We are excited to announce that author Jussi Valtonen’s latest novel, They Know Not What They Do (He eivät tiedä mitä tekevät, Tammi 2014) has been nominated for the Finlandia Prize, the country’s most prestigious and best-known literary award. Established in 1984 and given annually, the prize is worth 30,000 euros.
Praised by critics and readers, They Know Not What They Do is a sweeping, multilayered story of family conflicts, the ethics of science and the search for identity in an impersonal society.
“A chilling story of a world in which the supply of information grows at a dizzying speed, but people’s understanding of one another does not improve; our actions are directed by suspicions, a lack of awareness and primitive instincts. Jussi Valtonen describes, with a great sense of perception, the culture shock experienced by a leading American researcher in the cold and inward-turning Finland. He also cleverly weaves together both large and small current events. The skilfully woven plot thickens subtly and inevitably towards the finale that in its fatefulness resembles a classic tragedy. They Know Not What They Do is an arresting study of the relationship between science and ethics, and of people’s inability to communicate with one another.”
– Finlandia Prize 2014 jury
About They Don’t Know 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. When he gets an unexpected phone call from Alina, his ex-wife in Finland, nothing immediately suggests that the threats on his career and new family are connected to Samuel, the son he left two decades ago in Finland and has never gotten to know. But 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. By depicting its three main characters in an intense struggle to understand an increasingly confusing world, They Know Not What They Do offers readers both piercing psychological acumen and a striking dystopian satire of a neuro-digitalized Western society in which nothing is private and everything is for sale.
“For a long time we have wished for a bold literary curveball – a big, new, Finnish contemporary novel. And here it is…[They Don’t Know 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 – nothing more, nothing less.”
– Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, Finland
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