Finnish comet in German skies: Translation, retranslation and norms
University of Joensuu, Finland
The German comet’s tail of the Finnish Seitsemän veljestä by Aleksis Kivi—eight different translations by six translators—is spread out over the 20th century. As an exceptional case in Finnish-German translation history it provides attractive material for the translation historian interested in the historical dynamics of literary translation. This article sketches briefly the different profiles of these translations, points out the multiplicity of potential translation modes and goes on to explore the reasons for three translators’ actual choices by focusing on the socio-political situation of the translation event with its time-bound normative conditions.
When measured on the basis of its translations, one novel outweighs all others in the international reputation and reception of Finnish literature: Aleksis Kivi’s Seitsemän veljestä. After its publication in 1870 it was first severely criticised as being in conflict with the prevailing agrarian and conservative ideal image of the Finnish people, but at the beginning of the 20th century, and with the winds of growing ideological self-awareness of the Finnish nation, it became a praised national novel. Its author was celebrated as the creator of Finland’s modern literary language and as a national literary icon. Since then it has been customary in speaking of Kivi to use the phraseological repertory that sees in the novel an incomparable realistic description of Finland, Finnish nature and the Finnish people. Or as Richard A. Impola puts it in the foreword to his English translation:
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