The United States: Theme country at this year’s Helsinki Book Fair (October 25-28, 2018)

Author Jennifer Clement interviewed by KirjaKallio students at the Helsinki Book Fair 2018 (© State Dept.)
Ambassador Pence with author Patricia Lockwood and Mrs. Pence at the Helsinki Book Fair (© State Dept.)
Ambassador Pence with author Patricia Lockwood and Mrs. Pence at the Helsinki Book Fair (© State Dept.)

The Helsinki Book Fair, one of the biggest annual cultural events in Finland, drew a record 85,600 visitors this year. Ambassador Pence joined program director Ronja Salmi to open the fair, which featured the United States as the theme country for the first time. In his brief remarks, Ambassador Pence emphasized the meaning of literature and libraries in today’s world. Later that evening, Ambassador Pence hosted a reception with readings by Jennifer Clement, Patricia Lockwood, and Cecilia Samartin.

During the fair, the U.S. Embassy organized more than 20 hours of program at Messukeskus and at other sites, such as discussions at Tikkurila High School with author Patricia Lockwood. At Messukeskus, the Embassy organized a robust four-day program reflecting the diversity of the United States. The book display “50 States – 50 Books” listed a book from each state emphasizing the size and cultural diversity of the 50 American states. The Embassy partnered with the Helsinki City Library to offer a Novellikoukku program combining knitting with storytelling, which provided a calm and relaxing space to hear American short stories.

The U.S. Embassy booth also featured presentations and interviews by American authors Jennifer Clement, Patricia Lockwood, and Cecilia Samartin. Iowa Writers Program alumni Henriikka Tavi, Tommi Parkko, and Aki Salmela discussed their experiences in the United States in a session moderated by Laura Serkosalo. AmCham CEO Alexandra Pasternak-Jackson led a discussion on business books for the millennial reader, while Paleface and Kasper Salonen discussed the meaning of rap lyrics. Other sessions included travel blogging led by Ulla Allakangas (Stilettikorkokanta) and Sanna Kanninen (Seven Seas), as well as discussions featuring Markku Henriksson, Mika Hentunen, Antero Holmila and Matti Roitto, Juha Itkonen, Ken Pasternak, Markku Ruotsila, and Rauli Virtanen on issues from Formula 1 to American national parks.

Finnish journalists Pirkko Pöntinen, Mika Hentunen, Olli Herrala, and Rauli Virtanen discussed the "Changing America" with Baba Lybeck at the Helsinki Book Fair. (© State Dept.)
Finnish journalists Pirkko Pöntinen, Mika Hentunen, Olli Herrala, and Rauli Virtanen discussed the “Changing America” with Baba Lybeck at the Helsinki Book Fair. (© State Dept.)

One of the highlights of the fair was the Embassy-sponsored panel discussion “Changing America” on one of the main stages. Baba Lybeck moderated the fascinating discussion featuring Finnish journalists Mika Hentunen, Olli Herrala, Pirkko Pöntinen, and Rauli Virtanen, who covered the United States as correspondents from the 1970s until today.

In addition to Finnish publishing companies, American authors, and the Helsinki Book Fair staff, the Embassy proudly partnered with Fulbright Finland Foundation; SAM Finland; SAM Helsinki; Discover America Finland; and Suomen intiaaniyhdistys.

More photos of the fair available at the U.S. Embassy Flickr album.

The full U.S. Embassy booth program at the Helsinki Book Fair 2018