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Finnish Press praises Translations of Latvian Literature

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2019, January 23

Finnish Press praises Translations of Latvian Literature

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The third biggest Finnish newspaper "Turun Sanomat" has published positive reviews of two works of Latvian literature now translated and published in Finnish: Inguna Ula Cepīte's novel "Ulsiks, Padomju Latvijas bērns" ("Ulsiks, Neuvosto-Latvian lapsi") and Māra Zālīte's novel "Five Fingers" (“Viisi sormea”).

"Turun Sanomat" is a newspaper first published in 1904 in the city of Turku in Southwest Finland and reaching around 280 000 people daily. Both Latvian writers were compared in the article to the renowned Estionian author Leelo Tungal whose novel "Comrade Kid", a coming-of-age story in the Soviet Union, was last year translated and adapted for the screen in Latvian. "Tungal has colleagues and soulmates both in Lithuania and Latvia. It is truly great that the contemporary literature from the Baltics is now being translated into Finnish, moreover, we have received two books at once," rejoiced "Turun Sanomat" journalist Jouko Grönholm.

The novel, "Ulsik, the Soviet-Latvian Kid", by writer and director of the "Pētergailis" publishing house, Inguna Ula Cepīte, translated into Finnish by Mirja Hovila, was praised for "its precise depiction of the time, and sense of humor, even when describing tragic autobiographical moments".

Māra Zālīte's autobiographic novel "Five Fingers", translated by Hilkka Koskela, was likewise commended by the newspaper: "Author's return to the Latvian village is described in a deeply enticing way as seen through the experience and values of a child who is about to grow up. "Five Fingers" is dramatically and intensely pulsating. [..] Despite the eerie atmosphere, Zālīte masters a multifaceted tone of irony. The child is also a keen observer of relationships between people and powers."

The prose of the two authors was also likened to Latvian classic authors Anna Brigadere and Vizma Belševica's childhood memoirs, however also emphasizing the general lack of translations of Latvian literature. "[..] We know embarrassingly little of Latvian literature here," the article claims. "Almost none of their classical works, nor the contemporary Latvian authors have been translated. [..] Latvia, on the other hand, has published both the Finnish literature of the older generations and the very latest works.

The disproportion is impressive since Finnish literature is being translated into Latvian at rates almost equal to Estonian literature." Of course, the newspaper also expressed their delight at the success of Finnish literature in Latvia: "What we find most special, is the extraordinary popularity of Heli Pauliina Laaksonen's poetry, it being translated in a Latvian dialect which reveals a good amount of Livonian influence."

Inguna Ula Cepīte's "Ulsiks" is a novel about a small girl growing up in the 60s and 70s Latvia. Māra Zalīte's novel "Five Fingers", the recipient of the Annual Latvian Literature Award 2013, is an autobiographical book of memories about her family's return from Siberia in the late 50s and life in Latvia up to the early 1960s.

Both novels were published in Latvian by the "Dienas Grāmata" publishing house.

Photo: Ģirts Raģelis

Photo collage: Satori.lv