“Latvian Literature” Workshops for Finnish Translators


2020, August 21

“Latvian Literature” Workshops for Finnish Translators

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From 17th till 19th August, Riga welcomed students of Latvian from the University of Helsinki for a workshop on translating Latvian literature led by the experienced translator Maima Grīnberga.

Before arriving at the workshop, the students were asked to prepare translations of excerpts of several works of Latvian literature. For three days, the up-and-coming Finnish translators worked with the literary texts of Andra Neiburga, Pauls Bankovskis, and Jānis Joņevs. The students were joined at the workshop by the seasoned translator Annika Suna, who has already translated Atis Klimovičs’ documentary “The Personal Latvia” and an anthology of Latvian poetry; her Finnish translation of Zigmunds Skujiņš’s novel “Flesh-coloured Dominoes” is also soon to be published in Finland. The rest of the participants had previously translated technical texts and the process of translating literary works for them was a new experience.

“The project targets people abroad who already know Latvian or have shown interest in studying it and wish to translate Latvian literature in the future. This time around, we elected students from Finland. The reason was rather simple – we have very few Finnish translators and, currently, we are aiming to work with countries that are closer geographically and thus safer in terms of the pandemic so we can reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19,” explained “Latvian Literature” representative Juta Pīrāga. Setting up specialty university programmes aimed at studying languages and literary translation, in particular, is standard practice across Europe. However, at the University of Helsinki, where students have the option to study Latvian, they have very little time left to advance the skills required for translating literary texts. During the workshop, students can learn what it means to translate literature, work on their existing skills, as well as get to know Latvian literature and the state support systems available for translators here.

This is already the fourth workshop for translators organized by the “Latvian Literature” platform specifically for students of Latvian from abroad. In July, the platform held workshops for students from Lithuania and Estonia, and last year – for students from Poland. Previously, when preparing for Latvia’s participation at the London Book Fair, “Latvian Literature” held several workshops for professional translators from Great Britain, USA, and Canada.

The young translators spent the three workshop days at the Rainis and Aspazija House, 30 Baznīcas Street. During the workshop, the students were required to observe all government safety measures and restrictions related to containing the spread of Covid-19.

Translator Maima Grīnberga translates Estonian and Finnish literature into Latvian. Grīnberga has translated nearly 40 works of Estonian and Finnish literature. She has been repeatedly presented with the Annual Latvian Literature Award and The Baltvilks Prize in Children's Literature and is a recipient of The Order of the Lion of Finland, and other awards.