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…

Temporarily out of order

10 May 2012 | Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Hullu (‘The lunatic’, Teos, 2012). Introduction by Soila Lehtonen

I found myself standing in front of the noticeboard. The rules were on a sheet of paper:

Ward 15 5-C
MEAL TIMES:

Breakfast 8:00 AM
Lunch 11:45 AM
Dinner 4:30 PM
Evening Snack 7:30 PM
COFFEE:
After lunch
We recommend leaving money, valuables, and bankbooks for storage in the ward valuables locker. We take no responsibility for items not left in the locker! Money may be retrieved 1–3 times per day. Use of mobile phones on the ward by arrangement.
VISITING HOURS:
M–F 2–7 PM
Sa–Su 12–7 PM
PERSONAL CLOTHING:
Use of one’s own clothing by individual arrangement. Clothing care individual. Washer and dryer available for use in the evenings after 6 PM.
OUTDOOR RECREATION:
Arranged individually according to health condition. Outdoor pass does not include the right to leave the area.
VACATIONS:
Vacations arranged during morning report, according to health condition.
NOTA BENE!
Smoking is only allowed on the smoking balcony! Smoking prohibited from 11 PM to 6 AM.
Pastor Karvonen available by appointment.

These were impossibly difficult rules. I read them through three times and simply did not understand. ‘Clothing care individual.’ ‘Outdoor pass does not include the right to leave the area.’

What did these sentences mean? With whom did you schedule the pastor and how? And why? More…

Celebrity boobs and other news

9 October 2012 | Non-fiction, Tales of a journalist

Illustration: Joonas Väänänen

Anyone can find the latest news and the vital information he or she requires – latest pictures of some celebrity’s breasts, the reasons why men cheat on their wives – immediately from the Internet. Jyrki Lehtola takes a look at why the printed media are in trouble

We are living in an age of newspaper death. Several publications have already closed up shop in Finland just this autumn. The most notable of these was Finland’s oldest and most influential teen magazine, Suosikki (‘Favourite’), which had been in circulation for some 52 years.

This was where several generations, particularly the boys of several generations, got all of their information about sex, where they learned how to tape posters to their walls without them peeling off, where they got information about rock stars’ drug use and favourite foods and where they learned that even if something can be expressed with a period, expressing it with an exclamation point is still preferable. 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…

An officer and a gentleman

31 December 2004 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

A moment in the Chinese garden: from left, Eric Macartney. Kashgar, China, 1906. Photo: C.G.E. Mannerheim

A moment in the Chinese garden: from left, Eric Macartney. Kashgar, China, 1906. Photo: C.G.E. Mannerheim

A photograph from 1906 prompted Markus Nummi to write a 500-page novel about the people of the caravan route in China. One of his characters, the Finnish photographer and spy-explorer Carl Gustaf Mannerheim, in reality later became Finland’s sixth president. Where does fiction end and history begin? Anna-Leena Nissilä investigates

The city of Kashgar in Chinese Turkestan in the year 1906: a group of French explorers and a crowd of Swedish missionaries from the local province, along with other members of the European community and their children, have gathered together in an orchard to take a picture. Midilimanglar, keep still, says the photographer, Baron Carl Gustaf Mannerheim, and presses the shutter release. The admonition is without effect; the picture turns out restless. Little Eric can’t hold still; a baby girl is grabbing at a man’s hat; the adults are looking past the camera. For some reason the host of the event, an Englishman named Macartney, is standing a pace away from the rest of the group.

