Pop Song Lyrics — Veikko Huovinen

Author Veikko Huovinen; Photo: Harri Nurminen

Literary genius causes all sorts of problems for translators. Veikko Huovinen was from the worst end of that spectrum. Basically, he manipulates his own language and culture so well that it becomes completely untranslatable. But hey, if someone is willing to pay me to try, then why not? And since it was meant to be seriously wacky in Finnish, maybe the English isn’t so bad after all.

Read Huovinen’s 1960s short story “Pop Song Lyrics” at Books from Finland and an introduction to Huovinen’s work by Jarmo Papinniemi.

Day of the False King // Väärän kuninkaan päivä

Day of the False King
Otava 2012

by Kaarle Aho

Writing a documentary about controversial banker Toivo T. Ryynänen is a second chance for washed-up journalist Jyrki Nyrkki, who is trying to collect what shreds are left of his professional pride and win back the love of his wife.

A journey into the past of old money and the Baby Boom generation ensues, taking Jyrki back to his own childhood and the excesses of the 1980s. Everything seems to repeat over and over: whoever believes the most is the one who gets cheated.

When Ryynänen’s friend and business associate Paul Vihanti returns to Finland with a briefcase full of secrets, it will have an irreversible effect on the Finnish business world and Jyrki’s personal life.

In the end, who is pulling the marionette strings behind the scenes—who knows more than he is telling?

Kaarle Aho (b.1968, Helsinki) is a movie producer. He has a degree in history from Helsinki University. Day of the False King is his first novel.

Sample translation available from the Otava Group Agency.


The Human Part / Ihmisen osa

Ihmisen osa, Siltala, 2009.
From Finlandia Prize winning author Kari Hotakainen.

Runeberg Prize for fiction, 2010.
Prix Courrier International, 2011.

Now available for purchase in the UK!

Hear the BCC The Strand review.

From the publisher:

An elderly woman agrees to sell her life to a blocked writer she meets at a book fair. She needs to talk – her husband has not spoken since a family tragedy some months ago.

She claims that her grown-up children are doing well, but the writer imagines less salubrious lives for them, as the downturn of Finland’s economic boom begins to bite. Perhaps he’s on to something.

The Human Part is pure laugh-out-loud satire, laying bare the absurdities of modern society in the most vicious and precise manner imaginable.

From the WSOY foreign rights guide:

A fearlessly tragic and deeply humorous novel about how, now more than ever, we buy and sell things with rhetoric. This is Kari Hotakainen at the top of his craft.

A writer buys a life from Salme Malmikunnas, an 80-year-old former yarn seller. You can get a lot for 7000 euros. Salme opens up and tells him everything the way she wants to remember it – the silence of her husband, Paavo, the accident that befell her daughter Helena, Maija’s marriage, and Pekka’s success in business. But will the author tell the story like they’d agreed? Can he resist the urge to write about subjects that are off limits? And is Salme telling the truth?

True to its title, the novel asks what the human part of life is. Its rich cast of characters answers this question in many voices. The novel takes the pulse of the present and builds on the past to portray a world where buying and selling are the order of the day. It sheds light on eternal truths about working life, both then and now. More than anything else, it’s talk that makes business run today. Instead of things like yarn, we now sell images. And when the words run out, it’s time for action.

Hotakainen is a prolific writer, but he has never produced anything quite like this. The Human Part is a rich, wide-ranging novel full of honest wisdom. It’s disarmingly moving and deeply humorous. The novel fearlessly grapples with today’s world and tries to understand it. That’s not possible without laughter. Or tears.

“Hotakainen is a skilled storyteller whose works are full of understated surprises. His humour is intelligent, transporting the reader from laughter to tears. Hotakainen’s books are not meant to be mindlessly devoured – but demand to be read in one sitting.”
Savon Sanomat, 2009

“Aesthetically, The Human Part is one of Hotakainen’s most complete works. Chapter by chapter, he builds his ideas about society like a jigsaw puzzle. Grotesque effects occasionally echo the author’s keen interpretations of the waning of hope and quality of life among modern Finns.”
Satakunnan Kansa, 2009

“Hotakainen delights in language and makes your shoulders shake with laughter.”
Aamulehti, 2009

“Definitely one of the author’s best books.”
Helsingin Sanomat, 2009

Light, Light, Light // Valoa valoa valoa

Light, light, light by Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen
Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen

2011, Karisto

As a translator, I generally think of “lyrical” as a dirty word. Even beyond the pretense that’s usually bound up in using language like that about a book (your own book?), translating poetry is generally a fool’s errand, unless you fully embrace what the *huge* limitations are. Every once in a while, though, a translation of something lyrical just works. This is a good story, and a beautiful thing to read. It feels true to life.

