Go Back

Alice Martin

Born February 12, 1959, Helsinki

Master of Arts (English philology) 2008, University of Helsinki

Editor for foreign fiction 1989–91, 1993–, WSOY
Freelance editor 1985–89, 1991–93, WSOY and others.
Translator into Finnish 1982–

Teaching at the University of Helsinki, courses arranged by the Finnish Association of Translators and Interpreters, the Finnish Book Publishers Association and KAOS (Literary translators’ branch of UJF), and various workshops for Finnish translators

Member of the Finnish Language Board 2009–15

Publications and translations:
Presentations and articles on translation and editorial work
Finnish translations of poetry and books for children and young people, including those of Lewis Carroll, Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes, and the poems of Tolkien.

Awards and special achievements:
The Alvar Renqvist Prize 2005
The Salli Journalism Prize (for the Shakespeare Project working group) 2006

Awards received by Finnish translations edited by Alice Martin:
The Mikael Agricola Prize:
1995 Henry Fielding: Tom Jones, translated by Marja Alopaeus
1999 Laurence Sterne: Tristram Shandy - elämä ja mielipiteet (The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman), translated by Kersti Juva
2003 Anselm Hollo: Corvus, translated by Kai Nieminen

Finnish State Prize for Literature/ Finnish State Prize for Finnish Translators:
1990 Tatjana Tolstaja: Tulta ja pölyä (On the Golden Porch), translated from the Russian by Marja Koskinen
2004 Jaan Kross: Uppiniskaisuuden kronikka (Kolme katku vahel) translated from the Estonian by Kaisu Lahikainen and Jouko Vanhanen
2007 William Shakespeare: Macbeth, Rikhard III (Richard III), Juhannusyön uni (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Henrik VI, kolmas osa, (Henry VI, Part 3) translated by Matti Rossi
2009 J. L. Runeberg: Vänrikki Stålin tarinat (The Tales of Ensign Stål), translated from the Swedish by Juhani Lindholm
2011 Anne Michaels: Routaholvi (The Winter Vault), translated by Kaijamari Sivill

The Kääntäjäkarhu Prize for poetry translation awarded by The Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE):
2003 Anselm Hollo: Corvus, translated by Kai Nieminen
2006 Zbigniew Herbert: Kyynelten teknologiasta, translated from the Polish by Jussi Rosti
2007 J. L. Runeberg: Vänrikki Stålin tarinat, (The Tales of Ensign Stål), translated from the Swedish by Juhani Lindholm

Photo: Mika Federley
Written by Tomas Sjöblom
Translated by Matthew Billington

A long way to a degree

Alice Martin, an editor of translated fiction in the publishing house WSOY, is, and has long been, fascinated by language structure and language history. When she started studying Finnish in the University of Helsinki in 1978, she found answers to many questions she hadn’t even been aware of.

“For example, I thought the Finnish phonology and morphology course was absolutely riveting. It gave an excellent overview of the structure of the language.”

Martin says two people in particular have been highly instrumental in her choice of career and its subsequent development. It was in Kersti Juva’s translation class that Martin realised translation was her calling.

“It was like an awakening. I felt really strongly that I understood what translation was all about and I found the interplay between languages very stimulating. I never cease to be intrigued by how the same ideas can be expressed in different languages, and how best to do it.”

In the middle of her studies Martin did indeed end up translating. After her first translations of children’s books for WSOY, she met the managing editor of foreign fiction, Klaus Taubert (1930-95), in 1985.

“Taubert drew me to the editing side. Thanks to the encouragement and recognition of potential shown by these two, I overcame my lack of confidence and found a purpose in work.”

With former fellow students in 2000. Source: Alice Martin’s archive

As a translator, Alice Martin has largely focused on translating poetry and is one of the few Finns who translate poetry written in metre. She recalls professor Pentti Leino’s prosody classes being important here.

“Leino was conducting research on prosody, which involved three in-depth courses to help resolve these questions, even for himself. I attended all of them, and the skills I picked up have been of practical use ever since, unlikely as that may sound.”

The translation and editing work for WSOY took over and her studies were put on hold for quite some time. Getting stuck on her master’s dissertation was long a source of anxiety. She considered various topics in both English philology and the Finnish language, such as ambiguity in the poet Mirkka Rekola’s work.

“I really agonised over the dissertation. My relatives badgered me about my studies and at times I felt completely worthless. But I couldn’t give up.”

Martin graduated in 2008 as Master of Arts in English philology with her dissertation Looking-Glass Reflections. Norms in translating Lewis Carroll.

“I eventually graduated in the summer 2008 degree ceremony, part of a bumper crop. One point of amusement was that a former fellow student of mine was conferring the degrees as the faculty dean! I’m very happy to have finally graduated - it has freed up a lot of energy.”

Newly-graduated Masters of Art, Arja Salakka and Alice Martin after the 2008 degree ceremony.



Go Back