of so far. All of Snellman’s books operate as alarm bells within society: look here people, see what’s happening all around you." Talouselämä

"Balcony Gods is a masterpiece in Anja Snellman’s long career. [...] Snellman does not beat around the bush. She writes about honour, violence and female circumcision. While writing about these issues however, Snellman does not label every immigrant or Muslim as a violent oppressor…” Image

”The author gets the reader to question what went wrong and who is in the right. She paints a picture of Finland where immigrants fear the secular nature of everyday life, and where the native population allows its offspring to grow up alone." Kansan Uutiset

"The storyline of Balcony Gods momentarily unsettles the reader. It is wonderful and quite terrible at the same time." Me Naiset

"The Balcony Gods is shatteringly topical, unyieldingly accurate and charmingly angry. It promotes the woman's right of self-determination without resorting to preaching." Kirjasieppo/Olivia

More about the novel:

June 14th, 2010
By Tiina Kristoffersson

Anja Snellman's 19th novel, Balcony Gods was released last week. Her novels ted to create passionate debate, also this time. Snellman’s poetic and provoking language both seduces and shakes her readers. She is not afraid to prod into the holiest of patriarchies in her defence of a woman’s right to decide her own sexuality.

Turun Sanomat writes:
"Anja Snellman prefers not to remain isolated in an ivory tower, writing books that are alien to the outside world; instead, she writes about genuine things happening in the real world.

Typical of all of Snellman’s books, this book also has a brave and topical subject that has already generated plenty of public debate. The framework of the book is women’s status in Islam, which is looked at in the context of the story of Muslim immigrants, who are having to adopt the expressions and phenomena of a western capitalistic way of life.

The basic set up of the novel is not black-and-white; it is not a case of opposites, nor does it develop into a battle of for-or-against. Snellman might have resorted to any one of these ways of handling the subject, but her experience and multidimensional way of thinking take readers to a new place and leave them with several questions to ponder. "

More about the novel:

May 03rd, 2010
by Anja Snellman (Stilton author)

Despite pervasive technology and scientific leaps, life is essentially about waiting. This we tend to forget in the hurry and flurry of everyday life—and we should, for evolutionary reasons alone: Let poets and philosophers pause and ponder the deep questions and slow undercurrents of life. The rest of us have hectic workweek agendas to attend to.

I am one of those stragglers whose hearts fill with delight when nature reminds us of its ultimate power—when natural phenomena rule supreme over congresses and seminars on the other side of the world or “downloadable mobile entertainment content” and what have you. I find it hilarious when pinstriped young businessmen pace back and forth in the airport with cell phones on their ears and when first-class air passengers are befuddled by the tourist-class railroad trip across Europe that looms ahead.

Stateswomen and statesmen wait with ordinary mortals on wharves and railroad platforms. An aggressive television reporter asks a scientist when the volcanic eruption will end, so that air traffic can resume. The scientist answers unhurriedly, with a smile, that it is impossible to tell—sometimes it takes as long as two years. Then we can see how the intrusive microphone under the scientist’s nose slowly descends in despair.

From time to time, we need to be reminded of higher powers in ways more startling and impressive than blood-weeping Madonna paintings or miracle cures at evangelical meetings. In our era of illusions, where faking is everything, such miracles do not count for much. The stigmata on our minds are ones of indifference, numbness and boredom.

But when the Earth’s crust breaks and volcanoes erupt, no one can claim that the television images have been manipulated or that the ash plume is actually created by a wind machine in Hollywood. This is real, and we cannot help the situation—not even if we press all available buttons and controls and touch pads or call important people and offer them money.

At first our indifference is replaced by agitation, then by helplessness. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Suddenly we are no longer in a hurry. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Suddenly we become human again. The ashes cleanse us; nomadic tribes in deserts have known this for thousands of years.

Recently, when watching and listening to people’s reactions at airports, I have noticed that surprisingly few have seemed enraged or even annoyed after learning that their business trips or vacations were canceled. Quite the contrary: many have said, as though secretly content, that we simply must adapt. After all, what can you do? Who can you blame? The volcano at Eyjafjallajokull makes no apologies and will consider no applications for compensation.

Of course, we need scapegoats. Some blame tour operators, airlines, insurance companies, consulates, embassies, and so on and so forth for leaving stranded travelers to their own devices.