From the Stilton Agency:

What else can one write about other than death or love? The narrator in the book is a 14-year old Mariia Ovaskainen, who hates writing. Nevertheless, she must tell us a story from 1986, when two things exploded: Chernobyl nuclear power station and Mariia’s own consciousness.

Mariia’s new class mate, Mimi, moves into a white house on top of the hill. Mimi is an odd girl, whose mother has committed suicide, and who is not interested in school. The story starts when Mimi meets Mariia on the beach and asks: “Could you pretend to be my friend, please?” Mariia promises to help her new mate to prepare for a retake of a Swedish exam to improve her grades. During the summer, the girls’ friendship deepens and turns into a love affair. But however deep the love, it cannot save Mimi, whose soul is weighted down by unbearable sadness. It is like a black hole into which all light disappears.

Light, Light, Light is a rosy love story about the budding sexuality of the main character, and about some difficult choices that she has to make at the age of 14. The painful themes of Mariia’s story jump at the reader both directly and between the lines and push the boundaries of storytelling.

An English sample is available

Here’s a little taste:


The famous Russian author Anton Chekhov recommended tearing up the first page of any story. He thought that the beginnings of stories were naturalism at its most ghastly.

Well now.

Go ahead and rip it up. This is your book!

Or the library’s. However, the librarians will be understanding in this case.

If you feel like Mimi’s description was naturalism at is most ghastly, then go ahead and just start reading here.

Because now is when the action starts.

Mimi said:

One more step and I shoot.

I answered:

Go ahead and shoot.

I had lived in this village a whole hell of a lot longer than Mimi. She couldn’t order me around on my own home turf. She had just moved into the white house on the top of the hill and you can bet she was afraid every night. People who haven’t grown up in the country are always afraid.

I had come to the beach to loan her my Swedish book because Mimi had flunked and was headed to summer school.

Oh God, imagine getting held back first thing at a new school!

Mimi looked at me like people look at each other in old Clint Eastwood movies.

Shooting me full of holes with her eyes.

She loaded me up with her burning sorrow. And I didn’t budge. I didn’t walk away or stagger. When a person recognizes her future love, everything around her gets sucked into it.

And then they don’t have anything else. Besides the other person.

I stood there and accepted her rapid-fire light light light.

Until Mimi said:

Would you do me a favor? Could you act like my friend?


Acting is the KEY to this story.

Shove it in your pocket.

Abandon hope all ye who enter here! Unless you know the password.

KEYS open doors. Click! Soon you will discover secrets. Strings of accidents. Garret labyrinths.

Or at least you will think you have discovered them.

For example, in the white house on the top of the hill is a mother who puts on makeup and then puts on makeup again, even though she is dead. This mother creates dramas with eyeliner and eye shadow. Mimi hands her mother objects and her mother’s hands accept the objects. Face powder dusts the walls.

The mother herself is also a KEY.

But now I’m jumping ahead.

You Can’t Tell About It / Siitä ei voi kertoa

Atena, 2003 by Tiina Pihlajamäki

It doesn’t matter where the war happened, who the opposing forces were, or what justifications were given. After the dust settles, after the dead are removed, the work of survival continues for the living. The world seeks justice, but at the cost of retraumatizing the innocent.

Tiina Pihlajamäki’s You Can’t Tell About It explores the aftermath of a fictional eastern European conflict reminiscent of the Bosnian War in the mind of a young girl, Mirjana, who remained relatively unscathed by the atrocities experienced by so many others. Or did she? How can even the victim know when memories are the new enemy and what you can remember you can’t recount.

