Published in 2002, ‘Juoksuhaudantie’ is a novel by Finnish author Kari Hotakainen that won the ‘Nordic Council Literature Prize’ in 2004. Hotakainen was born in Pori and has been living in Helsinki since 1986: he has worked as a reporter and in advertising and made his debut as a poet in 1982, becoming a full-time writer in 1996. He has been awarded the ‘Finlandia Prize’ for ‘Juoksuhaudantie’ in 2002 and his works have been translated into German, Czech, Slovakian, Estonian and Swedish. ‘Juoksuhaudantie’ comes from a street sign in the residential neighbourhood Pakila outside Helsinki: the purchase of his own home marked the beginning of the novel for Hotakainen, who had visited more than 40 house showings and collected materials from all brochures handed out. Matti Virtanen, the protagonist of the novel, has lost his family after a divorce: he is a manic outsider and idealist, a stranger in his time and, with a pair of binoculars around his neck, he goes on a ‘residential neighbourhood safari’ as if he were on an African savannah. The modern lower middle class, which is as sad as it is shabby, is examined and shown up: his satire depicts a society where anti-smokers have turned Fascists and home owners seem to spend most of their energy on the lawn. Feeling self-righteous, they enjoy their grilled meat and see all things strange as a threat. According to the Adjudicating Committee,
Kari Hotakainen is awarded the ‘Nordic Council Literature Prize’ for his socially critical and structurally aware novel: it depicts the dissolution of the Nordic welfare state, parodies and ironises the age it is set in and, in particular, traditional male gender roles.