Almost a century later, the author Markus Nummi (born 1959) runs across Mannerheim’s snapshot and becomes inspired. He tells how the expansive and thematically wide-ranging historical novel Kiinalainen puutarha (‘The Chinese garden’, Otava, 2004) began to form around the photograph:

‘The photograph is the starting point for everything, the intersection and blink of an eye in which all of my story’s central characters are close to another. I was fascinated by the picture’s bustle: people looking every which way, all the fumbling about. And when you look at the picture more closely, you start to see different kinds of connections; when you look at where these people were coming from and where they went in their lives, you can start to imagine what is hidden behind the picture. I started to contemplate what the photographer saw at the moment the picture was taken, maybe angels?’ More…

Walking through a picture

30 June 2006 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

The short stories of a painter-author Joel Pettersson (1892-1937) were hardly known by his contemporaries. Juha Virkkunen introduces one of them

Finland, the ‘land of a thousand lakes’, is also the land of at least 120,000 islands. In the largest cluster of islands, Åland, between Finland and Sweden, people cherish their old Swedish-language roots.

Åland has given birth to a unique literature which transcends the bounds of regionalism. Its best-known contemporary authors include Anni Blomqvist (1909-1990) and Ulla-Leena Lundberg (born 1947). They have described not only the hard life of fishermen, but also the changing living conditions of shipowners.

Joel Pettersson was both a painter and a writer, but his stories were not made available in printed form until in the 1970s; translations into Finnish were published in the 1990s. More…

Night decorator

31 March 2007 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from the collection Yönseutuun (‘Around nighttime’, WSOY, 2006). Introduction by Jani Saxell

Hardly a night went by.

I didn’t want to offend him in any way by my indifference, but as I went to bed I was totally beat, squeezed dry by my day. My most important chore at home was to guard my own rest; people’s survival depended on it being consistent and nourishing. I didn’t concentrate on anything else in my free time.

But often when I was ready for bed, a sharp metal ‘zzzip’ would come from the direction of the living room. A little later I would hear a drawn-out ‘clllack!’, which told me the measuring tape had retracted into its case, the newest interior design had taken shape on the back of some receipt, and Y would soon be coming to see if I was awake and open to suggestions. More…

Hatefully yours

23 December 2011 | Non-fiction, Tales of a journalist

Illustration: Joonas Väänänen

In the new media it’s easy for our pet hatreds to be introduced to anyone who is interested. And of course everyone is interested, how else could it be? Jyrki Lehtola investigates

Twitter, Facebook, Twitter, Twitter, Twitter, Facebook, Twitter, how can we get the revenue model to work by using our old media, Twitter, Facebook, Twitter, Twitter, hey, what about that revenue model of ours, Twitter.

The preceding is a poignant summary of what the Finnish media was like in 2011 when the rules of the game changed like they have changed every year. And we still don’t even fully understand what the game is supposed to be. 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…

The house the seniors built

27 November 2009 | Reviews

Yours and mine: the common dining room

Yours and mine: the common dining room at Sprint

Maija Dahlström – Sirkka Minkkinen
Loppukiri. Vaihtoehtoista asumista seniori-iässä
[Sprint: alternative living for seniors]
Helsinki: WSOY, 2009. 232 p., ill.
ISBN 978-9510-4322-9
€ 32.90, paperback

‘Your elderly mother just told you she fell in the bathroom last night at 4 a.m. Now what?’ advertises the Visiting Nurse Service of New York in the New York Times. Aging people and their desire to live in their own homes is a pressing question around the world. People feel concern over their own living arrangements and those of their loved ones. Living arrangements somewhere between being in one’s own home or in a care facility are sought by many, but there are few of these options available. More…

Marginal notes

4 June 2009 | Essays, Non-fiction

Fast food for thought? Culture meets business.

Fast food for thought? Culture meets business. – Illustration: Joonas Väänänen

Extracts from a collection of writings, Ulkona (‘Outside’, Siltala, 2008)

Literature – and ‘serious’ writing in particular, the kinds of texts we publish in Books from Finland – is often seen as lost, irrelevant, pushed out to the edge of mainstream popular culture. But, argues Hannu Raittila, the margin is actually the area of greatest freedom. Everything worthwhile happens there – and business would do well to imitate art, rather than the other way round

It is easy to see culture as a marginal part of society, if viewed from an economic perspective. It is easy to see literature, for its part, as a marginal phenomenon even when compared with other areas of culture – pop music, for example. 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…

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…