Anja Snellman. Photo: Jouni Harala / New Terrain Press

Urban storyteller


Anja Snellman is one of the leading names in contemporary Nordic fiction and the most widely read author of her generation in her native Finland. Her debut was exceptionally powerful: first published in 1981, Sonia O. Was Here remains the highest-selling debut novel in the history of Finnish literature. Readers fell in love with its virtuosic language and Fellini-like gallery of characters, and the book continues to be discovered by new generations of readers.

In addition to her beautiful use of language and insightfully dark sense of humor, Snellman is known for her ability to skillfully and effortlessly combine documentary and fictional elements, history and imaginary events, personal and universal aspects, and Eastern and Western influences.

The key themes of her works include women’s sexuality, mother-daughter relationships, love and death, second-generation immigrant identity, secrets, lifelong lies, marginalized people who resort to extreme measures, fears, aggression, and power.

Throughout her career, Snellman has sought to expand the territory of literature. She also works as a journalist, and she has earned a master’s degree in arts from the University of Helsinki and has completed a qualification to work as an accredited psychotherapist.

She considers herself fortunate to have reached a point in her life where she can enjoy inspiring synergies: literature can have the same effect as therapy, and a good therapeutic dialogue can resemble literary art.

“An author listens and asks. A therapist asks and listens. A journalist asks, listens, and questions,” says Snellman.

As a journalist, she has hosted several topical talk shows on television, including Sore Spot on the digital television channel of Helsingin Sanomat, the leading Nordic newspaper. She is also known as a columnist.


Born on May 23, 1954, in Helsinki. Anja Kauranen until 1997.

Has written 25 novels, 3 poetry collections and several works of nonfiction. Her works have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Bachelor of arts, University of Helsinki, 1977 (applied psychology, English philology, Finnish literature, general literature). Master of arts, University of Helsinki, 2017. Currently studying toward a PhD.

Graduated from the Helsinki Brief Therapy Institute in 2015, after completing a four-year program in psychotherapy. Has completed a two-year program with the Family Federation of Finland to specialize in sexual therapy.

Has also studied screenwriting in Los Angeles.

Took up classical ballet, modern dance, figure skating, sprinting, and swimming at an early age. Has practiced yoga and a vegetarian diet since the age of 17.

Positions of trust: Union of Finnish Writers, Board Member (1993–1996). National Council for Literature, Deputy Chair (1994–1997). Finnish National Commission for UNESCO, Member (1994–1997). Helsinki Book Fair, Chair of Program Committee (2003–2006). Vaasa Literature Festival, Artistic Director (2008–2011). University of Helsinki, Alumni Association, Board Member (2011–2016).

Main accolades: Pro Finlandia Medal of the Order of the Lion of Finland, 2007. City of Helsinki Medal, 2008. Helsinki Cultural Woman of the Year, 2004. Lyyti Award for the Promotion of Gender Equality, 2000. Thanks for the Book Award, 1994. J. H. Erkko Award for the Best Debut Novel, 1981.

Married to guitarist and composer Jukka Orma. Two daughters, Alma (b. 1989) and Elsa (b. 1991) from her first marriage.

Lives with her family in Helsinki. The family also includes Unto, a Chihuahua, and Cassie, a Chihuahua and Jack Russell mix. Cassie gave birth to five puppies in September, 2017.

Anja Snellman celebrated her 35th anniversary as an author in 2016. Photo: Jouni Harala / New Terrain Press

Books and more . . .

Follow Anja Snellman on social media for journal entries, poems, information about new books, and other news.


For a list of all articles, go to the main page of the News section.  For a list of journal articles by Anja Snellman, visit the main page of the Journal section.

Recent articles

Leafy Weather. It often crosses my mind when I’m riding my bicycle in the city in the fall. This is how I remember it: A woman is riding her bike. She is in a hurry; the matter is urgent. The leaves are making the rails slippery, and the driver cannot control the tram. Continue

Palace of Wind. Anuji is standing behind me. I’m busy with my suitcase; a strap buckle is broken, and the name tag has fallen off. I haven’t seen my passport in ages, and the ticket for my connecting flight is nowhere to be found. Continue

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