10,000 Steps (International Translation Day)

In recent years, I have celebrated International Translation Day on this day, September 30, here at Living in FIN. Today, I discovered that the overarching theme of this year’s celebration is “Finding the words for a world in crisis.” It is not that I think that the world is not in crisis (or that I thought it was ever not in crisis), but having worked for thirteen years on a much more intense and exhausting online translation project that only this month has, for the first time, passed the ten thousand monthly views mark, I do wonder how much difference translation makes to a “world in crisis.”

More to the point, when you sometimes wait, as I do, for months to get paid for rush translation jobs, that is, for “real work” (not the fun I’m having here) or are offered (as I was the other day) 1,200 euros for translating a six-hundred-page book (which should cost at least 12,000 euros) you feel both inspired and then, just as instantly, let down when you read that translation is a “moral debt,” as I did a few days ago on the Facebook page of a well-known poet and translator.

A moral debt to whom? To people who think that translation is as easy as falling off a chair, a kind of menial mechanical intellectual labor? To people who cannot be bothered to learn to speak any foreign language fluently? To people hostile to the foreign tongues in their midst?

Yes, it’s lovely to share your talents by giving people access to the lives, dreams, sufferings, and joys of other people, sometimes far away, whose languages they don’t speak. But since, I suspect, most translators labor without much in the way of recognition and appreciation (and money) from anyone, including even the people who benefit from their work, it’s better to imagine that, on the one hand, translating is something you’re doing for your own sake, something you’re doing to escape “the heavy bear that goes with me,” as Delmore Schwartz so aptly called his (our) brutish inner self, and, on the other, that translators are workers, too, and should demand good pay for fair work.

So, the hell with “moral debt.” Let’s be escapists instead. Here is today’s installment of Viivi & Wagner.

Panel 1
Wagner: I’m going to circle the bed until I get to 10,000 steps.

Panel 3
Viivi: I’d like to sleep. How many steps have you taken today?
Wagner: Those two just now.

Source: Helsingin Sanomat

Almost Finns have a few pro-tips for dealing with the kaamos, the polar night or the nearly endless darkness of winter nights and days on or above the sixtieth parallel.

Turn on the English subtitles if you don’t speak Finnish. Thanks to Tiina Pasanen for the link.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Finally, it wouldn’t be a Living in FIN party without a few words of gloomy wisdom from the late great Hannu Salakka.

Elämä ei sellaista
kuin lauseiden synnystä saattaisi luulla.
Olen vain hetkeksi karannut tähän miettimään,

Life is not like that
like the way you might think sentences are born.
I’ve just run away for a while to think about it,
to think back.

lapsi opettaa kävelemään
niinkuin vanhaa miestä,
pysähtelemäänkin, katselemaan taakseen.

On afternoon strolls
a child teaches you to walk
like an old man,
even teaching you to stop and look back.

joka ei ole iloinen eikä surullinen,
mutta täynnä tunnetta.

A sound (a voice),
which is neither happy nor sad,
but full of emotion.

Source: Hannu Salakka, Kuin unessa viipyen (Otava, 1990), pp. 419–421. Translated by Living in FIN. Images courtesy of Duolingo, the best thing since sliced bread, especially since it started teaching Finnish.

What’s in a Name?

ahmadResearcher Akhlaq Ahmad was surprised how much a name affects a job search. Photo by Henrietta Hassinen. Courtesy of Yle

A Finnish Name Gets You a Job
Yle Uutiset Selkosuomeksi
October 21, 2019

In Finland, it is easier to find a job for applicants who have Finnish names, according to a new study.

The study was carried out by Akhlaq Ahmad, a sociologist at the University of Helsinki. He sent out 5,000 job applications under names in different languages. The names were not real but invented.

The applications were filled out so the job seekers looked equally good. They also all spoke Finnish well.

The differences were great, Ahmad explained. For example, it was much harder to get a job with the name Abdirashid Mohamed than with the name Aino Hämäläinen.

In the study, companies asked more job seekers with Finnish names to interviews. Nearly 400 out of 1,000 applicants with Finnish names received invitations.

