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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

Revenge, envy, lust for money and the desire to please

According to the author Kari Hotakainen, fiction cannot be written to order, although he has been commissioned to do other forms of writing. If he wished, he could discuss the topic of his books with his publisher, Touko Siltala, but they have not been in the habit of so doing.

– Siltala knows that I’ll go off to my cabin and come out two years later with a pile of text.

Hotakainen meets his publisher during the writing process, but as a friend. Then they don’t talk about work, although they do talk about reading.

– It is difficult and frustrating to talk about one’s own writing. After all, the reader will decide on the content of my text. In particular, it is unbearable to listen to an adjective-rich description of one’s own books. The book itself is the most important thing and the reader is king or queen.

He describes the storm of feelings that prevails inside the head of a writer as a mash-making process. Individual thoughts eventually coalesce into an unidentifiable mass which gains its form in the book. An individual emotion does not produce the best possible book; instead, what is needed is for emotions to be fluffed up into a mash. In addition, when many perspectives are presented in a work, it is proof that the furnace in the author’s brain has been burning furiously.

– There are endless motives for writing. Organising chaos, explaining the world, creating a new world. Then there are the primeval motives: revenge, envy, a lust for money and the desire to please. Of course, they are base feelings, but they have produced a huge number of good texts. In literature one of the oldest motives is revenge. Many mousey writers who have stayed silent when there was a rat at the dinner table have decided in their own minds that one day they would kill the prick in their novel.

Photo: Veikko Somerpuro, WSOY.

Hotakainen limits his work to weekday ‘office hours.’ A strict policy for working time demands effective working methods. He has developed what he calls a ‘five porridge’ writing technique.

– The Kari file on my computer always has five different pieces of work that I have created for myself. One is, say, a book of fairy tales, one a novel, one a column, one a play and the fifth something else. In the morning I start by writing, say, a fairy tale. If that fails to flow, then snap, I jump to the next porridge of text and then to the next and so on and so forth. During six or seven hours of work, one of those texts will definitely have started to flow.

If Hotakainen were to teach writing, he would utilise his porridge theme. For him it is a question of maintaining the sharpness of the writer’s instruments, of which there should be many.

– If one of my ‘pencils’ becomes blunt then I grab another one. In that way, you don’t get blocked so easily. If there is just one bowl of porridge, let’s say writing novels, and it doesn’t begin to flow, then it is easy to become frustrated and your writing becomes even more blocked.

Hotakainen tries to follow the works of other writers. He is unafraid of envy or stage fright if he comes across good text or an entire work of genius.

– How could I be envious of something that I couldn’t have come up with myself? If reading your colleagues’ books makes you envious, then it means that someone has created the kind of world that you have never discovered yourself, and you perhaps will never discover it again. I recently read Laura Lindstedt’s Oneiron. It’s absolutely amazing.

It was admiration for other authors that first made Hotakainen a poet.

– If I had never read Sirkka Turkka as a youth, I wouldn’t have dared to write poetry. I timidly pondered whether someday I could write like that. As a poet, I never became as good, but I became something all the same.

Kari Hotakainen’s latest book, Henkireikä (‘Breathing hole’), was published in 2015. Photo: Siltala


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