Anja Snellman

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Cautiously curious

Since her childhood, Anja Snellman has been fascinated by deer—their graceful alertness, constant vigilance, and instinctive readiness to react in less than a heartbeat. It was not until ten years ago that she understood why: when studying for certification in psychotherapy, she listened to a lecture on highly sensitive people.

“Something clicked inside of me, and my life history began to make sense in a new way.” Continue >>

Impressions of Helsinki

Many of Anja Snellman’s books take place in Kallio, the traditional working-class neighborhood of Helsinki where she grew up. Despite its progress, Kallio has never lost its soul: its history is still present in many ways. This rugged charm attracted Lina Leden, the founder of Helsinki Posters, to Kallio five years ago. “Helsinki Posters has given me the opportunity to take more photos than ever before, which I love.” Continue >>

Palace of Wind

She is calm because she is full of emotion. She is perfectly focused because she is overwhelmed. She will not open her arms for a generous hug, or kiss me on the cheeks, or give me a high five. I step closer, and we breathe in unison for a moment. Our shoulders are rising and falling. She closes her eyes. I close my eyes. Though surrounded by the Delhi Airport, we are together at the Palace of Wind. Continue >>

Stories in ink

Many of my therapy clients have fascinating tattoos.

When I was working at a substance abuse treatment clinic for young people in Helsinki, I asked the members of my therapy group to share the stories behind their tattoos. Tattoos are definitely much more than ink on the skin. I have eight, each carefully thought out and meaningful to me. My most recent one is a deer on my right upper arm.  Continue >>

Poetry on the go

A Poem for You seeks to lower the threshold for discovering poetry by making poems available in unexpected contexts. Merja Turpeinen and Siiri Koponen, mother and daughter, thought of the idea while waiting for their food at a restaurant. “We were trying to find ways to make poetry available for everyone, to somehow take poetry to the streets and into the cityscape.” Continue >>

20 questions

Anja Snellman answered twenty questions about her life and career. What book should everyone read? What skill would she like to master? What is she afraid of?  Who has changed her life? When does she lie? If she could change one thing about herself, what would it be? What is her greatest achievement? What is her most precious possession? If she could be someone else for a day, who would she choose? Continue >>

Voices from Ukraine

Ukrainian author Oksana Zabuzhko rose to international fame with her first novel, Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex, which was published in 1996. Ten years later, the book was named the “the most influential Ukrainian book of the 15 years of independence.” Zabuzhko has written more than 20 books of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Her books have been translated into 15 languages. Continue >>

Songs from the soul

Emmi Kuittinen is one of Anja Snellman’s favorite musicians. She continues the ancient tradition of lamenting as it is manifested in Karelia and Ingria in European Russia. “Lamenting has been an outlet for raw emotions that have otherwise been considered inappropriate to express. Researchers have described it as poetry of eternal separation and final departure,” Kuittinen says. Continue >>

The table

A television production company called about a short story I had promised to write. I had been asked to write a script about an old kitchen table, but I never did, because I forgot. I often wonder how many laundries and shoe repair shops have things that I never remembered to pick up. It is an ordinary kitchen table—not the talking kind. I hate stories told by dogs or slippers. Or tables. Continue >>

Gracefully alert

What do artist Susanna Kaapu and Anja Snellman have in common? A fascination with deer, to begin with: their graceful alertness, constant vigilance, and instinctive readiness to react in less than a heartbeat. Like Snellman, Kaapu is a highly sensitive person. “Through deer, I can best express my sensitivity and longing for a comforting, gentle gaze. I’m easily scared, yet cautiously curious about the world.” Continue >>

Finding mercy in mistakes

The late Christer Kihlman (1930–2021) was always one of my literary idols, and he also became a friend through his daughter, who translated my first novel into Swedish. He once admitted on a talk show that he had made many mistakes in his life, been selfish, and hurt his loved ones. The hosts were confused: apparently, his calm and unvarnished honesty was not “good television.” Continue >>

Supporting girls’ education

In celebration of the holiday season and Anja Snellman’s 40-year career as an author, we have made a donation to Room to Read, a nonprofit focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. Room to Read develops literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and supports girls to complete secondary school with the relevant life skills to succeed in school and beyond. Donate >>

Looking back and ahead

Anja Snellman celebrated her 40th anniversary as an author in 2021. She has written twenty-six novels, three collections of poetry, and several works of nonfiction.
In her native Finland, she is the most widely read author of her generation, and her first book, Sonia O. Was Here, remains the all-time best-selling debut novel. However, forty years ago she nearly gave up on her lifelong dream of becoming a writer. Continue >>

My reading life

Anja Snellman started to devour books as soon as she learned to read at the age of four. Her family lived next to the local library, which became a second home to her. She has been an eclectic reader from the very beginning.  The more diverse her reading list, the better Snellman feels it keeps her brain moving. “I like to read several books at the same time, and I read poetry every day, at breakfast or lunch.” Continue >>