Applicants received fewer invitations to job interviews if they had Iraqi or Somali names. 134 out of 1,000 job seekers who had Iraqi names received invitations.

Somali applicants got the fewest callbacks of all. Only 99 applicants out of 1,000 with Somali names were invited to job interviews.

Akhlaq Ahmad was surprised the differences among different groups were so large.

Thanks to Tiina Pasanen for the heads-up. Translated by Living in FIN

Johanna Venho, “(Returning)”


Lentokoneesta näen tutun vihreän,
havut ilta-auringossa. Oman ääneni väri,
tämäkö on maa johon minut tehtiin.
Asuin poissa kauan, puhuin särmätöntä kieltä,
nauroin vaikeasti. Tarkkailin muita.
Toista ei voi tuntea: toisen eteen
on mentävä kuin ikonin. Odota.
Joku alkaa kertoa, sana tai pari imeytyy vereen.
Kaipasin näitä ihmisiä: kuulostelua.
Kesäyövaloa silmien alla. Tämäkö on maa
johon hajoan, mullastani kasvaa
syvä, tumma kuusi. Tuuli näppäilee oksia öisin.

imatrankoski (2)


I see the familiar green from the plane,
Conifer sprigs in the evening sun. The color of my own voice,
This is the land I was made for.
I lived away for a long time. I spoke an edgeless tongue,
I laughed gravely. I observed others.
The other cannot be known: others
Must be approached like icons. Wait.
Someone speaks, the blood absorbs a word or two.
I missed these people, listening,
The light of summer nights under my eyes. This is the land
Where I shall decompose, a deep dark fir
Growing from my soil. The wind shall pluck its boughs at night.

Source: Johanna Venho, Postia Saturnukseen (Porvoo–Helsinki–Juva: WSOY, 1998), p. 70. Translation and photo of Imatra Rapids (Imatrankoski) by Living in FIN

Blueberry Tarte Tatin

Timjami (thyme) is my favorite word in Finnish, which is just as well because thyme is one of my favorite herbs. I have cooked it fresh countless times in traditional (apple) tarte tatin and various other dishes. I am sure it will not be out of place in this summertime pie, in which mustikka (blueberry), found throughout Finland’s extensive woodlands, replaces the apples (omenoita) usefully found in the famous French upside-down pie. {LIF}


Blueberry Tarte Tatin: The Summer’s Most Wonderful Pie Does a Somersault
Text: Mika Rampa • Photo: Satu Nyström

The secret to the taste of the upside-down pie known as blueberry tarte tatin tarte is thyme, which deepens the blueberry’s woodsy flavor. Bake the little pies in blini pans (or other small ovenproof frying pans), so everyone gets his or her own individual serving.

Ingredients (4 servings)

Pastry Crust
75 grams butter (at room temperature)
1 deciliter sugar
1 egg
2 deciliters flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2–1 teaspoon cardamom

75 grams butter
1 deciliter brown sugar
8 sprigs thyme
3 tablespoons citrus liqueur*
3 deciliters blueberries

2 deciliters whipping cream (whipped)

Cooking time: 55 min {active–35 min; passive–20 min}

Bake blueberry tarte tatin as follows:

  1. Mix the butter and sugar in a bowl. Add the egg. Combine the flour, baking powder, and cardamom in another bowl. Add the flour mixture to the first bowl and mix until you have a smooth dough. Place it in the refrigerator.
  2. Add the butter, brown sugar, and thyme sprigs to a frying pan. Let simmer until the sugar has melted. Add the citrus liqueur and blueberries. Remove the pan from the stove.
  3. Press the dough on the pan or pans with a rolling pin. Make sure the pastry crust fits the pan exactly and it is on top of the blueberries.
  4. Bake the tarte tatin in an oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 20 to 30 minutes depending on the pan’s size.
  5. Put a plate over the baked pie and swiftly turn it upside down to serve.

* You can easily substitute lemon juice for the citrus liqueur.

