Iraqi author Hassan Blasim hasn’t had the easiest of lives, but in Finland he has found the peace to write about his experiences. The beginning has been promising, to say the least: Blasim’s first book, The Madman of Freedom Square, was long-listed for this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

HASSAN BLASIM’S situation is rather peculiar: he is an Iraqi writer, living in Finland, writing in Arabic and being published in Britain. The publication of his collection of short stories The Madman of Freedom Square happened almost by accident and received little attention at first, but when the British newspaper The Independent long-listed it for its annual Foreign Fiction Prize, things started happening.

Philosopher celebrity Pekka Himanen wrote a roadmap for Finland’s future prosperity. Now what are we supposed to do with it?

PEKKA HIMANEN leaves no one cold. The one-time wunderkind PhD-at-20 has spun out books on the information society that have been translated into 20 languages. He hangs out with global luminaries from Nobel laureates to rock stars, discussing what’s going on in the world. Last year, government big-shots asked him to write a book about how Finland can prosper in the new decade. His report, entitled Kukoistuksen käsikirjoitus (“Manuscript for flourishing”), was published 10 March and promptly created a heated debate that still rages.

Finland’s next major contemporary art export Adel Abidin works with humour and sarcasm, but he is no pedlar of cheap laughs.

THE NAME Adel Abidin has been on many lips in the art community lately. A rising name in the international scene of contemporary art, 36-year-old Abidin’s works have been exhibited in museums and galleries all over the world, and his first major solo exhibition in Finland opened in February in Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. SixDegrees spoke with Abidin the day after the opening.

Dan-Olof Riska has worked in physics for 40 years. In a distinguished international career which saw him hold an Assistant Professorship in the USA at the age of 27, he is now Director of the Helsinki Institute of Physics and vice-chairman of CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research based near Geneva.

SIX DEGREES met with Riska at the Physics Campus in Helsinki’s Kumpula district for a chat about the meaning of life, the universe and everything.

How did you first become interested in physics, and what impact has it had in your life?

Bottling her talent for the 
Finnish pop audience

CHISU has officially arrived on the Finnish pop music scene. Her sophomore album, Vapaa ja yksin (Free and Alone), is undoubtedly one of the freshest-sounding Finnish pop albums of this year. With her mature and poetic lyrics touching on a diversity of topics such as the recession, unemployment, depression and even swine flu, the Finnish public are sitting up and taking notice of the artist formally known as Christel Sundberg.