Sirpa Kähkönen
Humanist of the day

Sirpa Kähkönen

Sirpa Kähkönen is a seeker of lost cities, an avid friend of music and architecture and the author of historical novels. Her passion is to find and reconstruct past groups of friends whose fates were bound to momentous places and who embody the great sea changes of history. In her research, she terms these groups of friends “androtopes.”

Sirpa Kähkönen

Sirpa Helena Kähkönen
Born September 15, 1964 Kuopio

Studies in literature, University of Tampere, and comparative literature and history (Swedish language) 1984–89, University of Helsinki

Freelance writer 1996–
Otava publishing house 1991–96
University of Helsinki history project 1988–90
Helsinki University Library 1987–88

Publications, awards and special achievements:

Novels: Kuu taskussa (‘Moon in your pocket’) 1991, Lukittu lähde (‘Closed source’) 1994, Mustat morsiamet (‘Black brides’) 1998, Rautayöt (‘Iron nights’) 2002, Jään ja tulen kevät (‘Springs of ice and fire’) 2004, Lakanasiivet (‘Linen wings’) 2007, Neidonkenkä (‘Calypso’) 2009, Hietakehto (‘Sand cradle’) 2012, Graniittimies (‘Granite man’)2014

Nonfiction: Valoa ja varjoa (‘Light and shadow’)(with Jaana Iso-Markun) 2007, Vihan ja rakkauden liekit (‘The flames of hate and love’) 2010, Kuopion taivaan alla (‘Under the Kuopio sky’) 2011

Plays: Tilkkuenkelit (‘Patchwork angels’) 2008, Helene S. – rakkaudella (‘Helene S. – with love’) 2014, Palava kaupunki (‘Burning city’) 2015.

Numerous translations into Finnish. Columnist for several newspapers and periodicals.

Pro Finlandia Medal 2015

Kiitos Kirjasta literary prize 2008

Savonia literary prize 1999

State Award for Children's and Youth literature 1992

Nominated for the Finlandia Prize 2007, 2014, and the Finlandia Prize for Nonfiction 2010.

Photo: Otava
Written by Sirpa Kähkönen (Kaija Hartikainen ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

I am a Latinist from the Kuopio Classical School, a humanist, and the daughter of a poor working class family. My grandfather was a political prisoner in 1930s Finland, and he raised me firmly to believe that learning, reading and intellectual pursuits are the loftiest goals a person can have. He wrote me a poem in which he hoped that if I put my talents to use, I would one day place upon my head the laurel wreath customarily given to new Masters at University of Helsinki conferment ceremonies.

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When I set foot inside the University Library, designed by Carl Ludvig Engel, I understood that everything that I had learned at the Kuopio Classical School lived on and was true. The University Library, now the National Library of Finland, became my spiritual home. For my entire adult life I have been endlessly grateful that whenever I have had the desire or the time I have been able to spend time every day amidst the kind of architecture that speaks to all my senses and elevates every moment.

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My dream is that in the Finland of the future it will still be possible for a girl from a poor family to make as great a leap as I have made. I dream that children living amidst hardship will receive help and support; that everyone will be afforded human dignity and the right to an education and the knowledge to allow them to live up to their full potential.

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