Hungarian rights sold for 36 URNS: A History of Being Wrong by Sirpa Kähkönen!

We are thrilled to let you know that the Hungarian rights for Sirpa Kähkönen’s latest novel 36 URNS: A History of Being Wrong have been acquired by Polar! The deal was closed by Sten-Erik Tammemäe at Elina Ahlback Literary Agency.

Polar are a Hungarian publishing house that specializes in publishing works from Nordic authors. Their authors include, e.g., Jon Fosse, Mika Waltari, Karen Blixen, August Strindberg, Asta Olivia Nordenhof, Pirkko Saisio, Leena Krohn, Dag Solstad, and Vigdis Hjorth.

The novel 36 URNS is completely enchanting. It rarely happens that when we start a book with high expectations, we are not disappointed, but in this case, disappointment is out of the question, the story and the language are also brilliant. The narrator is visited in her small apartment by her recently deceased mother accompanied by the daughter of Tuonela, a mythical figure from the Kalevala. Speaking to her mother, sorting out her mother’s legacy, the writer unravels and analyzes her complicated and tragic relationship with her mother with the help of 36 selected objects and concepts. This clarification could not happen during the mother’s lifetime for several reasons. Of course, her mother did not live in a vacuum, she was determined by the history of her parents and grandparents – which is also the Finnish history of the 20th century. All of this is written in the novel with unbelievable humanity, empathy, accuracy and uncompromising honesty, resulting from historical research. [—] Her language is versatile, precise, and emotional, rich, seasoned with many dialect words. The book is both a family chronicle and a philosophical essay – a writer analyzing herself from the outside and the inside and coming to the realization that the omniscient narrator does not exist. Only a truly mature writer can create this.”
– Zsófia Dériné Stark, publisher, Polar; Olga Huotari, translator

Last week, Sirpa Kähkönen’s masterful novel was nominated for the Finlandia Prize, the most prestigious literary award in Finland! The title has received universal acclaim from the critics and the readers as the crowning achievement of the author’s career so far!

Kähkönen’s language is in constant movement, it spins from the past to the present without effort, beautifully like a dancer on stage, illuminated by a spotlight. The book is beautiful and without shame. It does not ask the reader to walk along, but forces one to look: this happened.”
– Mari Paalosalo-Jussinmäki in Eeva magazine

Not only is the narrative structure [of the novel], structured around the wake [of the author’s mother] and the 36 urns and objects symbolic, metaphorical and intertextually charged, the language also is poetic and rich in associations. In a superb way, Kähkönen brings together influences from historical prose, biographical storytelling, diary quotes, memories, myth, and folk poetry into a melodic fabric of language that moves seamlessly between the different levels of the story. In this way, Kähkönen connects her work to a variety of literary traditions and shows how myths and stories have always been a way for people to explain and make sense of the world and their own place in it, along with the risk that the story we tell is wrong or deficient.”
– Kaneli Kabrell in Hufvudstadsbladet newspaper

Although Kähkönen is still extremely meticulous about the truthfulness of the time and characters that she deals with, 36 URNS is, in my opinion, more poetic and mythical than its predecessors. It is impossible to fit it into any specific genre. It breaks the narrow definitions and moves effortlessly from genre to genre. [—] I’ve always admired Kähkönen’s smooth use of words and infallible sense of rhythm. This time, my attention was especially drawn to her skill in using, e.g., the parallelism familiar from runic songs in her style. [—] When [her] language is at its most fervent, it reminds one of enchanting. When it calms down and lingers, it approached meditation. [—], I willingly admit that, when reading 36 URNS, tears were brought to my eyes more than once.”
– Raija Hakala on Kirjareppu book blog

With the latest sale to Hungary, 36 URNS has now been sold to 3 territories!

Rights are available in France, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Poland, US, UK, etc.!

Download the materials for 36 URNS here!

36 Urns: A History of Being Wrong

Sirpa Kähkönen

A celebrated author’s masterful and poetic confession of love to her mother

Nominated for the Finlandia Prize 2023! 

Author Sirpa Kähkönen’s mother Riitta (b. 1941) died in March 2022 after a long illness. In life, she struggled to accept love. “I do not grieve your death, I grieve your life,” Sirpa Kähkönen writes, knowing fully well that her mother wouldn’t like the phrase. Her mother rejected love, despite longing for it the most. Riitta was athletic, beautiful, and gifted. A traffic accident at the age of 16 changed the course of her life for ever.

Drawing on her mother’s diaries, Kähkönen depicts the life of a 1950s girl and the dramatic change that followed the accident. The novel talks about community dance halls, a broken mind, flowing hems, a 1960s mother, anxiety, anger and hate, addiction, and moments of psychosis. It talks about how wars and other crises become corporeal, how violence is inherited, and how the culture of discouragement and submission is passed down through the generations in sayings and attitudes, with the author clearly seeing herself as part of the tradition of anger and violence.

The novel is permeated by a fiery love, as if an ancient Finnish spell that, with the power of words, is capable of bringing loved ones back from the dead.

Siltala, 2023, 267 pp.

English sample and synopsis
Finnish edition

FINLAND: Siltala (orig.)
ESTONIA: Koolibri

About author

Sirpa Kähkönen

Sirpa Kähkönen was born to a family that had been harshly treated by the history of the 1900s. World War II and the Civil War preceding it had wounded her family members and marked them with heavy silence and unspoken words.

Mapping out that silence became Sirpa’s work. The first questions that arose were related to her closest circle: what had happened to her beloved grandparents? From her personal sphere the intellectual curiosity widened to touch upon the history of Finland and then the history of Europe, and finally, researching the fate of an individual during times of crisis.

Sirpa Kähkönen lives and works in Helsinki. She constructs her works upon research, using a wide array of archives, newspaper clippings, research material, and contemporary literature. Inspired by microhistorical research tradition, Sirpa writes about how mentalities are formed, and how the immaterial inheritance runs in family lines and in societies.

Sirpa Kähkönen’s historical novel begins where source information ends. It opens the gates to experiencing the past in a sensory way; the characters live out the story as physical, sensual beings.

Sirpa Kähkönen has published thirteen novels of which one (36 Urns: A History of Being Wrong) has won and four others have been nominated for the prestigious Finlandia prize and one has been nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize. She has also published three non-fiction titles, one of which was nominated for the Tieto-Finlandia prize for non-fiction literature. In 2022, Kähkönen received the Finnish Cultural Foundation's Grand Prize for significant achievements in culture.

Awards and nominations:

Kirjallisuuden valtionpalkinto 1992 - The State Literary Prize 1992

Savonia-palkinto 1999 - Savonia Prize 1999

Kuopion taiteilijaseuran kirjallisuuden tunnustuspalkinto 2003 - The Kuopio Artist Society's Literary Award 2003

Kiitos kirjasta -mitali 2008 - Thank You for the book medallion 2008

Savon Sanomien Savonmuan Hilima -titteli 2010

Otavan kirjasäätiön Veijo Meri -palkinto 2012 - Otava Literary Fund Veijo Meri Prize 2012

Pro-Finlandia -mitali 2015 - Pro Finlandia Medallion 2015

Suomi-palkinto 2016 - Suomi-Finland Prize 2016 from the Ministry of Education and Culture

Savonia-palkinto 2021 - Savonia Prize 2021

Suomen Kulttuurirahaston suurpalkinto - The Finnish Cultural Foundation's Grand Prize 2021

Finlandia-palkinto 2023 - Finlandia Prize 2023


2023, Literary Fiction

36 Urns: A History of Being Wrong

Sirpa Kähkönen

2021, Literary Fiction

The Green Chamber

Sirpa Kähkönen