Search results for "pentti saarikoski"

Figuring out father

18 October 2012 | Extracts, Non-fiction

Pentti Saarikoski (1960s). Photo: Otava/Nikolai Naumoff

The poet and translator Pentti Saarikoski (1937–1983) jotted in one of his journals: ‘I have never cared for relatives.’ Thirty years after his death one of his five children set out to find out what his father was like – by reading almost all he left behind in writing; these comments by Saska Saarikoski are from his Sanojen alamainen (‘Servant of words’, Otava, 2012), an annotated selection of Pentti Saarikoski’s thoughts

Pentti Saarikoski died when I was 19. I remember complaining to my mother that I had not yet even got to know my dad. My mother answered: You’ve got plenty of time, the real Pentti is to be found in his books. She did not know how right she was, for she meant Pentti’s published books, not knowing what a mountain of texts awaited its readers in the archives of the Finnish Literature Society. Pentti had written everything down in his diaries.

I read Nuoruuden päiväkirjat (‘Youthful diaries’), published soon after Pentti’s death in 1983, as soon as they were published, but when his Prague, Drunkard’s and Convalescent’s Diaries appeared around the millennium, they went straight on to my library shelf. I was not terribly interested in the ramblings of Pentti’s alcoholic years.

It could be that my reluctance was influenced by the cool attitude I had adopted from early on in relation to my father. Other people were welcome to consider him a genius; for me, he was a father who did not telephone, write or come to see my football matches. I didn’t call him, either; for me, it was a father’s job. More…

On Pentti Saarikoski

31 December 1977 | Archives online, Authors

Pentti Saarikoski (1937–1983). Photo: Markku Rautonen / Otava

Born in 1937, Pentti Saarikoski was one of the many Finnish children who were evacuated to safety in Sweden during the Second World War. For almost twenty years – 1958–1975 – he had a sensational career as the enfant terrible of the new wave of post-war Finnish verse and as a translator of classical Greek poetry. Now Saarikoski is once more in Sweden, where he lives in a kind of spiritual and intellectual exile. The vast scope of Saarikoski’s work as a translator reveals the breadth of his interests and poetic skill. Among his translations into Finnish are works by Aristotle, Euripides, Sappho, Theophrastus, Xenophon and Homer’s Odyssey (a free verse translation that has been particularly praised for the freshness it brings to the work). Saarikoski’s translations of J. D. Salinger and Henry Miller have introduced modern urban slang into Finnish literature, and together with his brilliant translation of James Joyce’s Ulysses (1964) epitomise the catholicity of his interests. Saarikoski’s first poems were written in the spirit of ‘Finnish Modernism’: short poems, pleasing in their treatment of language, subtly erotic and ironic, drawing their strength from a fleeting image, metaphor or momentary fancy. Early in the 1960s, Saarikoski emerged from his scholarly retreat. He became a favourite of the yellow press and of television, he was held in the awe normally reserved in other parts of the world for royalty and pop stars. He loved this publicity and the scandal he deliberately created: he saw his function as to provoke the youth of the day to reject established ideas of authority and morality. He further outraged the middle classes (into which he himself was born) by joining the Communist Party.
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Travels in language

31 March 1994 | Archives online, Authors

‘I become paralysed when I have to write prose, for publication, lf I do not get down on paper something fit to be printed at the first attempt, I become nervous and lose my patience, I do not know how to analyse…’

(Ihmisen ääni, ‘The human voice’, 1976).

Pentti Saarikoski (1937–1983) was a poet – his first collection was published when he was 21 – and translator whose passion was language; among his translations were Homers Odyssey, works by Aristotle, Heraclitus, Euripedes, Sappho, James Joyce’s Ulysses and Dubliners, Ibsens Peer Gynt, Henry Miller, J.D. Salinger, Italo Calvino, Swedish poetry. Despite the fact that he found prose-writing a painful process, he wrote a number of prose works, which have their existence in the border territory between the novel, the diary, the work-diary, autobiography and confession. More…

A drinking life

30 June 2001 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

The poet Pentti Saarikoski (1937-1983) was of the old school of Finnish writers: he could not, he said, write – or live without alcohol. Despite the booze, this enfant terrible of the free-living 1960s remained an unparallelled virtuoso of the Finnish language. Introduction by the poet, psychiatrist and politician Claes Andersson

