Illustrator(s)
Publication date
2016
Publisher
WSOY
Format info
364 pages

The Light Behind the Eyes

Lopotti

A superb novel about the difficulty of finding your own way – the author of Where Four Roads Meet captivates his readers again

 

Helena is only nine years old when she is uprooted from her little village and sent to a school for the blind in Helsinki. Gradually she learns the smells, sounds and footstep counts of the big city. Forty years later, Helena’s nephew Tuomas voluntarily makes the same move. A university student, Tuomas wants to meet demands and expectations, but he secretly dreams of having a family of his own. During his southern sojourn, Tuomas comes to know his aunt in a wholly new way.

What is it like to live your whole life as a bystander, to hope that one day people would focus less on the differences that separate you and more on the commonalities you share? What is it like to embark a long journey in order to become the person you want to be, or perhaps already were? Tommi Kinnunen writes compellingly about otherness and finding your own path, the desire to become a father and the skill of being a mother.

“Don’t ever pretend to be someone you’re not just because someone else wants you to.”

 

Tommi Kinnunen’s debut novel Where Four Roads Meet (2014) was a stunning critical and sales success, with translation rights sold to 14 countries during its first year. His second novel, The Light Behind the Eyes, continues the themes of his debut novel with a sure, graceful hand – it is a big novel about tolerance, caring, our individual loneliness and this world that we nevertheless share.

The Light Behind the Eyes has sold close to 50 000 units to date in Finland alone.

 

Awards and nominations

2016 Shortlisted for the Finlandia Fiction Award
2016 Nominated as the readers’ Finlandia Fiction Award Favourite

 

Rights sold

Albanian (Ejal Publishing)
Czech (Argo)
Danish (Rosinante)
Dutch (Prometheus)
Estonian (Varrak)
Lithuanian (Alma littera)
Norwegian (Pax)
Polish (WAB / Foksal)
Swedish (Norstedts)

 

Reading material

English sample
Dutch edition
Finnish edition
Norwegian edition
Swedish edition

 

Praise for the Work

 

Praise for the Work  from international publishers

“We loved Tommi Kinnunen’s Where Four Roads Meet, and it is so good news that he has now written a second novel with the same strong storytelling and wonderful characters. It goes without saying that we would love to publish The Light Behind the Eyes in Denmark.” – Marie Louise Valeur Jaques, Acquiring Editor, Rosinante, Denmark

“We simply couldn’t resist the second book by this wonderful literary voice.” – Sophie Visser, Acquisitions Editor, Prometheus, Holland

The Light Behind the Eyes  is a new wonderful novel by Tommi Kinnunen, equally strong as Where Four Roads Meet  which has had us all blown away here in Norway. Once again we have a novel full of wonderful writing and great characters, sober and wise yet with the same impressive page-turning quality. In short: What’s not to like? We would love nothing more than to publish The Light Behind the Eyes too here at Pax Forlag.” – Janicken von den Fehr, Acquisitions Editor, Pax, Norway

“When I finished Where Four Roads Meet I couldn’t wait to read more by Tommi Kinnunen. Luckily I did not have to wait long. The Light Behind the Eyes is everything I wished for! Another great piece of work.”- Henrik Lindvall, Senior Editor, Norstedts, Sweden

Finland on Lopotti (WSOY, 2016)

“The Light Behind the Eyes continues the story of the Löytövaara family as introduced in Where Four Roads Meet. The focal characters are the blind Helena who has a determined character and sense of humour and who is building her life in Helsinki, and Tuomas, a student looking for his happiness in the gay circles of Turku. Kinnunen firmly integrates his characters as parts of a family, a family history and the environment. The novel draws a full-bodied picture of a life in which “one has to decide whether to be afraid of the world or not.” Tommi Kinnunen is wisely and warmly present in his text, but the text is breathing, leaving room also for the reader.” – Statement of the Jury, Finlandia Fiction Award

“A passionately and purposefully constructed novel.” – Suvi Ahola, Helsingin Sanomat

“The episodic structure has been maintained, as has Kinnunen’s ability to capture a great amount of feeling in small snapshots of time. Again there is no actual plot: only a series of lifetimes that inevitably move forward, and a series of blows from life, both in one’s face and below one’s belt.” – Suvi Ahola, Helsingin Sanomat

“Within the story Kinnunen also provides a cruel and tragic twist with a skill of a thriller author, hitting the reader hard. “– Suvi Ahola, Helsingin Sanomat

“This is Kinnunen’s message, surprisingly familiar and a little clichéd, repeating itself and getting stronger throughout the novel. You cannot escape from your family. That is why the family also carries you forward.” – Suvi Ahola, Helsingin Sanomat

