A full translation is available for review from the Ahlback agency, translated by me.
While I didn’t grow up with Finnish children’s books myself, Jason seemed familiar the first time I read it this year. To me it has the feel of a Leo Lionni or Shel Silverstein–the sort of timeless simplicity that in this case completely transcends borders between nations and cultures. Mickwitz has a particular gift for injecting seemingly straightforward stories with glimpses of the serious struggles of adult life as seen through the lens of childhood.
Children have loved Jason since 1975, when the first Jason book was published.The books recount the joys and troubles of Jason and his mother’s everyday life in an insightful and entertaining way. Karen, Jason’s mother, is always busy. She can’t be late for work and must first take Jason to daycare…
Camilla Mickwitz (1937–1989) won the Finnish Award for Illustrated Books in 1982 for her Emily series. The books are based on series of animated films that received the Finnish State Film Award in 1979.
I recently completed a series of non-fiction samples as part of an initiative by the Finnish Literature Exchange FILI. See the FILI brochure about the project here.
From the brochure:
In Finland, over 3,000 non-fiction book titles are released by publishers each year, of which around 2,000 come under the category of general non-fiction. The total number of works published in Finland in 2009 that were designated as non-fiction books – a category which includes items as diverse as annual company reports and scientific publications – was around 8,000. The spectrum of non-fiction books is so broad because the category includes everything that is not classed as fiction. This is a very substantial quantity for a country with such a small number of people who speak its national languages. … The emphasis in non-fiction publishing is on domestic topics, but of course there are books written in Finland whose style and subject matter make them eminently suitable for translation into other languages. The brochure you are currently reading contains a selection of eight high-quality, very well-written general-interest non-fiction books that have been published in Finland in the last couple of years.
Here are short descriptions of the work I did for the project:
Vertiginous Heels: The Dangerous Allure of Luxury Shoes by Mirja Tervo
An anthropological investigation of the New York world of luxury high heels through the eyes of a Finnish scholar and shoe seller. Funny, touching, shocking. Why would anyone do that to her (or his) feet?
Who Owns Russia? The Dynamics of Ownership and Power in Russia by Arto Luukkanen
The name says it all. Scholar Arto Luukkanen studies the central role of private property rights and corporate ownership in the control currently exercised by the securocratic regime of Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev in Russia, including the historical development of ownership rights.
Don’t You Know Who I Am? The History of Arrogance by Ari Turunen
How do jerks end up with all the power and why can’t they ever seem to hold on to it? Simple: arrogance. If it isn’t killing your father and marrying your mother, it’s invading Russia late in the year.
Faberge’s Finnish Masters by Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm
Long-time expert on the Faberge phenomenon, author Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm reveals the role played by skilled Finnish artisans in the creation of the Faberge legend. “But my dear lady, without these jewels you will by like a cow without her bell!” Now there’s some true Savo wit for you.
Wolf Mass: The Civil War of the 1590’s in Finland and Sweden by Mirkka Lappalainen
I grabbed The Sands of Sarasvati off the shelf as soon as I saw it in 2005, immediately devoured it, and then went looking for more from the author. It was a great pleasure to do the finishing work on the graphic novel version, and I’m thrilled now to be working on the full novel. Look for more info and a sample in fall 2011!
The Sands of Sarasvati is an eco-thriller about man-made environmental catastrophe. This visionary work of literature reflects on the significance of giant tsunamis in the history of mankind. The novel had already been sent to the publisher before the tsunami hit the coastal regions of Asia in 2004.
The events take place in the near future. They encompass Finland, the continental ice sheet of Greenland, and the Indian Ocean. The Russian researcher Sergey is trying to investigate the mystery of a sunken city in the Gulf of Cambay. He works together with his colleague Amrita, and with an Indian research body. At the same time, Finnish researcher Kari Ahola tries to solve the problem of melting ice sheets. He cooperates with a research unit in Greenland, run by the Filipino recluse Susan Chang, which also studies the ice sheets. These two lines of research line up surprisingly well, resulting in the discovery that the ice sheets are in imminent danger of melting. This would result in a catastrophic tsunami and flood. The researchers also begin to find answers to questions posed thousands of years ago.
