Mika Waltari

One of the greats of Finnish literature Mika Waltari (1908-1979) continues to win over new readers all over the world.

Waltari’s genius emerged early on. Even as a twenty-year old he was a prominent figure in the Finnish literary movement known as Tulenkantajat (The Flame-bearers), which sought to throw open the windows of Finnish literature to Europe. His first novel, Grand Illusion (Suuri illusioni, 1928), depicts the lost generation à la Fitzgerald following the First World War and it was a huge success in Finland.

Waltari is best known both in Finland and abroad for his grand historical novels. The first in the line was The Egyptian (Sinuhe egyptiläinen, 1945), a fascinating novel about ancient Egypt and an international best-seller from the day of publication. The novel, which has been translated into various languages, tells the eventful life story of Pharaoh Akhenaten’s personal physician, Sinuhe, while reflecting on the contradiction between idealism and realism in a timeless manner. The multifaceted work has also been interpreted as portraying the spiritual crisis caused by the Second World War in Europe. The Egyptian was followed by an array of historic novels set in various epochs, all of them depicting the problematic lot of the individual in an age of immense historic change. All are imbued with Waltari’s humanistic view of life, which in his later work began to take on a religious cast.

Unprejudiced and skilled at adaptation, Waltari managed during his career to experiment with most exiting literary genres: his pen yielded poetry, fables, plays, travelogues, essays, horror stories, short stories, novellas and light reading, some of which appeared in magazines under a pen name. He was also the first notable Finnish practitioner of detective fiction: his Inspector Palmu novels are also know n through their Finnish film versions.

In addition to The Egyptian, Waltari wrote seven  historical novels set in various epochs. He is masterful in capturing human feelings in times of great upheaval when the tradition and value of humanism are at risk. Waltari, who was totally proficient in the traditions of adventure and picaresque novels, has received a great deal of praise for his telling and thought-provoking depiction of the times.

Mika Waltari was made a member of the Academy of Finland in 1975.

Altogether over 200 Mika Waltari titles have been published in translation.
Read more about Mika Waltaris life here (SKS).
Read more about Waltari here (Books from Finland).


Mika Waltari’s works include:

Grand Illusion (Suuri illusioni, WSOY 1928)
A Lonely Man’s Train (Yksinäisen miehen juna, WSOY 1929/1954)
The Orange Pip (Appelsiininsiemen, WSOY 1931)
Do You Want to Be a Writer? (Aiotko kirjailijaksi? WSOY 1935)
City of Sorrow and Joy (Surun ja ilon kaupunki, WSOY 1936)
A Stranger Came to the Farm (Vieras mies tuli taloon, WSOY 1937)
Who murdered Mrs Skrof? (Kuka murhasi rouva Skrofin? Otava, 1939)
Inspector Palmu’s Mistake (Komisario Palmun erehdys, WSOY 1940)
Catherine (Kaarina Maununtytär, WSOY 1942)
Never a Tomorrow (Ei koskaan huomispäivää, WSOY 1942)
Love in Times of War (Rakkaus vainoaikaan, WSOY 1943)
The Dance over the Tombstones (Tanssi yli hautojen, WSOY 1944)
The Egyptian (Sinuhe egyptiläinen, WSOY 1945)
Journey to Istanbul (Lähdin Istanbuliin, WSOY 1948)
The Adventurer (Mikael Karvajalka, WSOY, 1948)
The Wanderer (Mikael Hakim, WSOY 1949)
Young Johannes (Nuori Johannes, WSOY 1981)
The Dark Angel (Johannes Angelos, WSOY 1952)
The Etruscan (Turms, kuolematon, WSOY 1955)
The Tongue of Fire (Feliks onnellinen, WSOY 1958)
The Secret of the Kingdom (Valtakunnan salaisuus, WSOY 1959)
It is Written In the Stars, Inspector Palmu! (Tähdet kertovat, komisario Palmu! WSOY 1962)
The Roman (Ihmiskunnan viholliset, WSOY 1964)