In the autumn of 1968 I was working as a doctor at Helsinki’s Hesperia Hospital, in the intensive care ward, where people who had tried to take their own lives, or had remained lying outside, while drunk, in the very cold autumn and winter were taken. I was told that the writer Pentti Saarikoski had been admitted to a neurological ward in a very bad state. I met him several times in the hospital café. He was thin as a skeleton, but otherwise in good spirits and seemed almost happy. What surprised me was that he quite obviously thrived in the role of psychiatric patient and that he submitted to the hospital’s regulations without a murmur. More…

Dear diary

18 October 2012 | Authors, Extracts, Non-fiction, poetry

The poet and translator Pentti Saarikoski (1937–1983) was a legend in his own lifetime, a media darling, a public drinker who had five children with four women. His oeuvre nevertheless encompasses 30 works, and his translations include Homer and James Joyce. The journalist Saska Saarikoski (born 1963) has finally read all that work – in search of the father whom he seldom met. The following samples are from his annotated selection of Pentti Saarikoski’s thoughts over 30 years, Sanojen alamainen (‘Servant of words’, Otava, 2012; see Figuring out father)

I try to write books whose reading will bring enjoyment, in other words not entertaining ones.
Suomentajan päiväkirjat
(‘Translator’s diaries’, 1970)

The term ‘world literature’ was invented by Goethe to describe the importance of Goethe.
Päiväkirjat (‘Diaries’, 1978)

A work of art is bad if it ‘makes you think’. About something other than itself. What is wrong with ‘art for art’s sake’ – or bread for bread’s sake? Art is art and bread is bread, and people need both in their diet.
Päiväkirjat (‘Diaries’, 1978) More…

Government Prize for Translation 2011

24 November 2011 | In the news

María Martzoúkou. Photo: Charlotta Boucht

María Martzoúkou. Photo: Charlotta Boucht

The Finnish Government Prize for Translation of Finnish Literature of 2011 – worth € 10,000 – was awarded to the Greek translator and linguist María Martzoúkou.

Martzoúkou (born 1958), who lives in Athens, where she works for the Finnish Institute, has studied Finnish language and literature as well as ancient Greek at the Helsinki University, where she has also taught modern Greek. She was the first Greek translator to publish translations of the Finnish epic, the Kalevala: the first edition, containing ten runes, appeared in 1992, the second, containing ten more, in 2004.

‘Saarikoski was the beginning,’ she says; she became interested in modern Finnish poetry, in particular in the poems of Pentti Saarikoski (1937–1983). As Saarikoski also translated Greek literature into Finnish, Martzoúkou found herself doubly interested in his works.

Later she has translated poetry by, among others, Tua Forsström, Paavo Haavikko, Riina Katajavuori, Arto Melleri, Annukka Peura, Pentti Saaritsa, Kirsti Simonsuuri and Caj Westerberg.

Among the Finnish novelists Martzoúkou has translated are Mika Waltari (five novels; the sixth, Turms kuolematon, The Etruscan, is in the printing press), Väinö Linna (Tuntematon sotilas, The Unknown Soldier) and Sofi Oksanen (Puhdistus, Purge).

María Martzoúkou received her award in Helsinki on 22 November from the minister of culture and sports, Paavo Arhinmäki. Thanking Martzoúkou for the work she has done for Finnish fiction, he pointed out that The Finnish Institute in Athens will soon publish a book entitled Kreikka ja Suomen talvisota (‘Greece and the Finnish Winter War’), a study of the relations of Finland and Greece and the news of the Winter War (1939–1940) in the Greek press, and it contains articles by Martzoúkou.

The prize has been awarded – now for the 37th time – by the Ministry of Education and Culture since 1975 on the basis of a recommendation from FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange.

Reading matters? On new books for young readers

9 January 2014 | Articles, Children's books, Non-fiction

Pixon brothers: a story book by Malin Kivelä and Linda Bondestam

The Pixon brothers don’t read books, they love the telly: story by Malin Kivelä, illustrations by Linda Bondestam (Bröderna Pixon och TV:ns hemtrevliga sken, ‘The Pixon brothers and the homely shimmer of the telly’)

Finnish picture books for children have long been reliable export goods around the world. In the last few years, a number of novels for children have come along in their wake: works by authors such as Timo Parvela and Siri Kolu have been translated into a good many languages.

Now young adult literature has also blazed a trail on to the international market – in what also seems to be almost a matter of precision timing with regard to the Frankfurt Book Fair 2014. Finnish publishers have been investing in their home-grown lists of children’s and young adult books ever since the turn of the millennium, and now the time has come to harvest the fruits of their long-term efforts.

