Finland is considered the most literate nation in the world and was recognized as such by the United Nations in 2016. However, its educational system, is a testament to that, as well as its literacy levels that are higher than the European average.
And yet, in this country that adores reading, modern Greek literature shines through its absence. The first translation of modern Greek poetry was published in 1987 and it was a collection of 66 poems by Cavafy.
Some of the most well-known Greek authors in Finland are Theodoris Kallifatidis who publishes his books in neighboring Sweden, Vasilis Vassilikos and Nikos Kazantzakis, whose work has been translated almost in its entirety. Excerpts from the poetic works of Kostas Karyotakis and Nikos Engonopoulos have also been translated. Regarding the translation of Greek literature into Finnish, author and historian Emilios Solomou, in his research for the online literature magazine Literature.gr, got in touch with a young and enthusiastic translator, Riikka Pulkkinen, who hopes to change this.
Riikka’s initial attraction to hearing Greek prompted her to apply to the Erasmus program in Thessaloniki, and thus begin her relationship to Greek literature.
After Thessaloniki, she received a degree in Modern Greek Literature from the University of Helsinki and attended Greek literature classes in Athens and Brno. She then decided to work as a translator in order to convey “whatever was worthy, to her mother tongue”, she explains.
Finnish publishers do not have access to Greek texts which is a serious obstacle, even if there is a will to promote Greek literature, says Riikka. The Finnish translator has built a webpage where she publishes short stories, excerpts and poems, as a platform for publishers who want to learn more about the writers and the developments in Greek literature. “But it still wants work,” she says of the undoubtedly grandiose and difficult task she has undertaken.
In describing the Finnish Greek literature reader, Riikka talks about those who love and visit Greece, those who know ancient Greek literature and want to get acquainted with our country’s contemporary culture, as well as the newly politicized interest regarding Greece due to the economic and social developments of recent years
“Greek literature must just find its wings, some works that will catch the attention of the public should be translated, and I believe that in the coming years the road will be easier”, concludes this informal ambassador of modern Greek culture in Finland.
Edited by: Fouli Zavitsanou