Exciting news for all of us working in the mysterious creative space between the literary arts and science: yesterday, the debut novel Beasts of the Sea by Iida Turpeinen won the Helsingin Sanomat Literature Prize. The novel has also been nominated for Finland's most prestigious literary award, the Finlandia Prize (which was won by our very own NeuWrite Nordic board member Jussi Valtonen back in 2014).
Helsingin Sanomat says that
Beasts of the Sea, which focuses on a single sea cow and individuals linked to it over a span of three centuries, makes the ecological ruptures and freefall of the entire world a palpable experience. … This science-fueled book will move you and have you holding your breath.
Turpeinen's story is an inspiration to those of us trying to cross the boundaries between literature and science—she is "a literary scholar writing a dissertation on the intersection of the natural sciences and literature. As an author, she is intrigued by the literary potentials of scientific research and by the offbeat anecdotes and meanderings from the history of science".
Speaking with Helsingin Sanomat for an article published yesterday, Turpeinen hinted at the productive potential for both scientists and creative writers of mingling in each other's fields:
Maybe I wouldn't know how to research if I didn't also write fiction, or vice versa. Research writing is dense and packed, and you have to argue so relentlessly. I have to be able to write more widely as well.
Turpeinen, who wrote Beasts of the Sea in Finnish, now has publishing deals for the book to be translated into more than a dozen languages. Her story encourages us to keep at our work, no matter how much we might feel like misfits. As the HS article's tagline put it: "Iida Turpeinen spent seven years writing her novel about an extinct manatee. It was worth it."
Image: Susanna Kekkonen via Helsinki Literary Agency