Introduction Ritva Leppihalme


Ritva Leppihalme

Increasing interest in the realities of translation has revealed that there is a need for more cooperation between professional translators and translation scholars. Both groups may discuss translation issues in pubs and seminars, on electronic mailing lists and in trade journals, but there is still a degree of mutual mistrust. Translators often think that theorists have no conception of what translation work is really like, while thesis writers and teachers of translation tend to deplore translators’ seemingly haphazard way of deciding on renderings; and both find each other’s less successful efforts a source of glee. But it does not have to be like that. There can be a real dialogue, with both sides considering what the other may have to offer. This special issue of the Helsinki English Studies, the new electronic publication of Helsinki University’s Department of English, brings together practising translators, new graduates and postgraduates of the department, who all look at translating and translation studies from different perspectives, yet have more in common than they may think.

The translator’s view, which is the point of departure in some of the papers, means that the realities of translating are very much present. Seija Paddon‘s sensitive discussion of her translation of the Finnish author Leena Lander’s novel takes up not only many literary questions involved in translating a woman writer’s work on 17th-century witch trials but also the problem of finding a publisher for the translation in a world where decisions are made mainly on economic grounds. Discussing her own work as translator as well as literary editor, Alice Martin allows us to look over her shoulder (as it were) as clumsy constructions in drafts are transformed into texts that are a pleasure to read. Kersti Juva takes us into another world altogether with her spirited account of accepting a century-old challenge and solving countless problems to provide Finnish readers with an enjoyable translation of Laurence Sterne’s monumental work Tristram Shandy.

Not all the papers address literary topics, though. Petra Kaseva reports on her investigation of translators’ views of their initiators (the people and institutions who initiate translation work). She asks what role the initiator or commissioner plays in the translation process and what the most common sources of friction between translators and initiators are. Kristian Hursti discusses the translation and editing of news, familiar to him as a working journalist, and the influence of translated news communication on the Finnish language. Susanna Jaskanen delights readers with her observations on what happens to humour when an American sitcom is subtitled for Finnish viewers.

Translation norms and strategies as well as their effects come to the fore in many of the papers. Laura Routti considers the debate on Pentti Saarikoski’s colloquial The Catcher in the Rye translation, which broke old norms and initiated new ones for representing speech in Finnish literature. Irma Hagfors describes various difficulties of translating culture-bound items in The Wind in the Willows in a period when the British source culture was less known in Finland than it is today. Anne-Marie Lindfors also focuses on culture-bound problems. She takes the Finnish translator of the Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions to task for decisions which in her view can even be said to have altered the genre of the book. Marja Suominen‘s comparison of the strategies used in the English and Greek translations of Väinö Linna’s novel The Unknown Soldier again makes readers aware of the importance of the publisher’s agenda: if a book set in war-time is marketed as a novel of action, one set of strategies is preferred, while another is not only possible but necessary if in contrast the text is seen as an anti-war novel. Finally, Ljuba Tarvi presents the new method she is developing for an objective statistical analysis of literary translations, which would give a firmer basis for comparison than do subjective evaluations.

A special thank you to the contributors for the time and effort they spent in writing and polishing their papers as well as to the native speakers of English among my colleagues who read the pre-final versions and made many helpful suggestions. I hope that readers, both in the translator community and in academia, will find this issue stimulating, and that this collection of papers will some day be followed by further work on translation studies at Helsinki University’s Department of English.

E-mail: Ritva.Leppihalme@Helsinki.Fi