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Poetry and speech

30 June 1996 | Archives online, Authors

The poet is condemned to language. He has been forced to abandon the mysterious union between language and reality. In retum, he wants his Iines, at least, to solidify into objects, part of the order of beings, to be like a ready-carved statue. But this does not happen. Language has its own caprice, meanderings and underground life.

The poems of Lauri Otonkoski (born 1959) are not like sculptures. Sometimes they do not even seem like beings among other beings. His poems gape open at the edges, and their ambiguous content emerges to question the composition of the extemal form. Metamorphosis is not the poems’ theme, but their nature: obscure at their limits and constantly changing in form, their reference is far beyond themselves, to a region where the reader must struggle with disturbing shadows and unfinished constructions. More…

Fair game

23 October 2009 | This 'n' that

Words for sale: Helsinki Book Fair, 2009. - Photo: Suomen Messut, Kimmo Brandt

Words for sale: Helsinki Book Fair, 2009. - Photo: Suomen Messut / Kimmo Brandt

The Helsinki Book Fair opened yesterday (22 October), with the theme ‘What’s really happening’, at the Helsinki Exhibition and Convention Centre. Over four days there will be more than a thousand performers (mostly writers and their interviewers) and nearly 300 exhibitors. Last year’s Fair attracted 68,000 visitors.

The words of the theme are borrowed from a 1960s collection of poems (Mitä tapahtuu todella) by Pentti Saarikoski (1937–1983). According to the press release, the theme ‘sums up what literature is about’; moreover, ‘fiction and non-fiction reflect this very day, reinterpreting the past and present glimpses of what is to come’.

What’s really happening, it seems to us, is that inventing catchy titles for commercial purposes is an enterprise that should be undertaken with caution, as it may produce unintentional connotations for the delectation of those in the know… Mitä tapahtuu todella – its title borrowed in turn from none other than the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin – was a politically utopian collection in which Saarikoski expressed his belief in dialectical materialism and communism, contrasting American avant-garde art with the Marxist-Leninist utopia in which the writer wished to live.

In recognition of bicentennial 1809, the year in which Finland ceased to be part of the kingdom of Sweden and became an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia, Sweden is under focus at the Book Fair, and is represented by 27 exhibitors and more than 30 performers. Writers from eight countries in all will visit the Fair, Russia taking part for the first time. Among the visitors are the writers Andrei Astvatsaturov and Herman Sadullajev and the translators Lyudmila Braude ja Anna Sidorova, who were awarded this year’s Finnish Government Prize for Translation.

The Fair is organised by The Finnish Fair Corporation in conjunction with the Finnish Book Publishers Association and the Organisation of the Booksellers Association of Finland.

Winged fever

31 December 1996 | Archives online, Authors, Essays

After the collective and individual catastrophe of the Second World War, doubts notoriously arose as to whether poetry was possible ‘from this time on’. Theodor W. Adorno declared that writing poetry after Auschwitz was impossible. And Tadeusz Rozewicz said he wrote unpoetry for survivors, for the terrorised, for the dead. Poetry was, for him, ‘borrowed scraps of words, the uninteresting words of the great graveyard’. This is a harsh judgement. More than any earlier written word, post-war poetry was confronted by destruction, hunger and, contrariwise, rampant overconsumption.

Many poets of the Sixties and Seventies resolved these questions by asserting that poetry was in fact an anachronism; anyone continuing to write poetry must forget individual alienation, word-magic and music. Poems should be made by abandoning metre and conveying politically correct truth. In making generalisations about reality – while unable to differentiate it from propaganda – these writers divagated from reality, which is distinguished from utopia by its multiplicity and complexity. Poetic modes as varied as the low mimetic, propaganda poetry, ‘concrete poetry’ and even nature poetry thus managed to become foreign to reality. Themes like participation, progress and liberation frequently led to bigotry, utopian cloud-cuckoolands and blind man’s buff with the self. As Arto Melleri’s allegory puts it, the ‘swankeepers’ vainly ‘fish the shattering waves for reflections’. More…

The gender of the soul

14 June 2010 | Drama, Fiction

Scenes from the play Kuningatar K / Queen C

Characters:
Christina, the Queen
Friend
The Queen Mother
Karl Gustav, the Count [Christina’s suitor, the King-to-be]
Descartes, philosopher
Official
Man
The King
Oxenstierna, Per Brahe
A choir of midwives

The play can be performed with six actors (3 female, 3 male). Other ways of dividing the roles are possible. All stage directions may be altered.

