Search results for "witesman"

On the rocky road to a good translation

19 November 2010 | Essays, Non-fiction

You get the picture? A translation error in China. Photo: Leena Lahti

Why just three per cent? Translator Owen Witesman seeks an explanation for the difficulties of selling foreign fiction to the self-sufficient Anglo-American market. Could there be anything wrong with the translations?

I am a professional translator, and I have a secret: I don’t read translations.

I’m not alone. The literary website Three Percent draws its name from the fact that only about 3 per cent of books published in the United States are translations (the figure for Germany is something like 50 per cent). There are various opinions about why this is, including this one from Three Percent’s Chad Post writing at Publishing Perspectives.

Why do I say it’s a secret that I don’t read translations? Because people expect me to read translations, as if as a translator it were my sacred duty to show solidarity with my professional community. Or maybe I can’t be cosmopolitan otherwise. More…

Tough cookies

30 March 2008 | Authors, Interviews

Aino Havukainen and Sami Toivonen’s quirky duo Tatu and Patu delight readers of all ages. Interview by Anna-Leena Ekroos

Once upon a time there were two remarkably round-headed, thin-haired brothers. They were named Tatu and Patu and their principal personal attributes were curiosity and adventurousness. In the boys’s hometown of Outola (‘Oddsville’), things were done a little differently from around here. So when the boys leave their stomping grounds on an expedition into our world, perplexity and amusing situations ensue. More…

Inside and out

14 February 2011 | Reviews

Markku Pääskynen. Photo: Ville Palonen

It is typical of Markku Pääskynen’s fiction for horrible things to happen both in people’s internal worlds and what goes by the name of the objective reality around them, and you can’t always be sure which one they’re happening in – or they’re happening in both.

From his debut novel, Etanat (‘Snails’, 2002, Tammi), onwards Markku Pääskynen (born 1973) has created a highly original body of work. His special strengths are his linguistic and narrative virtuosity, which allow him to make surprising events and narrative solutions come off in a controlled manner.

Pääskynen’s third novel, Tämän maailman tärkeimmät asiat (‘The most important things of this world’, 2005, featured in Books from Finland 1/2006), was a description of a single day that focused on the relationship between an adult son and his mother. Pääskynen’s sixth book, Enkelten kirja (‘Book of Angels’, 2010), is constructed out of sensory perceptions, thoughts, feelings and memories. The reader has to stay on his toes in piecing together the course of events, gradually revealed from behind these elements, and to find the story behind the plot. More…

The politics of difference

17 June 2011 | Non-fiction, Tales of a journalist

Right or wrong, my country? Illustration: Joonas Väänänen

Big electoral turnouts are generally considered a good thing. But, writes columnist Jyrki Lehtola, in Finland the fact that the vote went up in the last Finnish general election caused a revelation. Educated urbanites and the media (perhaps near enough the same thing), are shocked by how 20 per cent of their fellow Finns think – and the ramifications caused tremors all across Europe

Listen up. Diversity is a resource. Except of course if it’s the sort of diversity that is a resource for the wrong people.

That sort of diversity isn’t the least bit nice. In Finland in the spring, we ran into the sort of diversity that even got the rest of Europe to start worrying. Out in the thickets and forests, diverse people had been springing up in secret, people of whose existence we urbanites were entirely unaware.

And they threatened to bring Europe down. Europe. Which was a bit much. More…

Over the rainbow

30 June 2008 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Poet, novelist and dramatist Juhani Peltonen (1941–1998) wrote about love, loneliness and melancholy in a manner uniquely distinguished by a playful gloominess, a sense for deeply gripping-comic tragedy and a virtuosic ability to mould language into any shape he pleased.

In his novel Maanäären viinitarhurit (‘The vintners of the ends of the earth’, 1976), Juhani Peltonen tells of the ‘atheistic Orthodox’, who are afflicted by an incessant wanderlust, but who never go anywhere. The atheistic Orthodox do not believe in God themselves, but they are convinced that the painters of the icons that adorn their beautiful churches must have seen God, if even just a glimpse.

This sort of coincidentia oppositorum, in which the longing for faraway places and homesickness combine as a melancholy wanderlust, symbolises the whole of Juhani Peltonen’s output.