The gift of translation

“Translator Ann Goldstein has given the world a gift in Elena Ferrante’s works,” says Ojay Dagistan, whose online bookstore specializes in translated literature. “Language should never be a barrier to reading a good book.” Ann Goldstein describes her translator role as that of an enabler. “You are trying to enable someone to express themselves as much as they possibly can,” she told National Public Radio. Continue >>

Sonia O. in Czech

A young woman’s search for identity is an eternal theme around the world. Sonia O. Was Here left a strong impression on Marketa Hejkalova, who went on to translate the book into Czech in the 1980s. However, the book was not approved for publication until after the collapse of communism. “At that time in communist Czechoslovakia, sex and any criticism of communism were strictly prohibited topics.”  Continue >>

Dualisms

I was born in late spring. I have never believed in astrology—but by all accounts, I’m a typical Gemini: my personality and my body of work are characterized by dualisms. My works can be divided into two categories, based on life-changing events, such as the birth of my children and my mother’s death, and content and style: fact and fiction, polemics and poetics, pathos and humor, intuition and intellect. Continue >>

Digging into the core

Anja Snellman and Emmi Itäranta, author of the award-winning Memory of Water, discussed the relationship between authors and their publishers at the Turku Book Fair at the beginning of October 2021. “The publisher must understand and support the author’s distinctive qualities. The editor should be a careful and unforgiving reader who has the courage to question and challenge,” says Snellman. Continue >>

Leafy weather

Leafy weather. It often crosses my mind when I’m riding my bicycle in the city in the fall. Leaves are falling from trees and collecting on the streets and tram rails. 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. A sad, tragic accident. The scene was written by Anja Snellman, and I will never forget it. Continue >>

40 years later

Forty years ago, I was nervous as hell. I had been working on my manuscript for seven years, and my first novel was scheduled for publication in October 1981. The book came out, and my life was never the same. The book provoked the full gamut of emotions, from joy and delight to annoyance and rage. The feedback varied widely, and I was delivered not only roses, but also shit in a packet. Literally, believe it or not. Continue >>

 A world of literature

Ojay Dagistan runs an online bookstore from her home in Sussex, England. Her bookstore, 7 Pages UK, specializes in translated works. “Language should never be a barrier to reading a good book. Translation gives English-speaking readers an opportunity to broaden their worldview. Through translation, a reader can travel and experience the sounds and tastes of another culture.” Continue >>

The story begins

First, the phone went crazy. Then my mailbox started filling up. I can only imagine what my inbox would have looked like if e-mail had existed back in 1981. I was a student in my early twenties; I had worked on my first novel throughout the seven years I had spent at the university. I had yet to finish my thesis and sit for my final exams. I had run out of money many times over, both my own and my boyfriend’s. Continue >>

Sonia O. comes to life on stage

Denisa Snyder, a drama student at the University of the Arts Helsinki, is preparing a monologue from Sonia O. Was Here. She has been invited to perform the monologue at the main event celebrating Anja Snellman’s 40th year as an author in late 2021. Her performance was originally part of a student production at the university. Snyder came across Sonia O. Was Here in a library. Continue >>

The power of words

Anja Snellman relies on the power of words in her two professions. The meaning of a single word can be crucial in the work of both an author and a therapist. “As an author, I believe that language unites us. As a therapist, I know that words can unearth hidden emotions and memories. People can mull over a word for decades; they can remember a specific insult from their childhood, for example.” Continue >>

Fragmented realities

The Internet has changed the publishing industry, and it has also made its way into the lives of characters in novels—albeit with a little delay. “Characters in today’s novels are more likely to surprise us if they don’t use social media,” writes author Olivia Sudjic in her article for the Guardian. “In terms of form, social media has shaped contemporary fiction. The dominant trend is to tell a story through fragments.” Continue >>

The colors of Sonia O.

In 2002, Sini-Meri Hedberg was studying at the Turku Arts Academy. An exhibition of paintings was being put together for the Turku Book Fair, based on books by Finnish authors. “We were given a list of books to choose from. I recognized a familiar name and made my choice. The book was the same as I remembered, but I had changed, meaning that my perception of Sonia had also changed,” Hedberg explains. Continue >>

Enchanted by poetic language

Continents: A Love Story came out in English in 2019. The book was translated into Czech in 2007 by Viola Capkova. “Anja Snellman’s creative language translates naturally into Czech. I have translated a great deal of poetry, and working on Snellman’s prose is very close to translating poetry. Snellman also frequently uses irony, for which Czechs have a particular fondness as a way of expression.”  Continue >>

10 misconceptions about love

Love is blind? Love is the opposite of hate? Love is different for women and men? Love endures all things? You cannot love two people at the same time? We’ll always have Paris? Anja Snellman writes of how 10 beliefs about love have proven wrong in her life. “Falling in love is always an experience of renewal. When two people fall in love, they are offered an opportunity they can either seize or lose.” Continue >>

Standing the test of time

Sonia O. Was Here authentically depicts the zeitgeist of the 1970s: a new femininity and the reality of an entire generation. The novel became a literary sensation, having caused quite a stir even before its publication. It is a perceptive interpretation of the passions of a radical generation. The main character represents a new concept of womanhood, and many readers also idolized the author. Continue >>

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