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Finnish translated works struggle in English-language world

Finnish authors are gaining popularity in the literary world. But demand for translated work by Finns is still weak in the English-speaking market.

Sofi Oksanen.
Sofi Oksanen. Image: YLE

A few hundred Finnish books are translated every year, and translations are being churned out at an increasing pace.

Iris Schwanck, head of the Finnish Literature Exchange, says books published for children and young adults are a growing market area.

Nordic crime fiction has brought Swedish and Norwegian novelists prestige, and the attention is also benefiting Finnish authors.

But it is not all rosy, says award-winning author Sofi Oksanen, who is one of the most popular Finnish writers on the European translated fiction market. According to Oksanen, who parted ways with publisher WSOY last year, Finnish publishers lack networks.

“Large publishers represent all authors while literary agents market writers that they really believe in,” says Oksanen, who now works with the Salomonsson Agency in Sweden.

Finland fans

Oksanen, who has sold 350,000 books in France, says the English-speaking world remains the most elusive. Anglo-Saxon readers have not fully embraced translated literature.

Finnish heavy metal music has also piqued interest in domestic literature. Hard core fans have taken up learning Finnish, which has also sparked curiosity regarding Finnish authors.

Japan's infatuation with the whimsical Moomins trolls has also been attributed to fostering an interest in Finnish literature.

But Finland’s national epic, The Kalevala, remains the most popular Finnish work internationally, having been translated into 60 different languages to date.

Sources: YLE

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