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Maarit Kaimio

Maarit Kaimio (née Vuorenjuuri)
Born April 19, 1941, Helsinki.

Master of Arts (Roman Literature), 1965, Licentiate of Philosophy, 1968, and Doctor of Philosophy, (Greek Literature) 1970, University of Helsinki.

Professor of Greek Language and Literature, 1976–2004, University of Helsinki
Vice-Dean, 1992–1994, 1995–1997, 2001–2003, University of Helsinki
Assistant, Classical Philology, 1965–1968, University of Turku
Assistant, Greek Literature, 1968–1973, University of Helsinki
Docent, Greek Literature, 1972–1975, University of Helsinki
Junior Researcher, State Committee for the Humanities, 1973–1975

Publications, research projects and other academic activities
Research interests: Ancient Greek dramatic literature and theatre, the Greek novel, Greek papyrus documents

Written by Maarit Kaimio and Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta (ed.)
Translated by John Calton

Shut up! said Medea

Ancient Greek drama is all too seldom translated into Finnish. The classics should also be available in different translations. A translation which is meant to be read is not necessarily appropriate for the theatre and vice versa.

I got interested in translation early on: as I listened to Professor Holger Thesleff’s lectures on Aeschylus’ Prometheus, I wanted to go straight out and translate the tragedy into Finnish, following Greek poetic metre. This translation was later published together with three other of my translations of Greek tragedy (Aiskhylos: Neljä tragediaa, 1975). When I translated Euripides, I tried out a prose version in collaboration with a theatre production: Troijan naiset (‘Trojan women’) was performed in the Tampere workers’ theatre in 1970 and Hippolytos on the small stage at the Finnish National Theatre in 1973. Both translations were published in 1974. In my teaching I’ve also paid attention to translation. On courses dealing with the lyric, students have been given the opportunity to interpret Sappho and Alkaios. In connection with my lecture series on Euripides Medeia, I proposed that students could translate extracts of the play. To my delight four students set about translating the whole drama, by no means a small undertaking, given that it consists of over 1,400 lines. We put together the results in a self-published work, 4 x Medeia (1999).

In the winter of 2002, we had the delightful experience of a performance called Medeia goes karaoke, staged by Stadia Institute of Higher Education in Helsinki, and based on Timo Nisula’s translation from our collection. Like Euripides, Timo didn’t hold back on the use of strong language in the play’s furious dialogue. “Shut up! I hate it when you whine!” Medeia blurts out to Jason in the closing scene.

But there’s more to Greek literature than just tragedy: Europe’s first romance and adventure novels are Greek in origin. And they’re pretty racy affairs… I’ve translated two of them into Finnish (Chariton Kallirhoe – maailman vanhin rakkausromaani, 1973 akaChaereas and Callirhoe’; Longos Dafnis ja Khloe, 1990), and a third is in preparation.

Translating Longus’ novel was especially enjoyable. It tells the story of two orphans who fall in love while shepherding their adoptive parents’ herds of sheep and goats. I did the work in the loft room at our summer cottage, and if I encountered a translation problem to do with sheep or some old agricultural tool, I could immediately turn to our old neighbour there. And when I had translated the pages describing the spring bursting into life and went down to the cellar, I had the feeling that Longus’ words were bursting out like buttercups and geraniums beside the path to the cellar.

The cover of Dafnis & Khloe. Layout: Marjaana Virta.​
The cover of Dafnis & Khloe. Layout: Marjaana Virta.​


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