Mika Waltari (1908-1979) is the most popular 20th century Finnish writer who is best known for his magnum opus The Egyptian. Over a career that spanned five decades, Waltari published well over 100 works, of which 200 translations have been made. His works include at least 30 novels, 20 plays and 15 novellas, as well as short stories, poems, screenplays and essays. In 1957 he was appointed to the Academy of Finland, having previously won the state literature award five times. Waltari’s works have been translated into over 40 languages.
Waltari is best known for his grand historical novels. His most famous such work is The Egyptian, which was set in Egypt during the 18th Dynasty in 1300BC and was published in 1945. The novel was rapidly translated into foreign languages and it became an international bestseller. In 1949, The Egyptian was selected as the book of the month in the United States; it reached the top of the best-seller list where it remained for two years.
Many of Waltari’s novels are centred around the fate of humanist values in a materialist world. After the Second World War, Waltari started writing historical novels that expressed his pessimism and, later, his Christian world view.
As a twenty-year-old Waltari became one of the lead figures of The Torchbearers, a Finnish literary movement who were inspired by Russian and Italian futurism and sought to take Finnish literature into the rest of Europe.
Waltari dabbled in many literary genres publishing crime fiction, poems, short stories, essays, fairy tales, travel books, screenplays, plays and memoirs, some of which were published in Finnish magazines under a pen name. He was the first notable Finnish crime writer: his Inspector Palmu series are internationally renowned and have been adapted for film by Matti Kassila.
The Tongue of Fire, 1958
Dance Over the Tombstones, 1944
Love in Times of War, 1943
From Father to Son, 1942
Never a Tomorrow, 1942
The Wonderful Joosef, 1938
City of Sorrow and Joy, 1936
Do You Want to be a Writer?, 1935
The Orange Pip, 1931
The Grand Illusion, 1928