Translated by Living in FIN

Easy Finnish, Lesson Five: Getting Home on the Slang Bus

One of the most dismaying things you discover if you study Finnish long enough is that the extremely morphologically complex and otherwise utterly alien-sounding language you have been melting your brains to get a tenuous grip on is, in fact, textbook Finnish, the literary language or standard language (kirjakieli) used in newspapers, magazines, and books, and spoken, as it were, by TV and radio presenters, politicians, schoolteachers and other professionals, and government clerks.

In real life, Finns speak bewildering combinations of conversational Finnish (puhekieli) and regional dialects (murteet). In Helsinki, the local dialect or argo is stadi (the word itself is a Finnish take on the Swedish for “city,” stad), a mind-numbing melange of Swedish, German, Russian, and English loanwords embedded in a Finnish grammatical, syntactical, and morphological matrix.

When I run head on into something that looks like slang or conversational Finnish, I often turn to the website Urbaani Sanakirja (“Urban Dictionary”). One of the things I like about the online dictionary is that it almost always provides down-to-earth examples of usage.

The website also features a Päivän sana (“Word of the day”), helpful for building and reinforcing your Finnish slang vocabulary.

Today’s word of the day is a personal favorite of mine, dösä, “bus.”


Although Finns also often use the word bussi (“bus”), it is a colloquialism; the word for “bus” in standard textboox Finnish is linja-auto, the very same word Urbaani Sanakirja uses to define dösä.

The example it supplies—Tulin eilen dösällä himaan (“Yesterday I got home by bus”)—contains another slang word, hima.


Hima means koti (“home”) in standard Finnish. “Translated” into book Finnish, then, the entire sentence would read, “Tulin eilen bussilla kotiin.” That is a far cry, lexically, from our original sentence, “Tulin eilen dösällä himaan.”

What does the sample sentence supplied for hima (“Nauran heittereille matkan himast pankkiin”) mean?

“I laugh at the haters all the way from home to the bank.”

That is a slightly obscure sentence (at least, to this non-Finn: is it a peculiar Finnish way of saying, “I’m laughing all the way to the bank”? Who are the “haters”?), so let’s look at the second example provided. It, on the contrary, is a perfectly clear and typical specimen of conversational Finnish with a bit of slang tossed in for good measure.


“Mun pitäs varmaa jo lähtee himaa” means “I should probably go home already.” Translated into standard Finnish, it would read, “Minun pitäisi varmaa jo lähteä kotiin.”

If you find this confusing, you’re not alone. In conversations with actual Finns, I rarely venture beyond the bounds of my still quite shaky kirjakieli, although often as not what I hear in return is conversational Finnish or the Karelian dialect of Finnish, spoken in parts of southeast Finland (where I hang out) and once spoken in Finland’s former second city, Viipuri (Vyborg), and the area to the south of it, known in Finnish as the Karjalankannas (Karelian Isthmus), but usually called simply Kannas or “the Isthmus” by Finns.

For obvious reasons, Kannas is a charged word in Finland, but that is a topic for another, less frivolous post.

Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, “In Finnish Class”

DSCN2106 (2)

Äidinkielen tunnilla luetaan AI, YÖ, UI.
Ei siitä viisaaksi tule, mutta valitettavasti ei hulluksikaan.
Luistinradan takana on tilaa tapella.
Niitä kiusataan, jotka uskovat liikaa
sekä Mari-Orvokkia.

Näkinkenkärintainen tyttö kutsuu jäälle paritanssiin.
Tirsk tirsk sahaamme samaan suuntaan piirin poikki.
Äidinkielen tunnilla käännetään sivu.

Koulun jälkeen kävelemme pakkasessa kanalaan,
kuljetamme kananmunan huopien välissä patjan alle
ja sidomme viiden villahuivin sisään.
Jonain päivänä tapahtuu: kuori kopsahtaa rikki
ja linnunpoika rääkäisee ensimmäisen kerran.


In Finnish class, we read ouch, night, swim.
It won’t make you smart, but unfortunately it won’t make you crazy.
There’s a place for fighting behind the skating rink.
They bully Mari-Orvokki
and the ones who believe too much.

A seashell-chested girl invites me on the ice for a pairs dance.
Giggle, giggle, we saw across the circle in the same direction.
We translate a page in Finnish class.
Oh no, oldsquaw, cannot.

