Mika Waltari (1908-1979)is one of the best known Finnish writers
of the early 20th century. He was a very productive writer and has published numerous mystery novels
, short stories
, fairy tales
, travel books
. He also worked as a reporter, editor and critic for various magazines and newspapers. His books and plays have also been made into movies both in Finland and abroad.
He is probably best known for his historical novels like The Egyptian (Sinuhe, egyptiläinen) from 1945 which has been translated to most major languages. Many of his historical novels are mixes of fatalistic adventure, accurate historic events and man's quest for prosperity and inevitable failure. His characters often wonder from fate to fate in times of war and turmoil. Although his historical novels are his best known work, Waltari moved from style to style and era to era with surprising ease.
Update: In 2008 it was discovered that an english-american tv-producer Colin Slater had "authored" an almost direct copy of Waltari's book "The Roman" (original title "Ihmiskunnan viholliset", published in Finnish in 1964 and translated to English in 1966) without permission under his own name with the title "Lindum Colonia". The copy was published in 2003 by Virtualbookworm.com Publishing. When comparing the two texts, it turned out Mr Slater had only changed individual words here and there. The discovery was widely covered in Finnish media once the leading local paper, Helsingin Sanomat broke the news in July 2008.
The irony of the story is that Mr Slater claims to be an expert on copyright issues and even taught the subject at university level.
Personally, I've found Waltari a very entertaining and observant writer. His works grab your attention with ease and force you to read on, although reading too many of his historical novels might get you slightly irritated with the similarities in their themes and events. Luckily, Waltari's extensive production gives the reader a lot of choice even outside the genre of historical adventures!