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Helsinki, Ep. 5

May 23, 2015 — In our annual pilgrimmage to one of the most fascinating literary cities in the world, Literary Death Match teamed with the all-new Helsinki Lit festival for a glorious return to Finland in which Emma Hooper toppled Mathias Rosenlund in a sudden death Literary Musical Chairs battle to win Hooper the LDM Helsinki, Ep. 5 crown.

But before the finale was even a thought, the magical night kicked off with Mathias Rosenlund, the award-winning author of Kopparbergsvägen 20, who read a heartaching excerpt from his all-new novel in Swedish. Then it was Nura Farahauthor of Aavikon tyttäret (Daughters of the Desert), who staggered the awed audience by reading two excerpts from her brilliant novel in Finnish. 

The mic was then handed over to the night's trio of all-star judges: Nadifa Mohamed, author of The Orchard of Lost Souls and Black Mamba BoyJuha Itkonen, recipient of the 2013 Kirjasäätiön Veijo Meri award; and Riikka Pulkkinen, Finlandia Prize-winning author of Totta and Raja. The three traded praised each author, while picking out peculiarities, too, before huddling up and deciding that it would be Rosenlund who would advance as the night's first finalist. 

Then came Round 2, led off by the inimitable Nnimmo Bassey, head of Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria & author of To Cook a Continent, who read a series of poems that went from the dire need for environmental change and a final poem about his beloved wife. Finally, it was Emma Hooper, Canadian musician and author who read from her must-read debut Etta and Otto and Russell and James, and finished by playing a ukelele. 

Again the judges were center stage, with Itkonen lauding Hooper's reading as if it was a U2 concert in the round and all three loving Bassey's words and booming voice, but after another difficult deliberation they decided it would be Hooper who would advance as the night's second finalist. 

Then up stepped LDM Creator Adrian Todd Zuniga, who announced the night's finale: Literary Musical Chairs, in which volunteers from the crowd were paired with finalists, then circled the chairs while listening to songs inspired by great works of literature. After Team Hooper was down early, they stormed back, but with only two Chairists to go — Hooper and Rosenlund proxies battled it out, with Hooper's teammate getting 51% of the chair when the music stopped, winning Hooper the LDM Helsinki, Ep. 5 medal, and literary immortality to go with it.