Finnland. Kjell Westö.

Kjell Westö. Photo: Cata Portin

Kjell Westö (b. 1961 in Helsingfors/Helsinki) writes in Swedish, his mother tongue, and deals mainly with major themes in recent Finnish history. He has made a name for himself as a literary chronicler of his hometown of Helsinki. He studied journalism and literature and worked at a number of Swedish-language newspapers before deciding to focus entirely on his literary career.

Westö achieved his breakthrough as an author with Drakarna över Helsingfors (‘Kites over Helsinki’), an epic novel about the Bexar family. That book begins after the Second World War, but centres mainly on the time of Finland’s economic expansion in the 1980s and the financial downturn in the 1990s. The novel Där vi en gång gått (‘Where We Once Walked’) is set in the period between 1905 and 1939 and deals with the Finnish civil war of 1918 and the class divisions in Helsinki society in the interwar years. The rounded characters and detailed descriptions of a city in turmoil are particularly striking, and two film adaptations have already been made of that book. Gå inte ensam ut i natten (‘Don’t Go out into the Night Alone’) concentrates on the second half of the 20th century and deals with themes of friendship and loyalty, paying particular attention to 1960s popular culture.

In his latest novel, Hägring 38 (‘Mirage 38’) Kjell Westö returns to the year 1938. On the eve of the Second World War, the trauma of the civil war is ever-present in the background. Westö received his second nomination for the prestigious Nordic Council Literature Prize for this novel.

German translations:

Das Trugbild, btb Verlag (erscheint am 1. September 2014), Übersetzung: Paul Berf.
Geh nicht einsam in die Nacht, btb Verlag 2013, Übersetzung: Paul Berf.
Wo wir einst gingen, btb Verlag 2008, Übersetzung: Paul Berf.
Das Trommeln des Regens, btb Verlag 2008, Übersetzung: Paul Berf.
Tante Elsie und mein letzter Sommer. Ausgewählte Erzählungen, btb Verlag 2006, Übersetzung: Paul Berf.
Vom Risiko, ein Skrake zu sein, btb Verlag 2005, Übersetzung: Paul Berf.

Photo: © Cata Portin