© Like / Toni Härkönen

Riikka Ala-Harja


Riikka Ala-Harja (b. 1967) is an author and dramaturg whose novels are known for their bracingly irreverent storylines and characters who refuse to fit the existing moulds. Employing unexpected set-ups and shaking up calcified conceptions, Ala-Harja takes a stance on timely questions such as multiculturalism, difference, home and homelessness, unemployment, and loneliness.

The characters in her novels nimbly dodge categorization of any kind. Life is something that happens, and people are shaped along the way. Limping beautifully, they represent the deepest essence of humanity: imperfection.

Particular pleasure is offered by Ala-Harja’s language, which has been described as ”sometimes naive, sometimes distinctly angular”. The reader is left with the pleasure of detecting the connection between the language and the twists in the plot.

Ala-Harja’s extensive oeuvre encompasses not only novels but short stories, children’s books, and comic book manuscripts. She has also penned plays, radio plays, and columns and participated in various projects in the fine arts.

Riikka Ala-Harja has published six novels to date; Hole is her first collection of short stories. When praising her 2012 novel Normandy, the Finlandia Fiction Prize nomination board noted that its language and narration ”underscore the heart-wrenching depiction of angst and what it feels like to be buffeted by impossible waves of extreme emotions – anger, love, rage and hope”.




  • Tom Tom Tom (Tom Tom Tom, Gummerus Publishers, 1998)
  • Strip (Strip, Gummerus Publishers, 2000)
  • Overseas and Under Your Skin (Maata meren alla, Gummerus Publishers, 2003)
  • The Giant (Jättiläinen, WSOY, 2007)
  • Canary Islands (Kanaria, WSOY, 2010)
  • Normandy (Maihinnousu, Like Publishing, 2012)
  • Lighter Flesh (Kevyt liha, Like Publishing, 2015)

Children’s Books:

  • The Desert and the Mackerel Sea (Aavikko ja makrillimeri, illustrations Ilmari Hakala; Gummerus Publishers, 2005)
  • Ter-Mari and the Coral (Ter-Mari ja koralli, illustrations Ilmari Hakala; Gummerus Publishers, 2006)
  • Ebba of Two Homes (Kahden maan Ebba; Otava 2017)


  • Manuscripts for numerous comic stories illustrated by Matti Hagelberg, 1997-

Other books:

  • Off season (with photographer Anne Hämäläinen; texts in Finnish and French; Cahiers du Temps, 2009)



  • shortlisted for Finlandia Fiction Prize 1998 (Tom Tom Tom)
  • shortlisted for the Helsingin Sanomat Literature Prize for debut of the year 1998 (Tom Tom Tom)
  • Kaarle Prize 1999 (Tom Tom Tom)
  • shortlisted for Finlandia Fiction Prize 2012 (Normandy)


Works published in / Rights sold to:

Estonia (Hea Lugu / Eesti Raamat)
France (Gaïa Editions)

Published books