Juha Hurme (Finland)

Photo: Stefan Bremer/Teos

Juha Hurme (b 1959) is one of the most noteworthy prize-winning Finnish authors and a theater man whose sharp style and wonderful manners have made him one of the most watched Finnist culture persons. Hurme has written six novels, written and staged tens of plays, founded and led several theater institutions. In his work autobiography often is connected with his wide knowledge of culture and history. Especially close to him are the Finnish literary classics whose work he has often interpreted or hinted at. Last year Hurme “translated” into modern Finnish the first Finnish novel, Aleksis Kivi’s (1834–1872) Seven Brothers.  

In 2017 Hurme won the most prestigious Finnish literary award Finlandia with his novel Niemi („Neem”, Est transl by Tiiu Kokla, 2021 Varrak). The novel speaks of the Finnsih cultural history starting with the Big Bang until 1809, when Finland became part of the Russian empire. At the same time, it is a book, immersed into the birth and the evolution of the whole planet, hard to connect with any genre. It is something resembling a long essay where the analytic powers of Hurme, a modern renaissance man, intellectuality and virtuosity with words are all connected. 

Niemi is a book dedicated to Finland – and at the same time, a manifesto of tearing down the myth of Finland. It will disintegrate all pathos and sanctity, concerning the originality of the people and their truths. The background of the words is good humored and chastening laughter. 

As the theme of Prima Vista is Game Limits this year, we asked Hurme what the game limits are for him and he replied: 

‘I am a writer and a director. The root word of theater drama at first meant playing a game meant both for the participant and the public.

This way a dynamic drawing of lines happens where every performance means discussion about where the limits will disappear this time, respecting all the participants.

We can extend this principle to all kinds of artistic and social activity.  We,  humans, are animals capable of myth, we are born to lift limits and extend our grip. When we lose that ability of playing and discussing, it is replaced with prejudice, propaganda, and hatred, even bloodshed and war.‘ 

Juha Hurme will meet the readers on the 10th of May at 6 p.m. in Tartu Literature House. The talk will be led by Heidi Iivari in Estonian and Finnish. The event is supported by the Finnish Institute.