In the book’s climax, although scientists have been able to predict the birth of the tsunami, there is no time to prevent it.
In addition to the plot, the selling point of this novel is the expertise of the author at making complex science accessible. Isomäki creates suspense through the research paths of the novel’s heroes. The reader is given an extensive view of world history, its natural phenomenon, the birth and development of civilisations, the structure of space, and the mystery of Atlantis. Isomäki is at his most impressive when describing the polar ice sheets: the unpredictability of snow, ice, air and water; their movement and shapes. He captivates the reader with his unique insight into the complexities of water.
The book was nominated for the Finlandia prize for literature. It was already awarded the Thank You for the Book medal, and the Star Wanderer (Tähtivaeltaja) prize for science fiction.
“The Sands of Sarasvati is an eco-thriller of apocalyptic proportions, which culminates in a giant flood. The book is both topical, and frighteningly believable. It is a lesson in how our melting of the polar ice sheets may trigger a tsunami that threatens the entire globe. Isomäki’s thought provoking and captivating thriller is flooded with cultural and historical knowledge, and with old wisdom from the East.” Finlandia Prize judges panel
“The Sands of Sarasvati is a cleverly written thriller which goes many levels deeper than just the prospect of an environmental catastrophe.” –Kansan Uutiset
“The Sands of Sarasvati is a frightening thriller because its set-up is so very real. This book must be commended for the way that it handles a difficult subject, and explains the complex causative chain to the reader. At long last, we get to read a literary work that has a lot to say. The Sands of Sarasvati is a significant contribution to the ongoing dialogue about climate change.“ –Parnasso
“Thanks to its subject and the way it is written, The Sands of Sarasvati is one of the key books of this autumn. As a narrator of the movement of snow and ice, Isomäki is as captivating as Peter Hoeg was in his novel Smilla’s Sense of Snow.” –Aamulehti
Finland, Tammi (Bonnier)
Denmark, Turbine Forlaget
Spain, Booket (Planeta)
Estonia, Kunst Publishers
Lithuania, Tyto Alba
Latvia, Dienas Gramata
Turkey, Bizim Kitaplar
Hungary, Nyitott Könyv
The year is 1940. Detective Sergeant Mujunen, familiar to readers of White Heat, is swept up in a new, more poignant chain of events. Mujunen, in mourning for the death of his wife, meets the Lithuanian dancer Ilse Anders at the cemetery, and his heart skips a beat. But his troubles are far from over.
A Finnish commuter plane vanishes after taking off from Tallinn, a bank is robbed in Kerava, and riots flare in Helsinki, the protesters demanding peace and brotherhood between Finland and the Soviet Union. Also involved is a big time gangster, Finnish-American Bill Kovanen, arrived too late to take part in the Winter War. Crime journalist Ossi Koho and photographer Sanna Rytkönen suspect a conspiracy: what if everything is connected with the accident where actress Sirkka Sari fell into the chimney of the Aulanko Hotel? The last act is played out on the windy shore of the Ice Sea, where Mujunen’s faith in mankind is put to the test.
My own thoughts: My favorite part is the milieu, the feel of 1940’s Finland. There are strong shades of our own US noir gumshoes, with just a hint of levity mixed into the narrative to avoid being overly earnest. The pace of the action is blistering. This is a book any mystery reader would love.
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
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
The new installment of the Maria Kallio series is a chronicle of xenophobia and hate. Maria Kallio is investigating the disappearance of three Muslim girls – and the killing of another. Maria Kallio, working on an EU project training Afghani police, travels to the opening ceremonies for the country’s new police academy, with disastrous consequences. Upon returning home to Finland, Maria begins work in the Espoo Special Crimes Unit and is assigned to investigate the disappearances of three immigrant girls. The girls frequented the same girls’ club as Maria’s daughter Iida. Then the body of a fourth Muslim girl is found in the snow, strangled with her own headscarf. Are the cases related? Is a serial killer on the move? Or did the girls’ families have something to do with the disappearances?
