Marianne Backlén


I will be working on my novel for young adults, tentatively titled Diamantvägen (Diamond Road), at the Saari Residence. I intend to complete the manuscript by autumn 2016. The book will be published in Swedish in spring 2017, and I hope it will be translated into Finnish.

The book deals with issues related to immigration. Young people in Helsinki meet peers who have moved to Finland from Africa, particularly from Congo-Kinshasa. The main themes of my novel are young love overshadowed by racism, and the allure of diamonds, from the Buddhist Diamond Sutra to Western luxury – diamonds are a girl’s best friend – and African blood diamonds.

Other themes include social marginalisation among young people, but also idealism and a desire to help others. An African religious community helps marginalised young people with immigrant backgrounds in Helsinki. On the other hand, kindoki – a form of African witchcraft – is driving young people away from their families, even outside Congo.

Diamonds are a mythical theme in my book. A young Finnish woman, an upper-secondary school student, thinks that she has lost her mother’s expensive diamond ring, but later finds it in a leather glove. A suspicious bag full of rough diamonds changes hands among young people. An African family has shady connections to the diamond trade and raw materials trade in the electronics industry in their home country. I refer to Heart of Darkness, a novel by Joseph Conrad published in 1899, when Europeans traded in ivory and natural rubber. I want to bring themes related to colonialism into a present-day context.

My intention is to write a novel that discusses topical issues at the individual level, but also deals with timeless themes. Then again, it is also possible that the focuses of my book will change over the next six months. Not all young people are interested in politics; many are much more interested in civic activism. They want to live life on their own terms and create a culture of their own – a new, more open Finland –while others are critical of immigration. Through my literary work, I want to discuss diversity in Finland, build bridges and address delicate issues, such as cultural conflicts.