Archive for September, 2000

Epic labours

Issue 3/2000 | Archives online, Authors, Interviews

Kai Nieminen has translated the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, from its ancient poetic Finnish into modern language. Anselm Hollo has in turn translated an extract of Nieminen’s version into English for Books from Finland; here the two poets and translators discuss the process by e-mail between Pemaja, on the south coast of Finland, and Colorado

Anselm Hollo: Why translate Finnish into Finnish?

Kai Nieminen: It may seem like an odd idea to translate from a language into the very same language, but as you, Anselm, may recall: a few years ago, I taught a workshop at a summer session of the department where you teach, the Writing and Poetics Program of Naropa University in Boulder, with the theme ‘Poetry as Translation of One’s Thoughts’. I started out with the notion that writing poetry – perhaps writing literary works in general really consists of translating personal recognitions into more generally recognizable utterance, recognizable even to oneself. Writing poetry, one translates one’s thoughts for oneself. In that workshop I had the students translate English into English, and they thought it was a good idea, an enlightening exercise, a way to learn to read texts in a new way. As a poet-cum-translator I have probably always done something like this when writing my own poems – and also while reading poems by others. Translation is a two-way process. Secondly: As a translator from Japa­nese, I have grown accustomed to the Japanese practice of equipping modern editions of classical literature with a translation into modern Japanese. The modern version is not meant to replace the original, it is a way of helping the reader to appreciate the original all the more – which is what I, too, aim at doing. More…

Lemminkäinen unfazed

Issue 3/2000 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry, Prose

An English translation by Anselm Hollo of Runo XI from Kalevala 1999, Kai Nieminen’s new translation of the national epic (1849), into contemporary Finnish. Interview with Kai Nieminen by Anselm Hollo

But now it is time to tell about Lemminkäinen, a.k.a. Ahti the Islander. Young Ahti was handsome and cheerful. His mother raised him on the shores of a headland where he went fishing, ate fish and grew up strong smart and straight. But his character had a flaw: a womanizer is what he became, our Lemminkäinen (also known as Wandering Mind). He spent his days chasing the girls, his nights making love to them.


Happy elegy

Issue 3/2000 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

‘It hurts me to look / When nothing comes back to me.’ So goes the first poem in Kirsti Simonsuuri’s Rakkaus tuli kun lähdin maan ääriin (‘Love came when I left for the ends of the earth’). The persona asks us to look at a cloud lingering in the blond sky, ‘head wrapped in white’ and fading away. The lines forecast the thematic atmosphere of the whole: a happy elegy on the transitoriness of passing moments, people, places, times and love. In the cosmos of the poems everything flows, and the flow is never the same. But it is just this that creates the durable, the movement of continual metamorphosis. More…

Until the sun rises

Issue 3/2000 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

Poems from Rakkaus tuli kun lähdin maan ääriin (‘Love came when I left for the ends of the earth’, Tammi, 2000). Introduction by Helena Sinervo

metaxy, like summer

The moon strokes boulders
Left warm by the day, examines
The granite, passion gone tepid
Descends from its solitude
Into sea-carved channels More…

A brush with death

Issue 3/2000 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

From the collection of short prose Hyväkuntoisena taivaaseen (‘Getting to heaven in good shape’, Tammi, 1999)

I had agreed to meet Death at the Assembly Rooms in the centre of Helsinki. Seldom has an interview made me feel so nervous beforehand. Luckily, this gave me a good reason to cancel an appointment with my dentist. (Although of course I know that in the end I shall have to go there myself.)

It is customary to regard Death as a man who is not affected by the whims of fashion. Thus it is surprising to hear that Death is particularly concerned about his public image. ‘In public, I am considered stern and unbending. Unchanging and therefore uncontrollable,’ Death thunders. ‘This is not at all accurate. Fortunately, people understand me better when I am at work. More…

About butterflies

30 September 2000 | Authors, Reviews

Birgitta Boucht

Photo: Charlotta Boucht

To think that it can be so cold in Cairo…

A woman sits there writing, and she feels cold. Her name is merely J; around her lie her mother’s posthumous papers. They look like a kaleidoscope. Beautiful formations succeed one another, but the picture is never fixed or unambiguous. Not until the day J is able to see something more than the enticing pictures in the kaleidoscope is she free. That day she stops feeling cold. That day she leaves Cairo in order to continue loving in Finland. More…

I’ll never forget you

30 September 2000 | Fiction, Prose

An extract from the novel Mariposa (Schildts, 1999)

Roza and Melancholie were sitting in a bar drinking beer. They hadn’t met for a long time because they bored each other. But they were best friends nonetheless. What do you do when you can’t stand meeting your best friend? You switch on your answerphone and tell lies. Today by mistake one of them had answered the phone.

Roza was dressed in her brother Armand’s old clothes, a bad habit which irritated people but which she found hard to break. Her brother had vanished long ago leaving his clothes behind. They smelled of tobacco and sweat. Roza used them to keep him alive. She could spend whole evenings going through his wardrobe. There was a dress shirt, not that you’d have expected it.

The two young women studied each other. Melancholie noted that Roza had bitten down her cuticles again.

‘How’s life?’ she asked.

‘So-so. And you?’ More…