Although fictional, You Can’t Tell About It tackles the difficult and generally overlooked subject of the effects of conflict on children in the same spirit as The Diary of Anne Frank and Zlata’s Diary.

You Can’t Tell About It isn’t light reading, but in its weightiness it offers a lot to think about. It speaks to and touches the reader. After reading it, your own small, every-day problems take on a new scale.”

-Amira Al Bayaty,15.10.2003 Kiiltomato

Full English translation available soon. English language rights available.


Over Dark Waters / Tumman veden päällä

Tammi, 2010

by Peter Franzén

From the Elina Ahlbäck Literary Agency:

A touching and finely tuned growing up story set in northern Finland.

For children, every day brings something new and amazing. It could be a game with your little sister and the kids from next door, it could be a Grandpa who makes you laugh, or it could be the snow crunching under the runners of your pushsled during a race. Or, like for Pete, it could be the first year of school, which is coming up soon. And then there’s Dad, who starts to change. Pete begins hearing voices from the kitchen, arguing and crying. Storming out into the night. The child trusts his parents unconditionally, admires them, is full of hope and faith in the future. What happens when this image falls to pieces?

On Dark Waters is a disarmingly sensitive and frequently delightful story of growth. Relying on small observations, objects, scents, and moods, Franzén carries the story along towards the great drama, the moment when the idyll of childhood is shattered.

Shortlisted for the Helsingin Sanomat Debut Book of the Year Award 2010

Peter Franzén (b. 1971) is one of Finland’s most popular actors, having performed in many hit films and on stage, including in New York where he was starring in Sofi Oksanen’s Purge. Currently living and working in both Finland and the US, Franzén spent his childhood in northern Finland.


“Actor Peter Franzén makes a respectable entrée into the role of author. The story holds meaning for others; most of all because the debut writer consistently and skillfully makes use of the child’s perspective, never resorting to hindsight.” – Helsingin Sanomat

“The images are lucid and precise. A little boy’s journey through terror and joy, fear and security, love and hate is breathtakingly touching. – – The moments when a child’s world slows down are virtually heart-rending. And that is exactly why reading this book is so good!” – Savon Sanomat

Peter Franzén — Over Dark Waters — PDF Sample (Translation with Arttu Ahava)

The Liquor Card / Viinakortti

Tammi, 2010

by Sami Hilvo

From the Elina Ahlbäck Literary Agency:

A bold, beautiful story of World War II Finland and a love that does not find acceptance in the world around it.

Mikael arrives at his grandmother’s funeral and finds that nothing has changed. His deceased grandparents’ home still feels like home, and his relatives treat him just as coldly as before. When Mikael gets the key to his grandfather’s study, the past takes over. The blue uniform shirt inherited from his police chief grandfather, and the liquor card it holds right next to the heart, are not all he shares with his grandfather Urho after all.

The Liquor Card is a touching and intrepid tale of forbidden love. It tells the story of two men, Urho and Toivo, for whom the end of the war does not bring peace. The making of compromises, a necessity in their day, didn’t end despite changes to the laws on homosexuality: Urho’s descendants have also remained silent. Until Mikael finds a photograph hidden inside his grandfather’s liquor card…

Sami Hilvo (b. 1967) is at home in both Helsinki and Tokyo. He currently earns his living by translating, interpreting, and practicing international trade, but more unusual entries also appear on his CV, including bartender, diplomat, art model, dancer, communications officer, and producer. He currently lives in Helsinki with his Brazilian spouse. Liquor Card is his debut novel.


”If literature has callings, then giving voice to the oppressed is undeniably one of them. That doesn’t mean that all works carrying out this task are successful. But Hilvo writes well. There’s no shortage of observations and vision.” – Antti Majander, Helsingin Sanomat

Sami Hilvo — The Liquor Card — PDF Sample Translation

The Oven / Uuni

The Oven by Antti Hyry

Winner of the 2009 Finlandia Prize for Literature.

A man builds a brick oven and ponders life. Events come and go, the bricks rise and remain. “He started to remember a model, an oven in the Hökkä’s cabin. It was nearly a meter high on the interior, of arching bricks, with an outlet for the flames in the back corner. The vents came forward at the top and then down the sides and then turned at the bottom toward the back wall and then from the back to meet in the middle of the oven and the current rose at the centre of the top of the oven, coming forward into the chimney that led from the brow of the oven
up to the roof.”

