Jul 29, 2020
Jussi Valtonen is both a novelist and a psychologist. As a novelist, his work has been compared to both George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World for the way it weaves together social commentary and science fiction to jolt readers into confronting difficult questions about the soon-to-come worlds we are creating in the present. His research as a psychologist investigates how changes to the human brain impact how we think, experience, and make sense of the world. This includes recent investigations of the role of psychiatric drugs and polypharmacy on cognitive decline and functional impairment.
Valtonen is from Helsinki and studied English, philosophy, and psychology in Finland before coming to the US to study neuropsychology at Johns Hopkins University and NYU. He was also trained in screenwriting at the University of Salford in the UK and has worked as a journalist and science reporter.
He has written three novels and a short story collection. Carried by Wings (2007) was given second place in Bonnier's novel competition, and received a warm reception from both critics and bloggers. Valtonen's recent book, They Know Not What They Do (2014), won the Finlandia Prize, Finland's highest literary honor.
In this interview, Valtonen discusses how he found psychological science and literature to complement one another, the blind-spots in current psychiatric practice that harm patients, and how novels can help us to ask questions about the world we're creating.