Leena Lehtolainen’s Where Have All the Young Girls Gone is an engrossing exploration of the collision between tradition and the new multicultural Europe. It is a journey into a world where daily life is defined by ancient belief and deeply ingrained, habitual perception. Who is in the right when there are two truths?
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.
Worms is an intensely emotional tale of the long shadows cast by the past and atonement for irreversible deeds. It is also a story about modern day people clinging to their blind faith in their own free agency as they are faced with the forgotten secrets of the past. On a barren island lurks the mysterious legacy of a shipwreck, marked by nine stone graves and a small, dilapidated chapel. These ghostly memorials conceal an ancient tragedy and an ideology in which a sinner is of no more worth than a worm crawling in the dirt. And on the island, that legacy appears to live on.
Marko’s blog post about the work of writing (Finnish, but with some fun pictures).
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.”
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.”
A story about people’s need to preserve their loved ones, both dead and alive, but also the need to conceal their wrongdoing from the eyes of others.
On a mild May day, as Finland is celebrating its victory in the Ice Hockey World Championships, a violent crime takes place in the depths of a concrete suburb. The murderer turns out to be Olavi Finne, a lonely old man who can’t explain what happened. He’s locked up in a mental institution.
Over ten years later, thirty-year old Mikael is assigned to be Finne’s designated nurse. Mikael’s life is in crisis: his spouse is seriously ill, and Mikael is suffering from the trauma resulting from a violent episode at work. Death and a continual state of fear hang over his life as very tangible threats.
Being assigned to the seemingly harmless Olavi was supposed to have made Mikael’s life easier. But the men’s caregiver-patient bond rapidly begins to grow tighter, as Mikael grows interested in the curious stories related by his odd patient.
Gradually Mikael begins to doubt the patient record, according to which Olavi is simply an old man suffering from schizophrenia. His stories of the possibility of eternal life and toying with the idea of gaining victory over death instil a new, bizarre hope in Mikael.
Shrouds is simultaneously a dark and intense story about the power of the human mind as well as a merciless depiction of the harsh life at a mental institution.
“The ending offers a surprise which upgrades a fine story to an excellent one.” Metro
I recently finished a sample translation for the Elina Ahlbäck Agency of Leena Lehtolainen‘s novel Tappava säde, the current working title of which is The Killing One.
Leena Lehtolainen is the bestselling female crime author in Finland. Her new titles head straight to #1 on the Finnish bestseller lists. In addition to her career as an author, she has also worked as a literary researcher, columnist, and critic. Lehtolainen published her first novel at the age of 12; this work of juvenile fiction Ja äkkiä onkin toukokuu (”And Suddenly It’s May”) appeared in 1976. Five years later her novel Kitara on rakkauteni (”My Guitar is My One True Love”), about a teenage band, was published.
The 1993 work Ensimmäinen murhani (”My First Murder”) kicked off Lehtolainen’s series of crime novels, which through its distinctly down-to-earth heroine, Maria Kallio, has brought an enthusiastically received female perspective to the male-dominated detective genre.
The forthcoming Maria Kallio novel, Minne tytöt kadonneet (”Where Have All the Young Girls Gone”), is already the eleventh in this bestselling crime series. Recently Lehtolainen started a new thrilling trilogy with another convincing female lead, Hilja Ilveskero. The first novel of this trilogy, Henkivartija (“The Bodyguard”), came out in 2009. Lehtolainen has also published outside the crime genre, most recently the work Luonas en ollutkaan (”I Wasn’t With You After All”, 2007). Translations of Leena Lehtolainen’s works have already been published in 15 languages.