Summer comes. Although the oven is finished, the building continues. It’s about life, its continuation, permanence and transience. About the grasp of life that comes from doing.

Award-winning author Antti Hyry, one of our most esteemed writers, published his breakthrough novel, He Started from the Highway, in 1958. His 1999 The Granary was a nominee for the Finlandia Prize.

The Oven is Hyry’s tenth novel.

Antti Hyry’s texts have been published in thirteen languages, by Hinstorff
(Germany) and Bonniers (Sweden), among others.

(From the Otava Rights Guide)

From FILI:

In Hyry’s novel, the reader’s interest is not directed to a plot or character portraits. There are no dramatic turning points in this description of the construction of a baking oven. On the surface, Hyry’s writing is reminiscent of the kinds of modernists who build their texts on simple perceptions of the world of objects in order to emphasize incompleteness in their sketches of the world. Instead, the person in Hyry’s book is taking concrete steps to establish a home in the world. His tasks gain their significance from the meaningful places of life in its entirety. This portrait of everyday life thus opens out into a cosmos where the central character is living the life he was meant to live.

Sample Extract of The Oven/Uuni in English (PDF)

Towers / Tornit

Tammi, 2009.

by Jyrki Vainonen

From the Tammi/Elina Ahlbäck Agency Rights Guide:

A unique story of death, revenge and atonement from a true Master of Surprise. The Towers is a perceptive and psychologically charged story, mixed with the elements of fantasy, erotica and horror. Jyrki Vainonen’s works have previously been likened to those of Roald Dahl and Julio Cortàzar, and his world is found in the wild no-man’s-land between reality and fantasy.

Jyrki Vainonen — Towers — Sample Translation (PDF)

The Book of Angels / Enkelten kirja

Tammi, 2010

By Markku Pääskynen

From the Elina Ahlbäck Agency rights guide:

A young father’s stunningly intensely depicted trial of strength in a time of difficulty Markku Pääskynen’s Book of Angels is an intense and poetic description of the waning of an individual’s strength and his slow ascent to fresh hope. It is a story of consolation, a bold description of the grandeur of the small, everyday things in life, of the fundamental questions of existence.

Why, and for whom, do we live? What is love? Pääskynen once again exhibits an astounding capacity, familiar to readers of Vihan päivä (The Day of Wrath), to see deep into the human heart.

“Enkelten kirja is based mainly on sensory observations, thoughts, feelings and memories. The reader is compelled to remain attentive as the course of events and referential function of the story gradually become unveiled. – – It is nice to see a novel that places so much confidence in the power of words.”
– Parnasso

Markku Pääskynen — Book of Angels – Ch 1-3 (PDF)

Additional text from Books from Finland

Books from Finland Review

Markku Pääskynen on “Writing and not writing”

Death of the Bear / Karhun Kuolema

Tammi, 2010

From the Ahlbäck Agency foreign rights guide:

A lyrical, down-to-earth story of family members painfully searching for their place in this world.

A ballad of unrequited love. “The bear would shamble up and she would become the bear’s and everything would be the way it was and no one would be able to do anything about it.” But the bear never comes, and Stella stops waiting.

Until someone starts sniffing around the house. The Bear’s Death expands on Finno-Ugric mythology. Mumma dies but refuses to rest. She cannot; she is simply incapable of it. The paralyzed old woman was at the mercy of her daughter Fanny while she was alive, but now she is free and everything remains unfinished.

Fanny’s son Alex is rootless. His relationship with a round-cheeked Inuit doesn’t bring him peace of mind, nor does returning to his homeland, where his cool and distant mother awaits.

Only Fanny’s sister Stella, a healer shunned by her fellow villagers, knows her place: she will become the bear’s bride. But only those who are bound forcefully enough to the earth can find comfort in the arms of the bear.

