The winners of Helsinki City Library’s writing contest with the theme ‘The book that changed me’ have now been announced. The winner of the youth category is 19-year-old Isabel Nieminen from Helsinki. The first place in the adult category was awarded to 46-year-old Susanna Arminen also from Helsinki.
Participants were asked to submit free-form essays on books that changed them or had a major impact on their lives. The books described in the essays received range from the ABC-book to the Quran and from award-winning modern literature to classics that are hundreds of years old. The essays are essentially declarations of their writers’ love for books, libraries and reading in general.
“The texts we received were of high-quality and reflected the huge impact that a book you read when you are young can have on your entire life. Many of the writers also described concrete matters and changes they have made to their daily lives inspired by literature. However, the panel of judges was unanimous in its decision,” commented the jury for the youth category.
Both panels said that they would have liked to have seen even bolder literary experiments. It seemed that an essay was a less familiar form of literature to many of the participants.
“We particularly appreciated a lively and meandering literary touch. Many of the essays repeated a same old pattern and resembled school projects. On the other hand, several of the texts had a fascinating way of combining general facts with person details,” stated the panel of judges for the adult category.
In her essay on Proust, Susanna Arminen, the winner of the adult category, discusses the impact that art has had in her life in an insightful manner. “At its best, art allows us to move back and forth in time, travel from the past and to the future; it makes time stretch, pass slowly or speed ahead at a breath-taking pace, as is the case when Marcel wakes up from a nap in his armchair and watches all of the rooms and armchairs in his life flash in front of him, one after another.”
The winners are rewarded with a book shop gift card and the book ‘Suurteoksia’ (published by Tammi, 2021).
The panel of judges for the contest was formed by the expert readers of Helsinki City Library.
Youth category (12–20-year-olds):
1st place Isabel Nieminen: Ett verk som förändrade mig ( A work that changed me )
An engaging glimpse into childhood, where the greatest hero in life is a tiny bear who enjoys life to the fullest. The writer skilfully builds her story and hooks the reader’s attention from the very first sentence. A hopeful text that inspires joy. The text makes you wonder why we do not live more like Winnie the Pooh.
2nd place Heidi Mönkkönen: Light into dark from dark light – a truly eye-opening read (Pimeästä valosta valoa pimeään – silmiä avaava lukukokemus)
Deeply personal and touching text full of sensitivity and strength. The life situations of the novel’s main character intertwine with those of the writer. The writer shares inspiring insights into life and reading.
3rd place Julia Berg: When life collapses in a matter of moments – Nobel Prize winner highlights the perspective of Chernobyl victims (Kun elämä romahtaa muutamassa hetkessä – Nobel-voittaja tuo esiin Tsernobylin uhrien näkökulmat)
The text is engaging and deeply human. A skilful description of a reading experience with a clear span. The writer guides us into the world of the novel and describes it beautifully and vividly.
Siiri Kamppari: Touch of Naondel
The novel inspired the writer to create a lyrical text. The style stands out from the other entrants.
1st place Susanna Arminen: In search of lost time (Kadonnutta aikaa etsimässä)
The essay conveys all the light, joy and warmth that literature at its best can stir. The beautiful and lingering language supports the emotionally impressive medley of childhood memories, written entirely in the spirit of Marcel Proust. The summer-time memories carry the reader from Malmi to Ritvala in Sääksmäki.
2nd place Pseudonym Question mark: Stoner
This skilful essay transports its reader into the world of John Williams’ novel Stoner and literature in general through personal experience. Lying awake worrying next to your sleeping spouse, trembling at the thought of a life change, Michel de Montaigne and speech conveyed by literature throughout the ages are all themes that fit in this one essay.
3rd place Hanna Pärnä: Children of Hiroshima
This vibrantly flowing essay is filled with intelligence and warmth. The text opens up the problematics of war and trauma literature in a very interesting way through the eyes of both child and adult readers.
Marjaleena Etula: Overtime
A refreshing and touching text that is highly personal and very frank. Although stylistically the essay may not be the most polished, the panel of judges found it the most striking emotionally.
The best texts will be published on the Helmet website of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area libraries.
Illustration: Daniel Leiviskä/City of Helsinki