1. Prologue
The eels’ court

CHRISTINA
If eels had a court then a great female eel would sit in the centre and the little males would writhe about like seaweed around the throne. However they would not be envious of the queen, because they would know that if they swam up into rivers and lakes, into fresh waters, they themselves would gradually become females, great and heavy, and would be able to rule and close into their great embrace all the small little gentlemen. They just have to wait.
KARL GUSTAV
I don’t know. What I do know is that a great black eel, as thick as a rope, was pulled out of the well last night and the Queen looked at its silver stomach and its thrashing tail, but the eel looked the Queen in the eyes and in the heart and since then she has never been the same. More…

The everyday flow

30 June 2006 | Authors, Reviews

Johanna Venho. Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

Johanna Venho. Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho

Johanna Venho on her own poems

While writing Yhtä juhlaa (‘It’s all a celebration’), my third collection, I was pretty aware of it as a whole. But, generally speaking, the process of writing poetry can’t be fully conscious, or in your control: you can steer it a little, but quite a lot has to be let go. My title shows there’s an irony. It points to the duality of everyday life – and of life in general: both involve celebration and the opposite of celebration.

I’ve played with rhyme – something quite new to me – and reading these poems aloud does, I’ve noticed, work. I’ve recently been having a go at writing song lyrics, too. Something else new is that the collection grows the arc of a story line, and story-telling brings along a fairytale element. More…

Night city

30 June 1998 | Authors

Stephen Kuusisto

Stephen Kuusisto

The German poet Novalis wrote: ‘Daylight has got limits and hours, but the hegemony of Night penetrates through space and through time.’ In effect he says that the night is always with us, even when the sun is out. The lines always bring me back to Helsinki, the city where night permeates every wall and cobblestone.

I first came to Helsinki as a three-year-old boy, wrapped up in a heavy wool coat. My father, an American Finn, had been invited to the University of Helsinki as a Fulbright scholar. While my father taught courses in political science I practiced and perfected a child’s insomnia and remained energetically awake during hours of the day and night. I lived in a perpetual state of shadow-sleep and never closed my eyes. As a result my emerging brain absorbed Helsinki the way a night-blooming flower takes in the moon. More…

Jarl Hellemann in memoriam 1920–2010

15 March 2010 | In the news

Jarl Hellemann 1920–2010. Photo: Pertti Nisonen (2009)

One of the grand old men of Finnish publishing, Jarl Hellemann, wrote in one of his own books: ‘Book publishing is by nature personified, a personal activity.

‘Most of the world’s old publishing houses still bear their founders’ names: Bonnier, Collins, Heinemann, Harper, Knopf, Bertelsmann, Werner Söderström, Gummerus. Americans ignorant of the exceptions to this rule among Finnish publishers still occasionally begin their letters, “Dear Mr Otava” or “Dear Mr Tammi”.’ (From Kustantajan näkökulma, ‘A publisher’s point of view’, Otava, published in Books from Finland 3/1999)

Hellemann himself was Mr Tammi for a long time; he started as a publishing editor at Tammi Publishing Company in 1945 and retired as managing director in 1982.

In 1955 he founded Keltainen kirjasto, the ‘Yellow Library’, an imprint of novels published since the First World War by prominent writers from all over the world. The first was Too Late the Phalarope by Alan Paton, the latest – published in 2009 – was The Disappeared by Kim Echlin. The series now contains more than 400 works, among them novels by 24 Nobel prize-winners.

Among the books in Keltainen kirjasto (list, in Finnish), Hellemann’s favourite was James Joyce’s Ulysses, translated by the poet and author Pentti Saarikoski in 1964. Hellemann continued choosing books for Keltainen kirjasto long after he retired.

Born in Copenhagen, Hellemann moved with his family to his mother’s home country, Finland, in the 1930s. Well-travelled and fluent in many languages, Hellemann himself published a novel (at the age of 25), three books on publishing and, in 1996, his memoirs.

Gospel truths?

31 March 1999 | Authors, Reviews

Lauri Otonkoski

Photo: Irmeli Jung

Lauri Otonkoski (born 1959) has the reputation of being a poet who passes attentively by and always has room for doubt.

He assumes a chatty tone, full of an irony often at his own expense, though his schooling as a music critic has given him a fine ear and the art of producing structures comparable to music.

Otonkoski has published six collections, two of them prizewinning. In 1996 he received the Nuoren taiteen Suomi-palkinto (‘The Finnish Award for Young Artists’), and in 1997 the Finnish Radio Poetry Prize, ‘Dancing Bear’. More…