“The narration in Essi Kummu’s second novel appeals to the senses. The fragrance of the forest, the prickle of pine needles and a warming smile give wings to the flow of this story so permeated in death. — Kummu writes like many other young women of today: physically, sinfully and visibly breaching boundaries.”
– Aamulehti

Essi Kummu — Death of the Bear — Sample Translation 04.11.2010

Strange Love / Outoa rakkautta

Turbator/Pelipeitto Oy, 2008

By Kirsti Ellilä

Read an excerpt.

From the Burning Bridge Agency project:

Romantic horror stories

Kirsti Ellilä’s (b. 1958) short stories will be a surprise to readers who expect routine romantic short prose: her stories are literally strange, stories about human relationships in which romance intersects with elements of crime, horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Ellilä has demonstrated herself to be an excellent short-story writer with a first-rate ability for describing human relationships, no matter what the genre.

Kirsti Ellilä is a generalist writer who lives in Turku and has published books for children, teens, and adults. Her work in various genres ranges from ironic relationship stories to psychological thrillers, fantasy, and horror. Ellilä has also written science fiction short stories and three plays. Ellilä’s protagonists are female: girls, teenagers, and young women. She describes her characters’ lives, their strengths and weaknesses, through the means of irony and sarcasm, with a feminist spin.

Ellilä’s most recent novel, Life Preservers (Pelastusrenkaita, Karisto 2010), touches on the discussion within the Lutheran about the rights of sexual minorities, female ordination, divorce, and love affairs between middle-aged women and young men. Life Preservers is an independent sequel to the novel Priest on Board (Pappia kyydissä, Karisto 2009). Ellilä’s next work, a fairytale novel written for teens named Reetta and the Prisoners of the Castle (Reetta ja linnan vangit), will appear in fall 2010.

What the critics are saying about Kirsti Ellilä:

“The characters are regular mortals, quiet and conscientious everyday types, whose extravagant passions and sexual desires, as well as their most powerful dreams and visions, are revealed as the narrative progresses. … Ellilä’s genius is precisely in this mode of narration, in which the internal and secret passions of the absolutely average, everyday person float to the surface.” – Hömpän helmet women’s literature blog

“Ellilä builds the action of the book with a light touch” –Salla Vrunou, Etelä-Saimaa newspaper

“I recommend this for everyone, both as entertainment and to spark ideas and conversation.” – Kirjavinkit.fi book reviews

“Ellilä’s trump card, in addition to humor, is that she makes her protagonists multidimensional, interesting characters. She skillfully writes according to the conventions of the romance genre, yet at the same time modifying and turning those same conventions on their head.” – Sanojen aika, Helsinki City Library

What Happiness Is / Mitä onni on

Otava 2008, 191 pp.

From Petri Tamminen. Tamminen (b. 1966) is known in Finland as a master of short prose and laconic humor. His work has often consisted of page-length vignettes, and even when writing in longer formats, as in the short novel What Happiness Is, the focus remains on trenchant observations of individual phenomena. To summarize What Happiness Is very briefly: two friends set out to write a book about happiness. In the process, the protagonist manages to destroy much of what might have formed the basis for his own happiness.

As a reader, Tamminen’s work speaks to me. He captures the experience of being a man in contemporary society in a way that few authors do. Although there is little in common on the surface, I associate him strongly with Hermann Hesse in his ability to capture the essence of the masculine experience. But whereas with Hesse the struggle is generally of the lone man, the academic or the ascetic, Tamminen’s man is man in context–above all the young to middle-aged father, the man interacting with other men, and the man with nothing in particular to recommend him to anyone, yet with the necessity of getting from one day to the next. In this regard, I also associate his work with Steinbeck’s The Winter of our Discontent, although Tamminen’s humor tends to make his visions more bearable.

Tamminen’s other works include Elämiä (‘Lives’, 1994), Miehen ikävä (‘Male blues’, 1997), Väärä asenne (‘The wrong attitude’, 2000), Piiloutujan maa, (Hiding Places, 2002, trans. 2007 Aspasia Books), Muistelmat (‘Memoirs’, 2004), and Enon opetukset (‘Learning from my uncle’ Otava 2006). In addition to English, Tamminen’s work has been translated into Swedish, German, Latvian, and Czech. Tamminen has previously been awarded the Kalevi Jäntti Prize (2002) and been nominated for the Finlandia (2006) and Runeberg (1997 and 2000) Prizes. Tamminen is a journalism graduate of Tampere University. He lives in Vääksy, Finland, and works as a freelance writer.

