Friday 7 July 2023
Thursday 9 March 2023
Älvan och jordanden. En biografi om Mirjam Tuominen och Torsten Korsström
Schildts & Söderströms 2018
Tuva Korsström’s loving yet hyper-aware analysis of her parents, their work and their marriage combines several literary genres. In essence the volume is an autobiographical essay that expands into a double biography. While the story contains a wealth of psychological and material detail concerning its protagonists, it is dominated by a central perspective: the third view provided by its author, the quiet observer who emerged from it and who later researched and recorded it all, both from documents and from personal memory.
As one critic has noted, the marriage of Mirjam Tuominen (1913-1967) and Torsten Korsström (1909-1964) ‘lasted [in practice] only a little longer than the Winter and Continuation War. In it, the daughters Kyra and Tuva were born.’ The marriage reflects the social turmoil and political contradictions of the war years in Finland, a state pf dissension that official Finland later tried to suppress and was clearly a major factor contributing to Mirjam Tuominen’s existential and personal torment. The book’s calm exploration makes sense of the internal and external conflicts, and the reader gains a unique acquaintance with Mirjam Tuominen’s writing – a body of work that vividly and painfully forms an essential part not only of Finland’s literature, but also of its history.
Wednesday 8 February 2023
Friday 6 January 2023
Memories and images are presented in a way that’s both vivid and spare, with an emphasis on elemental or elementary natural phenomena that can be evoked in very few words... Each image or memory fragment shines both in its own light and in the shifting play of light from those around it. As the book proceeds, the focus of attention broadens to include more generalised meditations on love and loss, the beauty and fragility of life and our relations to the natural world, but Vanessa’s death remains at its heart.
Tuesday 3 January 2023
Thursday 28 July 2022
A Russian campaign against pending NATO members Finland and Sweden appears to be a continuation of similar propaganda seen in the Russian capital last May, when Astrid Lindgren was accused of having been a Nazi.
The Finnish Internet has not been slow to come with some appropriately barbed responses, e.g. https://twitter.com/pmakela1/
Sunday 24 July 2022
The Ny dansk poesi / New Danish Poetry exhibition at Galleri Tom Christoffersen, Skindergade 5, Copenhagen is now extended until August 18, the gallery reports. The accompanying anthology, edited by Thorsten Dennerline, contains work by several new Danish poets in my translation, including Caspar Eric, Signe Gjessing, Cecilie Lind, Lea Marie Løppenthin and Rasmus Nikolajsen. Susanne Jorn has written the introduction, and there's a concluding essay by Anne-Marie Mai.
Saturday 23 July 2022
Spuyten Duyvil of NYC have published my translation of Susanne Jorn's Andalusiske øjebliksbilleder i November/Andalusian Snapshots in November. This is really a collaborative venture, and the book is bilingual, with facing Danish and English texts.
From dark mood
to light mood
Pastel yellow Photosensitivity
Wednesday 19 January 2022
Saturday 9 October 2021
Friday 16 July 2021
Though his work is still widely read in Iceland, Hjálmar is less well-known outside of the country than many other poets of his era, most of whom were educated in Copenhagen and were closely associated with Icelandic Romanticism and the independence movement (e.g. Jónas Hallgrímsson, Matthías Jochumsson, and Benedikt Gröndal). The publication of Hjálmar’s poetry in English translation thus offers hope that more poets from the nineteenth and early-twentieth century well-known within Iceland but less so outside of the country (e.g. Sigurður Breiðfjörð, Ólöf Sigurðardóttir, and Unnur ‘Hulda’ Benediktsdóttir Bjarklind) will have the opportunity to find their own English readership. Hjálmar Jónsson’s Selected Poems introduces readers to the work of a remarkable Icelandic poet in a well-executed translation, but the volume also helps to advance a richer image of Iceland’s vast and varied literary history.
Sunday 13 June 2021
Tuesday 16 February 2021
Thursday 14 January 2021
In November this year Bloodaxe will publish my translation of Tua Forsström's fifteenth collection Anteckningar (2018), with the English title I Walked On into the Forest - Poems for a Little Girl.
Friday 13 November 2020
The theme of the new issue of Swedish Book Review (now re-conceived exclusively as an online publication) is Emerging Voices in Swedish Literature, with work by Pooneh Rohi, Kayo Mpoyi, Adrian Perera, Balsam Karam and Joel Mauricio Isabel Ortiz. There are also reviews of new titles, including poetry with Burcu Sahin's Broderier (Embroideries) - also featured in an earlier post here.