The author of seven collections of poetry and seven novels, four plays and four collections of short stories, Peltonen debuted as a poet. He is best known for his novels and short stories, though he wrote those with his poet’s pen as well; reckless lyricism in even his declarative statements became his trademark. More…

Noah’s progeny

30 October 2009 | Fiction, Prose

Graphic design: M-L Muukka

Graphic design: M-L Muukka

Extracts from the novel Puupää (‘Blockhead’, Teos, 2009)

In these ‘shavings’ hewn from the block in constructing the storyline of his new novel, Juha Hurme offers us four unique glimpses into the Finnish psyche

The rune singer of Nokia

Three years ago I purchased a used mobile phone when its predecessor took an overdose of sea water and went mute on a rowing trip in a broken-down loaner of a fibreglass boat in a gale-force nor’wester. This three-year-old phone has been a thoroughly satisfactory implement and indispensable contact link. The power button got stuck a year ago, but the gadget is still fully operational with the aid of a match stick or something similar. It is my belief and hope that it will continue to fulfil the role of telephone for seven more years, because I prefer not to own, let alone purchase, anything that withstands fewer than ten years of use. More…

What about me?

30 September 2008 | Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Mitä onni on (‘What happiness is’, Otava, 2008)

I was lying on the sofa watching Sports Roundup. The ski jumpers were flying at Zakopane. When I go one day, I want the cantor to play the Sports Roundup theme on the harmonium and the pallbearers to look on like skiing judges down into the pit.

‘I have an idea,’ Liisa said, sitting down at the other end of the sofa. I muted the television and adopted a focused expression. I focused on thinking about my expression.

‘Finnish happiness,’ Liisa pronounced solemnly. ‘I’ll illustrate, and you write.’

‘A book again,’ I said and turned the sound back on. They were reading off the women’s basketball scores now. Liisa waited patiently. I was disarmed enough by this that I turned the television off. More…

Great leap forward

31 March 1998 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

The popular Finnish children’s author Zachris Topelius (1818–1898) was also a brilliant chronicler of the coming of the industrial revolution to Finland. ‘A road made of iron?’ That is the reaction of Matti, farmer and crofter, when his local vicar tells him about the wonder of railway travel. Familiarity may have dulled the astonishment and excitement of the celebrated short story Rautatie (‘The railway’, 1884) by the classic writer Juhani Aho (1861–1941) – but that is an occupational hazard for classics. [The first English translation 2012, The Railroad, by Owen Witesman]

Even in remote areas of Finland the railway, this new industrial mode of transport, spread, at first as an almost incredible piece of news. ‘Thought he could trick me!’ snorts Matti on his way home from the vicarage. More…

Child of chaos

10 September 2010 | Comics, Fiction

Kullervo the (anti)hero by Gene Kurkijärvi

A cornucopia of exciting plots and strange characters, the mythic epic Kalevala has inspired innumerable artists since its first publication in the 1830s. A recent interpretation of the story of an extremely tragic hero named Kullervo takes the form of a graphic novel by Gene Kurkijärvi: his urban Kullervo lives in a grim environment – not unlike Helsinki, but carrying with dystopian overtones – where the heroes and/or villains are steely androids and hairy weirdos who shoot drugs and use foul language. This 21st-century Kullervo is a surrealist cyberpunk tragedy – laced with pitch-black comedy.

Extracts from the graphic novel Kullervo by Gene Kurkijärvi (Like, 2009; captions translated by Owen Witesman) More…

The heart of reality

30 June 2007 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

The experience of nature always inspired the poet Aaro Hellaakoski (1893–1952), but in his universe – composed of rhyme, rhythm and linguistic brilliance – existential questions remain vital.

Man is a being tied to an intersection. Like some creature floating helplessly in the water, he sees shadows of the infinite in the surface and senses the depths beneath the surface, but neither is within his grasp. The poet Aaro Hellaakoski often uses the surface of water, two-dimensional space, as a symbol of the fate of man. Expertise in the natural sciences and experience with research, both rare for a poet, left their mark on Hellaakoski’s lyrics; he received his doctorate in geography in 1929 and had a long career as a schoolteacher. More…

That’s life

4 March 2011 | Authors, Essays, Non-fiction, On writing and not writing

 In this series Finnish authors ponder their profession. If this is writing, there’s no method in its madness: Markku Pääskynen finds he wants to write as life allows, not bend his life to suit his writing

I was born in 1973. I’ve written six novels, and I’m working on my seventh. I’ve written short stories and essays, and translated. That may sound productive, but it isn’t: I can’t stand to sit in front of the computer for more than a couple of hours a day.

