Paul Auster, you’re most welcome to Finland,” said the Finnish President Sauli Niinistö at the Academic Bookstore in the center of Helsinki on Saturday afternoon. “As you see, everybody knows you here,” Niinistö continued and the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd burst into a loud laughter.
“Thank you,” Auster said, “I have a feeling, they know you too.”
The marble walls of the store continued to echo in laughter only to be taken over by the handclaps.
And so, the ice, if there was any, was broken. Auster, the 70-year-old best-selling American author, is visiting Finland as one of the stops on his month-long European tour, where he is supposed to promote his latest novel “4 3 2 1,” a massive 800-page brick of a book, which in a Finnish translation is 400 pages longer, a bildungsroman that President Niinistö likes. In fact, Niinistö has said that Auster is one of his favorite authors.
While Niinistö appeared sincerely happy while interviewing Auster, Finnish cynics have already crucified such a rare and happy meeting to a kick-start for his presidential campaign in the upcoming elections in January 2018.
“Paul Auster, do you know Paul Auster?” President Niinistö asked.
“I’ve spent my whole life trying to figure it out. Not exactly. I think this is probably why people write books. To try to understand something about the world but also about themselves.”
They talked about books but couldn’t help to slip into politics, especially the US politics.
“The current president, whose name I won’t even mention . . . we just call him number 45,” Auster said while immersed in the topic.
The crowd was laughing their hearts out.
“I’m number 12,” Niinistö said.
“That’s a much nicer number. 12 is a great number,” Auster said.
Auster continued that the president number 45 won the popularity of the citizens by insisting on a “big lie” that the former US president, Barack Obama, was not “an American citizen.”
“It’s the old Joseph Goebbels theory,” Auster said while referring to Hitler’s former propaganda minister, a man accounted responsible for presenting a favorable image of the Nazi regime to the German people. “At first no one believes you. But you keep saying it and saying it and after a while, people begin to soften.” “After six or seven years, about 30 to 40 percent of the Americans believed that he (President Trump) was right.”
“But, nevertheless you believe in human beings?” Niinistö asked.
“I do,” said Auster.
“I think we have a lot of good in us but we can turn ourselves into a monster, too. Both are possible. We need good parents to take care of the children. We need good teachers to educate the children – people with open minds and kind impulses.”
“But we don’t always get those good parents and those good teachers.”
Paul Auster’s published fiction
Squeeze Play (1982) (Written under pseudonym Paul Benjamin)
The New York Trilogy (1987)
City of Glass (1985)
The Locked Room (1986)
In the Country of Last Things (1987)
Moon Palace (1989)
The Music of Chance (1990)
Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story (1990)
Mr. Vertigo (1994)
The Book of Illusions (2002)
Oracle Night (2003)
The Brooklyn Follies (2005)
Travels in the Scriptorium (2006)
Man in the Dark (2008) 
Invisible (2009) 
Sunset Park (2010)
Day/Night (2013) [n 1]
4 3 2 1 (2017)