“Some of the family scenes of The Light Behind the Eyes are downright idyllic: a gathering at a summer cottage in the sunshine, a grandmother gifting casseroles to her grandchildren. This is not idealization but rather like observation. We have seen how deeply the members in the Löytövaara family have hurt one another for decades, both intentionally and unintentionally. Yet the ties are maintained. The tie between the little brother and the big sister, the bond between the father and the child.” – Suvi Ahola, Helsingin Sanomat

“Tommi Kinnunen’s The Light Behind the Eyes is thematically an important description of the experience of being different. (…) In addition to this the narrative of the novel is very skilfully and diversely constructed.” – Kaisa Kurikka, Turun Sanomat

“The Light Behind the Eyes raises important thematic issues. In addition to this, the novel’s narrative is very skilfully and diversely constructed.” – Kaisa Kurikka, Turun Sanomat

“Shivers ran down my spine when I read the first two pages – a letter from a father to his unborn child – of Tommi Kinnunen’s novel The Light Behind the Eyes. (…) Kinnunen writes impressively polyphonic prose. He has both the ability to express a wide range of people’s innermost feelings and the ability to effectively convey events and moods. Kinnunen’s prose is ambitious, and yet there is a carefree essence to his writing. The feelings can be sensed both in the words and between the lines. The Light Behind the Eyes is a perfect whole in which the structure supports a story and in which the theme of being different takes shape in both the similarities and particulars of the narrators. With his family saga Kinnunen illuminates Finnish society across decades. Even though the family is at times the worst in The Light Behind the Eyes, it is also the best.  In the world of the novel, the extended family has real significance, both as the constructor of identity and as its support mechanism. If you are different, the opportunities offered by the world are narrower, and Helena and Tuomas appear as their own selves only to their family members.” – Marjaana Loponen, Aamulehti

The Light Behind the Eyes is a shaking description of deprivation and of wanting to be an approved member of a community. Can one write with greater humility, with more pain and with more depth about what it is like to be a human being – a member of a family, which is the result of one’s genes, education, environment and nature? Tommi Kinnunen has confirmed his position as a chronicler of Finnishness.” – Seija Forsström, Kouvolan Sanomat

“Tommi Kinnunen’s The Light Behind the Eyes  is a splendid work! I have rarely read such a vast depiction of humanity”. – Seppo Puttonen, via Twitter

“Tommi Kinnunen’s The Light Behind the Eyes is the finest piece of literature I have read in a long time. It made me consider the wide spectrum of life and tolerance.” –  Seppo Puttonen, via Twitter

The Light Behind the Eyes is like a feast of reading; it is exactly the kind of a work you will force yourself to find the time to read, and a story in which you get so totally immersed that the world around you disappears.” – Kannesta Kanteen Literary Blog

“In The Light Behind the Eyes Tommi Kinnunen  describes alienation with a very skilful narrative technique and with alternating points of view. (…) And how beautifully Tommi Kinnunen writes, how sensitive is his pen, especially when observing things from the perspective of children! The most overwhelming parts of The Light Behind the Eyes are precisely the images of Tuomas and Helena’s childhood – when a child observes, watches and listens to the world of adults. In depicting childhood Kinnunen is a real master. And when reading Kinnunen’s story one does empathize strongly with the protagonists. One really wants these people to succeed; one does wish the best for them. But life also provides heavy disappointments. Tommi Kinnunen is one of the most interesting Finnish writers at the moment. Two first-class novels is a fantastic performance from any author. The Light Behind the Eyes is a beautiful, sympathetic, sometimes even overwhelming depiction of the fragility of human happiness – about how complicated life really is. Even at this point in the year, I dare say that The Light Behind the Eyes is one of the best novels of 2016. Highly recommended!”– Kirjavinkit

“Blimey, Tommi Kinnunen did it! This fussy woman feels that she has read a piece of literature at least as strong as Where Four Roads Meet and predicts, as she did with his debut novel, that Kinnunen’s The Light Behind the Eyes will be shortlisted for the Finlandia Prize, and will even be the winner.” – Leena Lumi Literary blog

“Tommi Kinnunen writes perfect prose with a touch of lyricism. He writes wonderful sentences, perfect dialogue and portrays a strong family saga in which one will continue to marvel at how well he manages to get into the skin of women.” – Leena Lumi Literary blog

The Light Behind the Eyes is guaranteed Kinnunen (…) Tommi is very skilful in describing profound feelings through everyday events.”– Anna-Riikka Carlson, Publisher (WSOY) in her speech in The Light Behind the Eyes book launch