My work is elsewhere – in everyday chores: going to the store, taking out the trash, fixing meals, washing dishes, cleaning, playing with the kids. Normal days are full of work and messing around. And my literary work has to fit in with that. I don’t have it in me to write methodically. I do know how to keep deadlines and meet contracts, but the methodicalness is lacking. More…

What grade is your kid in?

29 October 2010 | Non-fiction, Tales of a journalist

Illustration: Joonas Väänänen

Should a journalist show his hand? Columnist Jyrki Lehtola ponders the pros and cons of showing one’s true political colours

What’s the best way to present an initiative that would get the cynical, lazy news media to take an interest in the outside world?

The easiest way is to make a proposal in which the outside world is actually defined as the news media itself.

This is exactly what Matti Apunen did early this autumn: Apunen, a long-time journalist and the former editor-in-chief of the Aamulehti newspaper, had just left the paper to lobby for Finnish industry and trade interests as director of the Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA.

He presented the Finnish media with a straw poll, following the Swedish model, in which reporters would anonymously answer questions about their political leanings. More…

Special effects

14 June 2012 | Authors, Reviews

Veikko Huovinen. Photo: Harri Nurminen

Depictions of simple country folk who live close to nature, diabolical satire of the powers that be, playful rambling tales.

The humour of Veikko Huovinen has two dimensions: it is learned, intelligent, and insightful, but it is also exuberant and folksy. Critics have made comparisons to Nikolai Gogol and Mark Twain, and not without reason.

Huovinen (1927–2009) began writing stories in 1949 and published his final work in 2007, two years before his death. This half century saw the birth of a broad and multifaceted library, including a good number of works that do not fit any genre as such – Huovinen called his works that lay in the interstices between the short story, causerie and satire ‘short specials’. More…

Do you remember the yellow house?

14 February 2011 | Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Enkelten kirja (‘The book of angels’, Tammi, 2010)

[Tallinn, summer] The past will not go away

and the present is insurmountable. Summer vacation has begun, the newspaper hasn’t come; it doesn’t get delivered here anyway. Can you remember the Isabelline yellow house? Remember the alley with the name that means hurry? Surely you remember the home with all the maps on the shelves, the important papers and the brass objects bought from nearby antique dealers? Also the rugs from North Africa and the obligatory cedar camel figurines on the windowsill. And so many glasses and plates and empty lighters in a cardboard box on the shelf on the left hand side of the kitchen.

Tallinn, June 7th. The floors creak. One step has split in half; some of the lights have burned out. This is a lovely home. A small window upstairs is ajar to the courtyard. Tuomas had latched it behind the Virginia creepers. The fountain in the courtyard is dry. On cold nights the smoke from the fireplace grows like a statue for the crows until it wraps around over the layered rooftops like a snake eating its tail. Russian men are repairing the attic of the house across the street for wealthy people to live in; they laugh in front of the window and smoke. Tuomas waves at them, and they wave back. The courtyard is creepy when it’s empty. Soon the neighbours would go about their day and quietly close their doors behind them, and two nearby churches would divide the hours into quarters, Russians and their gossip would make their way to the Alexander Nevski Cathedral, and the Estonians and their gossip would go to their own churches where a wise and peculiar, almost human scent would rise from between the headstones. Tuomas wouldn’t smell it, Aino would and would move to stand beneath the the center tower. More…

My friend Erik Hansen

5 August 2010 | Essays, Prose

Short prose from Muita hyviä ominaisuuksia (‘Other good characteristics’, Otava, 2010)

On the first day we played getting-to-know-you games. On the second day we played real Finnish baseball out behind the university. On the third day we travelled to the countryside. Classes started sometime at the end of the second week. We watched the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The professor slurped Coke, chain smoked, and rewound the video back and forth: Nurse Ratched’s plump face filled the screen and then in the next image where her face had been there was a basketball Jack Nicholson was squeezing.

It was the autumn of 1992, and I was studying film and communications theory in Copenhagen.

The excursion to the country frightened me, a shy bacteriophobic neurotic. The Danes thought the camping centre’s shared mattresses and group cooking were hygge – cozy. There is no way a dictionary translation could ever cover all the forms of cosiness the Danes achieve together. I fled the camping centre on the first morning. On the train to Copenhagen I recognised all the usual post-escape feelings: shame, fear, guilt, loneliness and overwhelming euphoria. More…