This all reminds me of the poet Helena Anhava. Astounded by the amount of belongings we feel compelled to amass, she said something along these lines: “When we are deeply sad or profoundly happy, we need nothing.”

Published with permission from Iltalehti. Translated by Timo Luhtanen.

October 02nd, 2009
Anja Snellman is one of the leading names in contemporary North European fiction and the most widely read author of her generation in Finland. She lives part of the year in Chania, Crete. Snellman seeks to extend the territory of literature. As her favorite writer, Michael Ondaatje, puts it, “All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps.”

By Anja Snellman (Stilton Author)

I have been smitten with The English Patient; that is to say, this work of literary art has rendered me a Finnish patient, a chronic one. Those close to me know that I always—and I mean always—carry a copy of The English Patient with me, in my purse, in my backpack, or rolled up in my pocket. The original version, at the very least, accompanies me on longer journeys, but in most cases I also take with me the Finnish and French translations. At home, I always have the book at hand on a desk or a nightstand or the bookshelf in the dining room, and often also on the shampoo shelf in the bathroom and the mirror shelf in the washroom by the sauna.

Whenever a copy falls apart, I buy a new one; in fact, I have over twenty copies, spare copies, and spare copies of spare copies on my bookshelves. I continually add to my collection in bookstores around the world—most often, I buy secondhand, because I find used books particularly fascinating: the pages have softened and may have underlines, sidelines, exclamation marks, or stars drawn by another devout patient of whatever nationality, or food stains, tearstains, or rumpled patches from reading the book in the bath. My most recent find—a golden-covered copy that looks brand new—I made in Chania, Greece, at the excellent flea market where I had bought half a dozen copies earlier. The English owners are well aware of my habit; they stash any new copies under the counter and present them to me when I appear in Chania again.

This is some madness, admittedly—but the same applies to the book, not to mention the writer. Michael Ondaatje is a divinely gifted artist with words. A magician of language. An aficionado of sentences. He writes prose poetry, poetic prose. Dew, honey, sap. A dash of snake venom. I have read everything he has published.

The English Patient was published in 1992 and won the Booker Prize in that same year. As soon as I first heard of the book, I had to buy it; I have always been a great fan of the Sahara, and I have always loved to read stories about nomads and cartographers, explorers of winds and scents, restless heroes who defy natural phenomena as well as social transitions in their thirst for knowledge and experiences.

Many have asked me what the secret of The English Patient is. Hmm, is it a diagnosis you want? The book is warm, gentle, and very wise; it breathes a joy of storytelling, a power of senses, an impressive body of knowledge, and true wisdom of the heart. Of course, if you are after a more categorical and perhaps more clinical answer, The English Patient is also a social novel, a war novel, and a love story. The book portrays a search for the lost oasis of Zerzura, the meaning of life, the core of being human, and great love. And more: the work is filled with passion, the Sahara, history, wadis, oases, acacia ashes. And the language!

The protagonist is a mysterious man who falls from the sky, burning, after a plane crash. Hana, a nurse who has lost her boyfriend in the war, takes care of this dying patient in a severely damaged Italian villa shortly before the end of World War II. The patient, Count Lazlo de Almásy, tells the nurse stories about his life, his love affair with Katharine Clifton, and his colleagues, researchers who pursued their lifework in the Sahara. Citing Herodotus, the patient tells the young nurse about the writing of history, the birth and destruction of cultures, desert peoples, maps, and uncharted territories. The book also tells the peripheral stories of a charming thief named David Caravaggio, a sapper named Kip Singh, and many others in the maelstrom of war.

Ondaatje’s way of describing his characters is beautiful, tolerant, oblique, and I would also say inexplicable. All individuals have their lights and shadows, their mysteries, and their secrets, and everyone has a Destiny.

The English Patient has been made into a motion picture, directed by Anthony Minghella in 1996. Unusually and fortunately enough, this interpretation of the book works; Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Willem Dafoe are brilliant in their roles. I have seen the movie dozens of times—and I tend to make our guests watch it in the early hours of the morning.

How many times have I read The English Patient? Two hundred? Five hundred? A thousand times? It does not matter. Each time, I discover new thoughts, new metaphors, new landscapes. Each time, I see Count Almásy, Hana, Katharine, Caravaggio, and Kip through slightly different eyes, discerning features that escaped me earlier. Each time, I sense intimations of something new.

First published in the Finnish Review of Literary Studies. Translated by Timo Luhtanen.