“The debut novel Where Four Roads Meet (WSOY 2014) was the best Finnish book I read that year, and in some miraculous way Kinnunen has done it again. In fact, The Light Behind the Eyes (WSOY 2016) strikes me emotionally at least as hard as Where Four Roads Meet, perhaps even stronger.” – Kirjasta kirjaan Literary blog

The Light Behind the Eyes provides moments of admiration both with the craftsmanship of its sentences and with its powerful depictions of the diversity in the spectrum of life.” –Tuijata Literary blog

Dutch and Belgian media on Het licht achter de ogen (Prometheus, 2017)

“Breathtaking (…) lyric (…) Kinnunen’s descriptions are so true to reality that the reader is startled by the black in front of his own eyes, as he tries to imagine Helena’s blindness.” – NRC newspaper

“Today in NRC Books: five stars for the beautiful book The Light Behind the Eyes by the Finnish writer Tommi Kinnunen.” – Author, literary critic Kester Freriks on Twitter

The Light Behind the Eyes is like the Finns themselves: at first glance a bit stiff – you become occasionally dizzy with the names and endings – but full of warmth and depth when you find the key. A book to read at least twice. So you are more and more attracted by the ordinary, but oh so stubborn and combative northerners. Reading Kinnunen is to understand the Finnish soul. Four-and-half stars, because occasionally it is very complicated and very melancholy, but because there are so many beautiful sentences in this book and it’s still a real candidate for the Great Finland Roman, let’s round it up: five stars.” – FIVE STARS OUT OF FIVE,  Hebban Review blog

“Kinnunen succeeds very well in giving his “small” Finnish story an universal and deeply human allure.” – Boekensite blog

Sweden on Ljuset bakom ögonen (Norstedts, 2017)

“Tommi Kinnunen is a writer who does not simplify. He dares to linger in the irreversible emotional fluctuations of the people, and he does it with a language that has both drive and a sensitive presence. Now it remains to be seen where what direction his career will take: where can he throw his searchlight outside the framework of the family story?” – Barometern

“My rating is high for The Light Behind the Eyes. Rarely do I meet characters in a novel who have such strong will and who do not let themselves be overpowered. They have a steady drive and an impressively strong will to live when their backs are up against the wall. In family relationships, ambition is allowed, but it is shadowed in the next moment of debt and vulnerability. (…) When I’ve finished reading, I’m overcome and I dry tears that could not be held back. So relentless is life, too. It ends one day.” – NINE STARS OUT OF TEN, Lena Nöjd, Dagens bok

“Kinnunen’s novel holds the reader in its hands with confident empathy and fascinating clarity. (…) And the whole story, it is simply good literary art.” – Kuriren

“Detailed and coming in close (…) I liked this story for its … closely approaching descriptions, for the grit and the secrecy that characterized both people and nature.” – Sydsvenskan

“And the whole story, it is simply good literary art.” – Norbottenskuriren

“Tommi Kinnunen is a writer who does not simplify. He dares to linger in… the irreversible emotional fluctuations of the people, and he does it with a language that has both drive and a sensitive presence.” – Blekinge Läns Tidning

“It is clear you will be touched!” – Östgöta Correspondenten

 

Norway on Lyset bak øynene (Pax, 2017)

“It is intense to be the blind daughter in a family of photographers. (…) Kinnunen’s nuanced language, dealing with children’s grief and their ability to seek comfort in one another and in secret corners of a house, is exemplary. This is, on many levels, a dark novel, with an underlying Strindbergesque tone: Men are to be pitied. (…) The young and, one must be allowed to say, promising Kinnunen, is one of several good Finnish writers on the way up in Nordic literature.” – Klassekampen, Norway

“A dark novel with Strindbergesque undertones.” – Klassekampen, Norway

“The Light Behind the Eyes draws its characters so clearly and poignantly that it becomes timeless. – Politikken, Norway

“A FANTASTICALLY GOOD BOOK!  I am fascinated by the way Tommi Kinnunen writes. It is so catchy, personal and believable. Fantastically great books, both of them.” – Kleppanrova Literary Blog, Norway

 

Estonia on Peraküla (Varrak, 2017)

“A heavy and sad novel, but worth it until the very last page.” – Maemaailm Literary blog, Estonia

 

Poland on Inni niż my, (W.A.B., 2017)

“A wise and moving story about the fate of a multigenerational Finnish family. Perfect for reading as a continuation of “Where Four Roads Meet“, but equally addictive as an independent work.” FIVE STARS! – Queer, Poland