We are beyond thrilled to announce that author Jussi Valtonen’s They Know Not What They Do (He eivät tiedä mitä tekevät, Tammi, September 2014) has won the Finlandia Prize. Worth 30,000 euros, the Finlandia Prize is the country’s highest-profile literary honour. We wish Jussi our warmest congratulations!
An English sample of They Know Not What They Do will be available in December.
Professor Anne Brunila, who selected the winner, said:
“They Know Not What They Do is a mind-blowing work. It illuminates modern life with a rare sense of perception, without pointing fingers or moralizing. The reader finds the moral in him-or-herself. Ecoterrorism, animal activism, academic research, new technology with its digital universes, and a future in which reality and behaviour can be altered with technology and medicine, are all put into the spotlight.
Valtonen describes modern phenomena at a breath-taking speed; his outstanding storytelling keeps the reader in its grasp. The narrow-mindedness of the Finnish academic world and society, as well as the American way of life, are given equal scrutiny. Relationship entanglements, misunderstandings and the logic of a broken telephone lead both the characters and the reader repeatedly astray. ‘It seems that the way things really were didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was how they looked.’
Valtonen’s book opens new doors into Finnish literature, both in terms of content and in terms of style. I have never read this kind of a depiction of modern times from a Finnish author. The book combines, in an astonishing way, perceptive relationship descriptions, deep moral and ethical meditation, science fiction and suspense.”
“Jonathan Franzen is one of Jussi’s favourite authors, and it shows here – in the best way,” says Editor Hannu Harju at Tammi.
“For a long time we have wished for a bold literary curveball – a big, new, Finnish contemporary novel. And here it is…[They Know Not What They Do] doesn’t crystallize into just one novel; at the core of its narrative are the morals of scientific research, the disappearance of privacy and the commoditization of life, as well as the dismantling of the nuclear family, the internal tensions of a newly formed family, and the growing pains of children who ultimately turn against their parents…the end result is a comprehensive picture of our time and a diagnosis of what is ailing this brave new world.”
– Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, Finland
About They Know Not What They Do:
When professor Joe Chayefski’s neuroscience lab in Baltimore is attacked by animal rights activists, he doesn’t connect the dots at first. But when he receives a phone call from Alina, his Finnish ex-wife, he begins to gradually realize that the threats on his career and new family are connected to Samuel, the son he left behind in Finland two decades ago. Joe soon learns that his son’s life has gone badly astray, and that Samuel has devoted himself to extreme animal rights activism. Samuel is now somewhere in the United States, but neither Alina nor the authorities know his exact location. Joe realizes that he has to take action to protect his wife and two daughters from his estranged son, by any means necessary.
With Joe, Alina, and Samuel intensely struggling to understand an increasingly confusing world, They Know Not What They Do offers readers piercing psychological insight and a dystopian satire of a world in which nothing is private and everything is for sale.
“I wanted my novel to have as wide a societal scope as possible; my aim was to satirize the way in which we live from a multitude of angles,” Valtonen said in an interview with Aamulehti newspaper this week. “I feel a sense of confusion and helplessness when faced with our complicated world.”
About the author:
Jussi Valtonen (b. 1974) is an author and psychologist from Helsinki. He has studied neuropsychology in the United States and screenwriting in the UK. His previous works include two novels and a short story collection. His novel, Carried by Wings (Siipien kantamat, Tammi 2007) was given second place in Bonnier’s novel competition, and received a warm reception from both critics and bloggers.
Original publisher: FINLAND, Tammi
English sample and synopsis available in December!