Anja Snellman


Lehtikuva/Vesa Moilanen


20 Questions

What book should everyone read?

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. I always have the book at hand on a desk or a nightstand or the bookshelf in the dining room. I have more than thirty copies of the book and keep buying new ones on my travels.

What skill would you like to master?

Taking a nap.

What are you afraid of? 

Losing my mobility. It’s important to me to be able to come and go as I please.

What do you waste? 

Love. Otherwise, I’m rather frugal.

What is your favorite sound? 

The sound of the waves on Crete in the morning, after a stormy night—how they roar, hum, and sigh.

Who has changed your life? 

Writing has changed my life, not any single person.

When do you lie? 

When a white lie protects someone else.

What word or sentence do you use too much? 

Well . . .

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? 

I would like to have more patience. When others are still thinking about what to do, I’m already on my way.

What is your greatest achievement? 

Surviving my childhood. Although I was a highly sensitive dreamer, I also had strength, willpower, and curiosity. My father was an alcoholic, and we had a variety of problems in our family.

I became good at adopting other families: my friends’ families provided me with the experiences that I needed, but that I couldn’t have at home. I think this would be called extended or chosen families now. It’s comforting to know that we also have other options than the family into which we happen to be born.

What is your most precious possession? 


If you could be someone else for a day, who would you choose? 

I would like to be myself at the age of ten. I would like to look at the world through her eyes and experience what she felt. I would like to say something comforting to her, something about daring to dream big and having no fear. I would also like to remember how everything was back then, how I felt about all the things that I saw.

What would you like to be remembered for? 

My books, thoughts, and language. And for being a good listener: “She always listened when you talked to her.” If someone asks if I’m busy, I always say no.
I never use being busy as an excuse.

What is the best decision you ever made? 

Going back to school in my fifties was a good decision. When visiting the University of Helsinki, I noticed an advertisement about a four-year program in psychotherapy. I didn’t tell anyone about my decision, but I was certain that this was my path.

What is your favorite place on earth? 

Home, wherever it happens to be. I’m easily stressed by crowds, noise, fuss, and having many commitments. I have a home in Helsinki, in the countryside in southwestern Finland, and on Crete. I also call India home: I regularly stay at a writers’ residence there. I leave my sandals by the door when I leave. When I return, it feels like coming back home.

What is your most useful routine? 

I’m punctual. I seek to structure my days so that certain routines are repeated day after day. I go for a swim every morning, throughout the year, and then I take the dogs for a walk.

What advice would you give your younger self? 

Don’t be afraid so much. Believe in your plans and dreams.

What have you learned about love? 

Ultimately, only love has has real value and meaning in this world.

When did you last change your mind? 

I change my mind relatively often. I don’t cling to my opinions. A resilient mind is good during crises. 

What gives you hope? 

Persistent people who are ready to work for their values under all circumstances, even when threatened with imprisonment.

By Mari Paalosalo-Jussinmäki

Published with permission from Eeva magazine

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