The editors of the new site are to be congratulated on its pleasing and variegated design.
Saturday 10 October 2020
An interesting and thought-provoking interview with Estonian poet Elo Viiding in the current issue of ELM (Estonian Literary Magazine), with reflections on poetry and the poet's task that times have echoes of earlier Nordic voices including, perhaps, Ekelöf, and even Tranströmer:
Recently I've been distancing more and more from introspection as beneficial. Instead of psychoanalysis, I'm more interested in how a person can realistically act for the good of someone with fewer opportunities, be those spiritual, intellectual or material. Not society -- that's too narrow a concept; society is made up of kindred thinkers who generally thumb their nose at others -- but rather to do good for those who suffer from abandonment, socially in a certain sense, instead of delving into yourself (and even into ideas). I'm striving to do that in this phase of my life.
In general, a varied and colourful issue of the magazine -- it's now one of the best English-language literary journals in the Nordic region, at times reminiscent of the now sadly dormant Books from Finland, but more often with a viewpoint and energy of its own, and quite unlike anything currently around in the U.K. or America. There's also a quiet tribute to the life and work of Estonian literary translator Eric Dickens.
Friday 7 August 2020
- Edith Södergran, Complete Poems
- Karin Boye, Complete Poems
- Mirjam Tuominen, Selected Writings
Thursday 16 July 2020
Thursday 25 June 2020
Friday 19 June 2020
A poem has its own logic and integrity. In one sense or another it demands to be whole. The Greek word σῠ́ντᾰξῐς means order or composition. An immanent need for order will therefore be associated with crystalline form – even though it sometimes conflicts with the content. My poems want light. In yearning for calm, insight and beauty. The work of the poem is an unconscious demand that an inner connection be created within it, where each word will have its place, like the atom in the crystal.
Friday 22 May 2020
There are many theories of translation, but from what I’ve heard, translators mostly shrug them off in practice and just keep going as they were. Is there any theory of translation or simply a translator’s creed that you hold dear? Did translating Kross put it to the test in any way?
FvN: I’m no theoretician, but I believe the practical summary of translating is an eternal question phrased by the poet and translator Martinus Nijhoff, whom the Netherlands’ most prestigious translation award is named after: “In what kind of Dutch would a foreigner have written their book if they were Dutch and have relied upon in terms of their conceptual form?” One must always keep that question in mind.
JN: Just like Frans, I’m no theoretician. Apart from a few courses on translating Russian literature, I also do not have much formal education in literary translation. I think I learned most while translating in 2014, for which I received funding and practical help (a mentorship) from the Dutch Foundation for Literature. Since Frans was the only active translator from Estonian at that time, and was more experienced, he served as my mentor. He taught me many things, but most of all, I learned to be more precise. I remember him saying, “What is lost in your first version (or first ‘working’ translation) is most likely lost forever.” I always have that sentence in the back of my mind when I’m translating. And, needless to say, it’s a very important lesson when you’re translating the work and the style of a writer like Jaan Kross.
Monday 18 May 2020
Thursday 30 April 2020
Saturday 25 April 2020
I had headache, body aches, chills, cough, chest constriction but no fever. I was in bed for a week and then the symptoms lingered. I recovered. There were no tests so I don’t know if it was Covid-19 or something else, but Boccaccio’s book, which I have long loved, haunted me as I lay in bed, and I returned to it.
The publisher notes:
In many countries, the lockdown continues. We are thinking of you all.
Thursday 23 April 2020
Wednesday 22 April 2020
It is safe to say that Faroese writers have a difficult task to become known beyond their shores. As the Faroese nominee for the 2020 Nordic Council Literature Prize, Oddfríður Marni Rasmussen, writes, ‘only a half-dozen or so can make a living off their writing. And in order to do that, a writer has to be translated into a bigger language, but publishing houses in other countries do not want to spend money on some book from the Faroe Islands.
Saturday 18 April 2020
Thursday 16 April 2020
Saturday 22 February 2020
The slightly ambiguous ending did leave me wondering what future there was for humanity and whether the race would escape from its claustrophobic control; I guess only time would tell, in the same way as it’s hard to tell know how we will come through the present difficult phase of our planet’s history where certain elements are so busy dehumanising those whom they perceive to be different.
