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Suvi Ahola

Suvi Katariina Ahola
Born May 5, 1959, Sippola

BA 1983 (Finno-Ugric Linguistics), MA 1987 and PhD 2013 (Finnish Literature), University of Helsinki
Journalist 1983, Sanoma Ltd. Journalist School

Journalist 1984-, Helsingin Sanomat daily newspaper
Copy editor 1994–1995, Kodin Kuvalehti magazine
Author 1999-

Judge for the J. K. Erkko First Book Prize 1984–1994
Judge for Helsingin Sanomat’s Literary Prize 1995–2010, 2013
Finnish Institute in Estonia board member 1997–2005, vice chair 2001–2005
Institute for the Languages of Finland advisory committee member 2004–2010
Minna Canth Society board member 2005-, vice chair 2006–2012, chair 2012-
Tuglas Society board member 2008–2014
Deputy employee representative in the shipping department of Sanoma Magazines Finland 2013-
Union of Journalists in Finland council member 2014-

Written by Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta
Translated by Joe McVeigh

‘I write when the spirit moves me’

In addition to her journalism work, Suvi Ahola has written a number of books and her dissertation was on reading circles.

– In the early 2000s I did another story on reading circles. I noticed that the popularity of reading circles in Finland is growing all the time. While collecting material for my story, I realized that a broader study would be needed. I mentioned this to the culture editor at the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, Heikki Helman. He said, “Well, do your dissertation on that”.

The University of Helsinki’s Department of Finnish Literature was delighted with Ahola’s idea, especially when she found a supervisor and funding on her own. Altogether her post graduate studies and research went smoothly.

– My dissertation supervisor was Katariina Eskola, who is the “grand old lady” of Finnish literary sociology and one of the best experts in the field. I did my dissertation in two years – one while on job alternation leave and one on funding I received from the Emil Aaltonen Foundation.

In putting together the dissertation material, Ahola saw herself more as a journalist than a researcher. She is pleased that she was able to compile representative material through research and scientifically analyse reading groups.

– Somebody can then further explore my conclusions to the research questions. I understand now that other research is being done on reading circles and that international cooperation has emerged among researchers of reading circles. If I had been more of a researcher, I suppose I would have noticed that earlier. I am thankful for my work as a reporter for the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper. It has saved me from a career as a Finnish teacher or a researcher.

Ahola does not see herself as a ‘true’ author, even though she has published several works. In between the covers of those books is writing which is very similar to what she has written for newspapers.

– I do not have a plan for my next book at the moment. I write when the spirit moves me. In the first place, I write well under when there’s a project. My mind does not continually turn news topics into books.

Suvi Ahola’s most recent work, Ystäviä ja kirjoja. Opas lukupiirin perustamiseen ja toimintaan (‘Friends and books: A guide for starting and running a reading circle’) appeared in February 2015. It is the second piece of popular non-fiction to come out of Ahola’s dissertation research.

– Since my dissertation dealt with normal people’s reading habits, I wanted to write a popular non-fiction book on the same topic. My most recent book is a continuation of this because there was material left over.’

At the HeadRead Literature Festival in Tallinn in May 2015, an international critic and publishing group discussed forgotten European classics.​
At the HeadRead Literature Festival in Tallinn in May 2015, an international critic and publishing group discussed forgotten European classics.​


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