After school, we walk to the henhouse in the cold.
We carry an egg between blankets and put it under a mattress
wrapping it in five wool scarves.
Someday it will happen: the shell smashed to smithereens,
the chick will let loose its first squawk.

—Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, Sakset kädessä ei saa juosta (WSOY, 2004), p. 41. Translation and photo by Living in FIN

Eeva Kilpi, “I Finally Plucked Up My Courage”

Finland’s 100th Independence Day is almost over, but I wanted to say happy birthday to my favorite country by exercising a little of the independence it has afforded me by giving me a whole new language, a language I never imagined I’d be learning until nine years ago, and the miracle of meeting wise, tender, witty souls in the medium of that language.

I’m especially grateful to Finland and Finnish for acquainting me with the great Finnish writer Eeva Kilpi, whose novels, short stories, memoirs, essays, and poems should be translated into more languages. They are mostly as dissimilar as two writers could be, but occasionally she reminds me of the great Czeslaw Milosz. But mostly she reminds me of herself, which is always the real sign of a great writer.

This is just the next poem from her first collection, A Song about Love and Other Poems, published in 1972 (after she was already famous for her prose works), which I’m now translating all the way through.

It’s not patriotic at all, and has nothing to do with Independence Day, but it does have something to do with independence. LIF


Nyt minä lopulta rohkaisin mieleni,
soitin hänelle lennättimestä ja sanoin:
Tämä on Eeva Mikkelistä päivää.
Mitä sinulle kuuluu?
Minä lähden tältä kesältä torstaina.
Houkuttaisiko sinua sitä ennen
tulla vielä kerran käymään täällä?

Minulla on kiireitä, hän sanoi, ikävä kyllä,
eikö sinulle sopisi joskus myöhemmin syksyllä?

Riippuu pääskysistä, minä vastasin,
jos ne ehtivät lähteä ennen minua,
suljen ikkunan enkä enää tule.

Vai niin, hän sanoi. Mitenkähän se oikein on,
minulla hälyttää nyt valitettavasti toinen puhelin.
Mutta kun tulet kaupunkiin niin otetaan yhteyttä.

Suon kohdalla muistin miten se oli:
Laurilta laumaan, Pertulta pois.

Ja minä olin meinannut jo Maunona.


I finally plucked up my courage.
I called him from the telegraph and said,
This is Eeva, calling from Mikkeli, hello.
How are you?
I’m wrapping up the summer on Thursday.
Could you be tempted before then
to come here again for a visit?

Sadly, he said, I’m busy.
Would it work for you sometime later in the fall?

It depends on the swallows, I replied.
If they manage to leave before me,
I’ll close the window and not come back.

Is that so? he said. Whatever the matter is,
unfortunately, my other phone is buzzing now.
But when you come to the city, we’ll get in touch.

Under my breath I remembered how the saying went.
“The birds flock on Lauri’s, and fly away on Perttu’s.”

And I was going to be a Mauno.*

* In the Finnish Lutheran calendar, Lauri’s nameday is August 10, while Perttu’s nameday is August 24. Mauno’s nameday is August 19. The equivalents of these men’s first names in English are Lawrence, Bartholemew, and Magnus.

Originally published in Eeva Kilpi, Laulu rakkaudesta ja muita runoja (WSOY, 1972). Translated by Living in FIN. Photo courtesy of Irman Kuvia

Eeva Kilpi, “A Song about Love”

eeva-kilpiEeva Kilpi

Eeva Kilpi
A Song about Love

So, one day
we shall twist our bodies round each other
and snap shut the lock, never to be detached again,
thy cervical wear and tear intertwined with my gout,
my stomach ulcers cheek by jowl with thine heart ailments,
and my rheumatism snug against thy lumbago.
Thou and I ne’er shall part.

Thou, dear, shalt forget thine arrhythmia, shortness of breath,
and the necrosis
lodged already in thine heart,
and I shall forget my catarrh, restless legs,
and the incessant chafing on my left side,
come frost and misfortune and whate’er else.