Saturday 21 December 2019
My translation of Pia Tafdrup's collections SMAGEN AF STÅL (2014) and LUGTEN AF SNE (2016) is scheduled for publication as a single volume by Bloodaxe Books in November 2020:
Thursday 5 December 2019
Friday 4 October 2019
The reality that underlies the poems is not a cheerful one. It is a place of exile and exclusion, of exploitation and unrewarded toil, of social and linguistic isolation, of racism, alienation and anomie. Språket är inte glömt/ men raderna är brutna (The language is not forgotten/but the lines are broken) reads one of the early poems in the collection, and in their bare, sparse outlines and arching fragments the poems themselves reflect this statement. At time there is a danger that the link between language and reality may be lost altogether: det finns ingen försoning i verkligheten/ kanske i dikten/ det finns ingen försoning i dikten/ kanske i verkligheten (there is no reconciliation in reality / perhaps in the poem / there is no reconciliation in the poem / perhaps in reality) is the warning that runs through much of the volume.
In an early essay, Sahin writes of the political nature of poetry:
För mig är poesin alltid politisk. Det litterära rummet och skrivandet undflyr inte de samhälleliga normerna och strukturerna, utan är en del av att reproducera bilder, berättelser och människor. Litteraturen återspeglar inte bara ”verkligheten”, utan återskapar den på nytt.
For me poetry is always political. Literary space and writing do not escape social norms and structures, but are a part of the reproduction of images, stories and people. Literature does not just reflect “reality” but recreates it anew.
(Poesins politiska kraft, Rummet, 2014)
The book’s political dimension is reflected in its structure, which in turn relates back to social reality: the metaphorical juxtaposition of ‘stitches’ and poems persists throughout the six sections, and the fragmentary and arduous nature of the working women’s daily lives appears in the isolation and fractured appearance of the lines on the printed page. There is a constant play on the words söm (seam) and sömn (sleep), and thematic devices of this kind are skilfully interwoven in the text.
A great deal of the anger in the poems is directed at the brokenness of the social surroundings, the inadequacy of language and the careless way in which generations are severed from each other, when the traditional roles of mother and child are reversed:
det finns inget ord
för ett barn
på sin mor
there is no word
for a child
The experience of exile and the task of establishing a life in a new and unfamiliar country is encountered in the learning of words:
med kluven tunga lär vi oss
with a cleft tongue we learn
the letters’ pronunciation
But the acquisition of new words and gestures is accompanied by a raw sense of vulnerability as an outsider and by a resentment of intrusion:
vi lär oss plocka
från våra ansikten
we learn to pluck
the gazes of others
from our faces
The poet is not alone – she stands with her mothers and sisters, fathers and brothers, in a strange new world where objects and words have lost much of their connection, and where human relations are restricted and determined by the need to survive by backbreaking toil. The hidden world of the textile sweatshops is invoked in cinematic flashes:
ni lever bland meterlånga gardiner
huvuddukar med rosenmotiv
skira överkast persikofärgat siden
ni lever som skuggor morgonens skuggor
händerna som försörjer maskineriet
you live among metre-length curtains
headscarves with rose motifs
flimsy bedspreads. peach-coloured silk
you live like shadows the morning’s shadows
the hands that feed the machinery
Contrasted with the mechanised and alienated environment of exile is the world of tradition, of roots and family. In the poems this is centred on the theme of motherhood, and the image of the mothers and grandmothers. There is humour here, and tenderness, mixed with irony: våra mödrar syr / vårdar andras mödrar (our mothers sew / take care of others’ mothers), the first poem in the ‘Night Shift’ section begins.
Although the poems are phrased with the techniques and stylistic features of modernism, they are also direct, down-to-earth statements about real and lived experience. The poet speaks for whole generations of uprooted people, surveys the world that is partly their own and partly given to them, and praises the richness of their inborn and self-creating culture in the face of an uncomprehending and largely hostile environment. But the future is bleak, and does not hold out much hope for the prospects for social integration and harmony in a West that is rapidly changing, conscious of guilt, but still fettered by its history of domination and injustice:
det som finns är en öppen hand
som aldrig slutar ge
det som läggs i våra händer
ska tas ifrån oss igen
what exists is an open hand
that never stops giving
what is placed in our hands
will be taken from us again
Sahin’s is an original and uncompromising poetic voice, and one looks forward to following her development in future collections.
Sunday 25 August 2019
from Laus Strandby Nielsen: -- og andre steder, Asger Schnacks Forlag, 2019