Read more about Lehtolainen’s work and a sample of The Killing Onehere.
Tammi Publishers. 2008. 219 pages.
Finnish edited by Nina Suomalainen and Jyrki Karvinen
English edited by Owen F. Witesman
Translation by Marju Galitsos, David Hackston, and Setti Mulari.
This book was put together from essays by diplomats and public officials who have worked closely with former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari in the Balkans. When I was approached about the project by Tammi, I was busy with school, so I suggested something that is rather rare in the literary translation world: subcontracting. I put together a team of translators I knew I could trust and farmed the chapters out to them, with me acting as project manager and translation editor to ensure consistency in the translation. We did this on a very short time table (two weeks) in order to have the book ready for the ceremonies surrounding Mr. Ahtisaari’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize.
This is a very sweet (but not saccharine), engaging love story with some of the same elements of anticipation that readers enjoy so much in the Twilight series. The main characters are thrown together, but then separated, with no real way of finding each other again.
From the Tammi/Elina Ahlbäck Agency foreign rights guide:
Renowned film and TV director Lauri Törhönen’s award-winning first novel – a youthful love story in baby blue.
When a cello-studying girl falls from heaven on a footballer boy so hard that he loses consciousness, anything can follow. At least it messes both of them up, but they still manage to look each other in the eye for a moment. When Mikael regains consciousness, he can only remember the girl’s brown eyes and baby-blue cello case. How can you find a strange brown-eyed girl amongst a million people? And how can you fall in love at first sight, if you lost consciousness right before that first sight?
In the end the power of love brings the two teenagers together, although the circumstances are almost overpowering. Even their first encounter takes place at Mikael’s father’s funeral. What will happen when the youngsters finally, after many twists and turns, get to meet? Will that be the end of their love story – or just a beginning…
Written by Riitta Jalonen and illustrated by Kristiina Louhi.
From Tammi foreign rights brochure:
A memory never ends
The Girl and the Jackdaw Tree describes a turning point in a little girl’s life, the unavoidable changes caused by her father’s death. Her thoughts and feelings relate a sensitive story – with the child pondering the happenings of her life under a tall tree. The tree is known as a Jackdaw tree as a flock of these big birds frequently nest in the safety of its branches. The girl knows how the tree must feel when the jackdaws suddenly take flight and disappear into the distance, leaving the tree on its own, missing the birds. Memories of her father arise as pictures before her eyes.
In Kristiina Louhi’s illustrations these memories fly. The images manage to convey such a scale of emotions and feelings that they can almost be tasted. They glow with the same intensity as Riitta Jalonen’s story: from descriptions of brief moments to greater ones, revealing a unique and wholesome story – a child’s magic world in which joy and sorrow are both present.
Written by Tove Appelgren and illustrated by Salla Savolainen
From Ahlbäck Agency foreign rights guide:
Vesta-Linnea feels like her mother always takes her little sister’s side over hers, and she is suddenly very certain that no one in the family really loves her. Will anything disperse her darkest thoughts?
Kitten’s mum is upset feeling she has to clean up after everyone else in the
family. And as if that wasn’t enough. Sloppy jumps out of the mirror – a little,
sloppy cat who looks just like Kitten. And boy, can Sloppy make a mess! He storms
from room to room putting everything in disarray, even pasting the walls with jam.
Kitten gets carried away with the mess-making, fi nding how much fun it can be.
But when Sloppy transforms the vacuum cleaner into a blower, and breaks Kitten’s
Rat Castle, little Kitten gets anxious. His old friend Brownie has to come help keep
the peace with his magic.
The cat raised its head and rubbed its cheek against Mii’s hand.
‘We can get out of here with the help of a cat. Maybe.’
‘How so?’ the boy asked.
‘I don’t know. But it may be the only way. Only a cat can walk on both sides.’
