Go Back

Kristiina Rikman

Born November 23, 1947

Bachelor of Arts (Finnish, Finnish Literature, Phonetics), University of Helsinki

Freelance Translator specialising in literature, 1972-
Teacher of Finnish Translation, University of Helsinki, 1981-1989

Finnish translator of children’s and young adults’ fiction, detective novels, travel guides, non-fiction, and contemporary novels from the Swedish and English for various publishers.

Positions of trust
Board member, Finnish Association of Translators and Interpreters (SKTL), 1992-1993
Chair, literary branch of SKTL, 1993-1995
Chair, SKTL, 1996-8 and 1998-1999
Board member, Forum Artis Registered Company, 1994-1995, 1996-1997; Deputy Chair, 1997-1998.
Ministry of Education, Taisto II Commission, 1999
Deputy Chair, Arts Promotion Centre, 2001-3, 2004-2006
Member of Panel of Judges, Finlandia Prize, 2011

Awards and Honours
Pro Finlandia Medal, 2014
Erkki Reenpää Prize for Translation, 2012
SKTL, Gold Award, 2000
SKTL, Silver Award, 1990
Artist’s Pension, 2008
WSOY Publishers, Translation Award, 2004
Bursary from City of Helsinki
Bursary from Finnish Cultural Foundation, 1982, 1988, 1998, 2000, 2006 and 2008
State five year Artist Bursary, 2001-5
State three-year Artist Bursary, 1984-1986 and 1995-1997
State one-year Artist Bursary, 1981 and 1992
State Award, 1981 and 2008

Photo: Riitta Virtasalmi
Written by Kristiina Rikman (Tero Juutilainen ed.)
Translated by John Calton

From Reader to Writer

I was the last of the family litter so the child who was read to a great deal, and I myself read plenty. Reading got me telling stories; expressing myself verbally was easy. I had the good fortune to go first to the girls lyceum school in Lahti and then to get the teachers I did - Väinö Kamu and Aila Simula - at the Sysmä comprehensive in central Finland, who encouraged me to read and write. As a teenager I went in for amateur acting, tried to get into theatre school, and failed. I landed top grades in my school-leaving exams and in the autumn of 1967 got into the University of Helsinki to read Finnish and Finnish literature as well as phonetics.

What a combination! In the lectures I got to know Kersti Juva, and ended up in Eila Pennanen’s translation seminar and at the same time the translation profession. I had got familiar with translated literature during my schooldays and read with enthusiasm the so-called ‘yellow library’ in the sixties, including Steinbeck and Hemingway. But the translators didn’t really figure. If it weren’t for Eila I would have gone into journalism, become a Finnish teacher or speech therapist. I got my Bachelor’s degree in 1972 and threw myself recklessly into freelance work. My dissertation on Paavo Haavikko’s poetry stalled, and I never got back to it. I began my career by translating Robert van Gulik’s extensive historical detective series set in China, then Astrid Lindgren’s Karlsson-on-the-Roof and Madicken stories. Lindgren re-entered my life in 2007 in the shape of Pippi Longstocking, which I retranslated for the reading public.

In the beginning of the 1980s I got to run those same translation courses which I had sat through over several terms. Although the proseminar was intended for students whose main subject was Finnish, students of foreign languages wanted to attend. We did loads of work, a short story each week, the mood was good and the teacher undoubtedly learned as much if not more than the students! It was quite an eye-opener: the same source text could produce as many variations as there were translators! Each translation was the translator’s interpretation. If Kersti and I were the only ones from Eila’s course to go into translating, the star student on my course was Jaana Kapari, perhaps more familiar as the translator of a character who probably needs no introduction - Harry Potter.

A convention at the school of Sysmä. Photo: Sysmän kuvaamo.​
A convention at the school of Sysmä. Photo: Sysmän kuvaamo.​


Go Back