PDF Sample

Books from Finland Review

The Block / Pölkky

Teos 2007. 384 Pages

By Mikko Rimminen.

Rimminen’s second novel Pölkky (“The Block”) is a story about a park attendant in Helsinki whose inaction is narrated with extreme stylistic precision. Even the most insignificant move by the main character is shared with the reader. However, unlike Volter Kilpi’s tour de force Alastalon salissa (800 pages about a 6 hour span), or even Ulysses, you’re certain to finish The Block, rather than reading the CliffsNotes and then pretending you actually read the book. Rimminen’s second novel is breathtakingly funny and its language is pure genius.

PDF Sample

From Teos.fi:

Review in Helsingin Sanomat 28.9.2007 by Kuisma Korhonen (NOT translated by me)

Mikko Rimminen’s second novel is a thrilling tragicomedy about loneliness

Mikko Rimminen’s debut novel three years ago was greeted with joy: it was a return of long sentences to Finnish prose. The old-fashioned, florid and almost perversely detailed style reminded many readers of the classic Alastalon salissa by Volter Kilpi. The story of beer-drinking trio of friends in summery Helsinki got epochal dimensions.

Pölkky (The Block) is a natural and successful next step in Rimminen’s writing career. The Block continues in the same style as Rimminen’s first novel but manages to sufficiently differentiate itself. The sensual slowness of the narrative is still there but whereas the main theme in Pussikaljaromaani was friendship, The Block tells a story of loneliness.

Comical and tragic nuances are the common factors in the two books although The Block contains more tragedy. The books manage to treat the main characters – people in the margins of society – in a mercilessly satirical manner as well as with unreserved compassion.

The main character in The Block is indeed a block-like character who personifies loneliness; he is frozen with depression and fear of humans. He struggles through the book from one ordeal to another, not unlike the heroes in silent comedies. If the reader was that little bit further removed from the story and its events, he would feel like laughing at it; a little bit closer, and he couldn’t but cry.

At the beginning of the book a man steps out of a train and settles down in a shed by the side of the Kaisaniemi sports field in Helsinki. He is the new caretaker of the sports field.

During the following weeks he sits, lies down, takes naps, wakes up, ventures cautiously outside the hut, comes back in, opens a cold can of tuna – and that’s about it. When the temperature drops below zero he tries to freeze the ice-rink in the park but when faced with problems he himself freezes into immobility.

The protagonist doesn’t meet many people and the rare encounters that do occur are painful. There is Vänätyinen, an obnoxious drunkard, and Anni, a wonderful woman. The main character can only produce uneasy grunts while communicating with them. Not that the other characters speak that much either.

The reader is held in suspense page after page wondering whether the main character is able to walk across the field or to find something approaching a toilet in the shed or merely extend his hand to a greeting. This kind of totally unsociable character is a rare phenomenon in Finnish literature, and it is rare that the readers are made to feel such a strong compassion for him.

And somewhere deep underneath the ice-rink strange noises can be heard. They act like a reminder of the unknown forms of lives, tunnels and quakes that exist underneath the outwardly measly appearances of the characters. Some day they may even reach the surface.

The other main character in the book is the narrator, an outsider but not an omnipotent force. He (or indeed it) almost appears to be some sort of angel or spiritual being that floats in the air, sees and hears what is going around him but can only understand parts of it.

The narrator is able to follow the main character behind closed doors and to see his most private moments but he has not got an inkling of the character’s name or personal history.

The narrator refers to “this absurd task of telling and following that has given to us” as if some greater being had indeed ordered him to follow and love the main character. The narrator also receives hints on future events, premonitions.

But the narrator cannot follow his character outside the park after the beginning of the book: when the man goes to a shop and leaves the park, he just disappears to the narrator’s horror and returns after a while with a shopping bag in his hand.

