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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

Passion for Shakespeare

In the beginning of the 21st century, the WSOY publishing house launched a major project: to retranslate William Shakespeare's complete plays into Finnish. Alice Martin was one of the project's editors.

“There were no preset guidelines as to what Shakespeare was or ought to be for us Finns in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Before starting, a lot of background work was done and a couple of seminars were organised. We made an effort to educate ourselves and to come up with principles of what the project was trying to achieve.”

At the turn of the 20th century Paavo Cajander translated Shakespeare's plays single-handed. Since that time, while new translations of specific plays have been made now and then for performance, the bulk of the plays were only available in Cajander’s version.

“Cajander's translations are astonishingly well executed and precise, considering that his proficiency in English could not have matched that of today’s translators, and that he did not have access to the source materials that we now have. It was an enormous achievement for one man. He deserves all our respect.”

The "Chandos portrait", believed to be of William Shakespeare, painted by John Taylor. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The first plays of the WSOY series were published in 2004 under the editor-in-chief Päivi Koivisto-Alanko, and the whole project was completed in 2013. By then the entire Shakespearean canon of 38 plays, two more than in Cajander’s time, had been translated into Finnish. The process had involved twelve translators in all.

“It was a huge undertaking. And a huge vote of thanks goes to the WSOY Literary Foundation, without whose support the project would not have been possible.”

Martin was involved all through the project and edited no fewer than thirteen of the translations. When the project came to an end, she formed the ongoing Shakespeare reading circle, which meets in the Rikhardinkatu library in Helsinki.

“The series was completed in late 2013. In January 2014 I set up the reading group because I was suffering from Shakespeare withdrawal symptoms.”

The reading group run by Martin is an open event and forms part of the library programme. Each month one play is read and then discussed.

“This has been a really fun thing to do. People have been enthusiastic and a good number of people show up.”

Martin says that people of all ages and walks of life have come along, united by their passion for Shakespeare. The project is run on a voluntary basis.

‟I do this because I love Shakespeare.”

Shakespeare began his history plays with Henry VI in 1592. Image WSOY.


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