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Kari Hotakainen

Kari Matti Hotakainen
Born January 9, Pori

Bachelor of arts 1980 (Finnish literature), University of Helsinki

Author 1995–
Copywriter 1986–1995, WSOY
Copywriter1985–1986, Mainonnantekijät
Journalist 1981–1985, STT

Savonia literary prize 1993, for the book Buster Keaton – elämä ja teot (‘Buster Keaton – life and work’)
Tobelius literary prize 2000, for the work Näytän hyvältä ilman paitaa (‘I look good without a shirt’)
Finlandia Prize 2002 for the novel Juoksuhaudantie (‘Trench road’)
Nordic Council Literature Prize 2004, for the novel Juoksuhaudantie (‘Trench road’)
Nordic Drama Prize for the play Punahukka (‘Lupus’)
Prix Courrier International for best translated work of fiction 2011,for the novel Ihmisen osa (The Human Part)
Pro Finandia Medal 2013

Photo: Laura Malmivaara, Siltala
Written by Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta
Translated by Matthew Billington

Hotakainen the all-rounder

Kari Hotakainen has had the opportunity and the time to write a broad spectrum of texts. As writer, he has become an all-rounder.

– I have always thought that I would write everything possible that came my way. I have written news reports and columns, advertising slogans, poetry and prose, plays and film scripts.

For Hotakainen, who had worked as a newspaper journalist, the move to writing advertising copy was both a change of scene and a leap into the complete unknown.

– As a copywriter, my task was to formulate the client’s story or product in as interesting and stylish a way as possible. As a poet I was nevertheless no stranger to that style of writing.

He decided to write more sales pitches at the WSOY publishing house, in the literary world that was already familiar to him. As a copywriter, Hotakainen learned to loathe the word pair commercial/uncommercial. In his opinion, this dichotomy was worrying in the case of literature. A book provides many things to its author and readers that cannot be measured in money.

Aside from his fulltime work, Hotakanen had continued to publish poems and prose from the 1980s onwards. 10 years of work in an advertising agency began to show in the rhythm of his writing. In 1995 he made the brave decision to leave his fulltime job and set up shop as a freelance writer.

In addition to fiction, Hotakainen’s keyboard has given birth to plays and television serials. There have also been film and stage adaptations of his novels.

– The most successful adaptation of my novels is probably The Human Part.

In the film business, Kari Hotakainen finds scraping together funding and the lengthy production process burdensome.

– I’m an impatient person. You can end up arguing with producers over different versions for years. I want to get a quick answer to whether the text is any good and how the work will proceed.

In contrast, he has nothing but praise for the pace of work with his publisher Touko Siltala.

– He reads the first draft in a few days, and then we already begin to move forward.

Hotakainen does not evaluate his own work. After a book is ready, he no longer thinks about it. When Hotakainen is begged for an opinion on what he considers his most important work, the answer is a surprise. It is not Juoksuhaudantie (‘Trench road’) or The Human Part.

– A kind of turning point in my career was Lastenkirja (‘Children’s book’ WSOY 1990). It was absurd, but it found an audience. Since then I have dared to write whatever comes into my mind. Before that I was conventional and a little inhibited in what I could express in words.

Kari Hotakainen’s book Lastenkirja (‘Children’s book’) was published in 1990. Photo WSOY


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