Freedom of speech discussion kicks off Helsinki Book Fair
The sixth Helsinki Book Fair started Thursday at the Helsinki Exhibition Centre. The four-day event, which is the largest of its kind in Finland, sees 900 writers in attendance and over 400 exhibitors not only from Finland, but also from Estonia, Italy, and Sweden among others.
The event's programme is centred on two main themes, tolerance and freedom of speech.
The fair's opening ceremony was immediately followed by a discussion entitled "Dangerous Freedom? - The Legacy of Anna Politkovskaya". The seminar members included author Pirkko Saisio, journalist Jouni Tervo, the chairman of PEN Finland Jukka Mallinen, TV-journalist Riikka Uosukainen, and Greens MP Heidi Hautala.
On Saturday, the freedom of speech theme will be further explored by the British writer Hari Kunzru, the former chairman of PEN England Susie Nicklin, and the Russian film and theatre director Andrei Nekrasov in a debate organised by the British Council.
Great Britain is the first theme country of the Helsinki Book Fair. Twenty or so British writers will attend the occasion, and British children's literature illustrations are also on display there.
"The programme has been formulated taking into consideration the Finnish public's interests, not forgetting the richness and diversity of the British literary canon", Kirsi Kurkela from the British Council explains.
"With the Finnish publishers we also pondered the similarities between the two cultures right now."
On the Topelius stage and in the indoor park by the same name (named after Zacharias Topelius, a prolific Swedish-speaking writer, journalist, and professor of history in 19th century Finland) there is a programme for children and young adults each day. On Friday, a four-hour-long Poem Non-Stop takes place, accompanied by numerous comic book exhibitions. Saturday has been customarily reserved for detective story enthusiasts.
Helsingin Sanomat has its own section at the fair, where various authors are being interviewed. Upper secondary school students can take part in preparing stories for the following day's newspaper there. The ten candidates for the Helsingin Sanomat Literary Award are also showcased there.
With the book fair ticket the public can also visit the adjacent food fair, where cookery books are exhibited accompanied by food preparation demonstrations.
An antiquarian book exhibition is also organised simultaneously.
Helsinki Book Fair