Instead of the big picture, the narrator concentrates on the details and comparisons. The autumnal fog over town feels like ”a working man’s mitten picked up from a muddy puddle and pushed into one’s mouth”, the tree-branches seem like ”veins crossing inside a dark, jelly-like form of life”. The boyish verbal acrobatics familiar from Pussikaljaromaani can be found in this novel as well.

Like his main character, the narrator proves to be a tragicomic character himself, one with good heart and compassion but without the power to influence the future events. He openly feels sorry for the character; he is wishing for a happy ending but fearing for the worst.

While the character he describes has difficulties in getting up from his bed and opening his mouth, the narrator himself finds it hard to cope with his own story-telling task; to actually move from one event to another and get over the consistent babble, hair-splitting and his obsession with comparisons.

And so the novel advances while the reader is waiting for something to happen.

I hope I don’t give too much away when I say that a lot does happen finally, and in a very fast pace indeed.

But before that, the reader must get used to the slow ticking of time, the fear of people, the sprinkle of vapor on one’s breath, the freezing ice of loneliness and the narrator’s agonizing and thrilling journey in a jungle of words.

Books from Finland

The only literary journal devoted to Finnish literature. I provided translations for every issue from late 2004 through the end of the journals print publication in 2008, approximately 50 essays and literature reviews in total, plus at least the short fiction translations listed below. I continue to contribute to their online publication.

“Misery me” [from Mielensäpahoittaja] by Tuomas Kyrö (2010).
“Noah’s progeny” [extracts from Puupää] by Juha Hurme (2009).
“What about me?” [from Mitä onni on] by Petri Tamminen. 42:3 (2008).
“No place to go” [from Lakanasiivet] by Sirpa Kähkönen. 42:1 (2008).
“Night Decorator” [“Yösisustaja”] by Sari Mikkonen. 41:1 (2007).

Article by me on translating This is Finland.

Search my work online at Books from Finland.

Hiding Places / Piiloutujan maa

Aspasia Books. 2008. 109 pages.

This is a themed set of short stories by Petri Tamminen (Otava 2002). The starting point is the impulse toward seclusion–the original title is literally “land of the hider”.

PDF Sample

Article by Soila Lehtonen in Transcript.

Some of the pieces from the book were also previously translated by my colleague David Hackston and can be read in the Books from Finland archive here.

A Fool’s Paradise / Hullun taivaassa

Dalkey Archive Press. 2006. 133 pages.

A novel by Anita Konkka (1988). This was a retranslation of a rough translation done by Agatha Haun.

From Publishers Weekly:

The querulous, nameless, love-weary narrator of Konkka’s 1988 novel might have emerged from a Jim Jarmusch film: in her late 30s, recently unemployed, her engagement broken off and in love with an unavailable man, the narrator is a cerebral, dreamy observer of the flotsam of life as she sits at the base of her favorite pine tree writing in a blue notebook. She imagines the lives of people she sees, diligently records her dreams and childhood memories that intrude in the narrative like non sequiturs, and dabbles in astrology, which underscores that “everything has some diabolical purpose.” When her lover, Alexander, goes back to his wife, Vera, a Russian woman who reminds the narrator of capricious characters in Dostoyevski, the narrator grows obsessively jealous, invents an elaborate scenario between husband and wife, and, confronting her status as a castoff, muses darkly about the inequitable relations between men and women. This is Konkka’s first work to be translated into English. As rendered here, her prose is wonderfully cadenced and vivid; it establishes her nameless character as a memorable figure—not quite a cynic and not completely a sensualist, and none the wiser through experience.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Overeducated, unemployed, recently dumped, and depressed, the 38-year-old nameless narrator is a familiar American character, except she’s Finnish. It is the 1980s, her married Russian lover has recently left her, and the narrator compulsively writes in her journal as she tries to put her life back together. Obsessed with omens, astrology, dreams, fortune-tellers, and other objects of the paranormal, the narrator is both funny and morose. Konkka does a masterful job of making the narrator’s internal romantic turmoil mirror the political turmoil in post-Communist Europe. Some political allusions seem to be lost in translation, but with references to writers from Lao Tzu to Yeats, Konkka’s crisp prose and understated humor transcend cultural limitations.

Marta Segal
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Interview with Anita Konkka.

A review.

Amazon listing.