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

Memories of the University of Helsinki

Alice Martin has happy memories of the University of Helsinki, but less than happy ones, too. She has mixed feelings about the reception some of the teachers and other students gave her as a bilingual.

“Language is our identity, and the identity of a bilingual person is vulnerable both ways. Naturally one’s English skills came under scrutiny in the English department, and in the Finnish department some teachers questioned my Finnish because they knew my background. It was a mild case of intolerance. We all have our own idiolect, after all. Fortunately I toughened up over time.

A fieldwork excursion with the Finnish department to Kesälahti in the east of Finland, on the other hand, left her with only pleasant memories:

“I spent the time cycling around Kesälahti, hunting for conjunctions and clitics. Well, actually we visited people's homes, recorded their speech, and in the evenings we transcribed what they’d said. Then you picked out your assigned language phenomena and wrote them on file cards. My collection is probably still safe somewhere in the Morphology Archives.”

Conjunctions and clitic particles in the speech of the oldest inhabitant of Kesälahti, Allu Karjalainen in 1981.

“The dialect excursion taught me an important thing concerning future work: written speech is miles away from actual speech, which is discontinuous, repetitive and hesitant, something no one could bear to read. That’s why writers and translators must have the skill to create a credible illusion of spoken language.”

Alice in Allu Karjalainen’s kitchen in 1981.

Matters of speech were one thing, the study of old language forms another.

“When I’d advanced to professor Matti Rissanen’s courses in Old English, I remember thinking "now this is the real thing". For instance, reading Beowulf in the original was amazing. Knowledge of Old English and its metre is something I’ve later found useful when translating Tolkien's poems.”

Beowulf also came in handy when translating parts of Eino Leino's Helkavirret (‘Whitsun hymns’) into English in the English proseminar of the ever-inspiring Andrew Chesterman. Martin recalls how warmly she was welcomed years later when returning as an older student. The staff urged her to finish her studies.

“They treated adult students well in the department. Getting things done was fairly easy and I felt I was helped in every way. Professor Ritva Leppihalme from the English department kept urging me to complete my degree. Eventually I took part in her English dissertation seminar by mail from Hungary, where I was on maternity leave. Professor Auli Hakulinen also encouraged me to keep going.”

Kesälahti in 1981 (Alice top row, second from left)


Go Back