In the beginning everything seems like an exciting dream to Mii. She sees a beautiful little city rising out of nothing. She sets off to look at the investigate. There are people standing around in every alley and on every street corner. The feeling is like in a ship terminal—lots of people waiting to leave for a trip. Little by little everything new and exciting becomes somehow sad and oppressive. What has happened to Mii’s parents? What has happened to Mii herself? And who are the black figures everyone is avoiding? Then Mii notices a boy in the crowd with hair sticking out ridiculously in every direction and big headphones on his ears. As the moon goes down, Mii and the boy, who looks like a stray dog, decide to try to escape together from the strange city. But that’s easier said than done…
The Dark Line Series introduces nail-biting thrillers and horror stories for young people. We dare you to step up to the Dark Line!
The Hurricane Detective Club and the Guardians of the Star Triangle (Etsiväkerho Hurrikaani ja tähtikolmion vartijat) by Jari Mäkipää.
The Hurricane Detective Club returns to school after a hectic summer vacation. The fall begins strangely when Principal McBride doesn’t show up for work. The club sets out to investigate the principal’s strange disappearance. The think it must have something to do with a strange symbol, the star triangle, a mystery the sleuths have tried to solve before.
As they investigate the star triangle, Jesse, Jenny, Caroline, and Matthias descend deeper into the dark secrets of Alder Ridge. Where has McBride disappeared to? What lurks behind the heavy steel doors in the cave? And is someone else trying to untangle the mystery of the star triangle?
The Hurricane Detective Club and the Guardians of the Start Triangle continues the exciting adventures of four young detectives. A hysterical supporting cast of old and new characters also comes along for the ride, including Anita Roquefort, and the strange master of comedy, Barry Buckshot.
This wonderful series began in 2004 with the publication of the Hurricane Detective Club Handbook. This fun guide gives useful tips to all budding detectives from setting up your own club to different disguises and secret codes. Jari Mäkipää has since written six detective novels, in which the four founding members of the original Hurricane Detective Club have adventures and amusing mishaps while solving mysterious incidents at their school.
When I called out from the edge of the field, the cows stood up from resting and followed after me. I could have walked with them even as far as the village; I could have made my cows stand in the middle of the road, made them moo true culture at the residents of Shallows; I could have gotten my cows to ruminate on the football field, but I led them to the barn where each in turn donated its milk to the tank. The udders gave nourishment: milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream. I was, with the cows, an important part of the food chain.
I was very aware and proud of my necessity.
We lived in the village of Shallows, in the eastern heartland, right where the fells began to rise up all around like great walls. To me those walls were safe and protective. Eighteen columns of smoke rose between the fells; from my window I could see everyone’s fields and houses. On cold winter nights I looked down into the valley and could see the lights in each living room. They would be extinguished one after another. I was the last awake.
In the village of Shallows I tried to achieve the level of sensitivity that animals have, and I succeeded. I felt like my hearing had become as sensitive as a dog’s, my eyes became as sensitive as an owl’s, and my skin, like the crust of the earth, could feel the changing of the weather.
I saw. I was compelled to see, but it was a pleasant compulsion. Such a beautiful landscape could not but be admired. And the darkness of the evenings! It was beautiful. Dangerously beautiful to others who had become numb to everything, who had gotten used to getting up and going to their beds dreaming of trips abroad, of stone-free fields, dreaming of something that they could not see with their eyes.
To me it was precisely seeing that was most important. No one knew that in my eyes this landscape was the only reality I believed in, the landscape I loved. And although it was the same landscape every day again and again, I never tired of it.
After the last lights were extinguished, I was alone. And I saw even more. I saw behind the darkness and in that reality moved wolves, bears, hares, and the lynx. And when I stood in the darkness in the yard of our home and listened, I heard the frigid cold snapping a limb in two and the snow crunching under my feet, but I also heard myself saying things to myself that I could not tell anyone about:
I was told:
“You have the spirit of the land, the spirit of silence; stay here; this is your place.