My breasts are empty and flat.
Take them in thy hands, dear,
as one day when thou lookest they shall sag.
Wilt thou love me then,
hey diddle diddle all the day?

Lord, teach us to accept old people’s love,
young people’s love, middle-aged people’s love,
ugly people’s love, obese people’s love, poor people’s love,
poorly dressed people’s love,
and lonely people’s love.
Teach us to accept love.
We are so afraid of it.

Thou shalt take my breasts in thy hands,
my flat, stretched breasts,
and touch the wrinkled tips with thy lips.
The cataract in thine eye whilst thou wait for a hospital bed:
thou shalt fumble thy way to me blind,
grope me with thy mind’s hand.
Grope away:
beneath all these wrinkles it is me.
Life has finally forced us into this guise,
my Arctic bramble, my snow bunting, my swallow.

My lumps shall nestle in thy pits,
Thy crinkles in my grooves,
and alongside thy miseries I shall pray silently for thy death.
Bright are the day and the eve.


Laulu rakkaudesta

Ja eräänä päivänä
me koukistumme toistemme ympärille
ja naksahdamme lukkoon emmekä irtoa enää,
sinun kulumavikasi minun kihtiini kietoutuneena,
minun mahahaavani sinun sydänvaivasi vieressä
ja reumatismini sinun noidannuoltasi vasten,
emme erkane konsana ei.

Ja rakas, sinä unohdat rytmihäiriösi, hengenahdistuksesi
ja kuolion
joka sydämessä jo on
ja minä unohdan katarrini, levottomat jalkani
ja sen alituisen kalvamisen vasemmalla puolella
ja tulkohon hallat ja harmit ja muut.

Minun rintani tyhjät ja litteät
ota käsiisi rakas
sillä eräänä päivänä kun katsot ne riippuvat pitkinä,
rakastatko minua silloin
tula tuulan tuli tuli tei?

Herra, opeta meitä hyväksymään vanhojen rakkaus,
nuorten rakkaus, keski-ikäisten ihmisten rakkaus,
rumien rakkaus, lihavien rakkaus, köyhien rakkaus,
huonosti puettujen rakkaus
ja yksinäisten rakkaus.
Opeta meitä hyväksymään rakkaus,
me niin pelkäämme sitä.

Ja sinä otat käsiisi minun rintani,
minun venyneet litteät rintani
ja kosketat huulillasi kurttuisia nipukoita
ja kaihi silmissäsi sinä sairaspaikkaa odotellessasi
hapuilet sokeana luokseni,
tunnustelet minua käsimielin.
Tunnustele vaan:
kaikkien näitten ryppyjen alla se olen minä,
tähän valepukuun elämä meidät viimein pakotti,
mesimarjani, pulmuni, pääskyni mun.

Ja minun kyhmyni painautuvat sinun kuoppiisi,
sinun ryppysi minun uurteisiini
ja kärsimystesi äärellä minä rukoilen hiljaa kuolemaasi.
On kirkkaana päivä ja ilta.

Originally published in Eeva Kilpi, Laulu rakkaudesta ja muita runoja (WSOY, 1972). Translated by Living in FIN. Photo of Eeva Kilpi courtesy of Janolehti

Couch Potato

couch potato

Panel 1
Viivi: Father and mother are going to marry me off to some rich brat.
Wagner: Great!

Panel 2
Viivi: How’s that?!
Wagner: You’d be rich again. You gave away the inheritance, after all.

Panel 3
Viivi: What about you?!
Wagner: I’ll be lying on this couch as always.

Translated by Living in FIN. Originally published in Hesari on October 25, 2017. Written and drawn by Juba (Jussi Tuomola)



Panel 1
Viivi: You and father may have a marriage of convenience, but don’t foist such a thing on me!!!
Viivi’s Mom: Take a breath once in a while.

Panel 2
Viivi: Uunnhh!!
Viivi’s Mom: And now breathe out.

Panel 3
Viivi: Whooooh!!
Viivi’s Mom: Have you simmered down?

Translated by Living in FIN. Originally published in Hesari on October 24, 2017. Written and drawn by Juba (Jussi Tuomola)