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Päivi Koivisto-Alanko

Päivi Ulla Katariina Koivisto-Alanko
Born August 9, 1969, Helsinki

BA 1993 (English Philology), PhD 2000, University of Helsinki
Erasmus exchange at Cambridge University 1993

Literature translation manager 2001-, Tammi Publishers
Literature translation editor 2001–2011 (Shakespeare project 2003–10), WSOY
PhD candidate 2000–2001, Department of English, University of Helsinki
Lexicographer 1995–2000, WSOY
EU intern 1994, terminology unit, translation services
Research assistant 1993–1994, Department of English, University of Helsinki

Articles on the history of English semantics, dissertation and a camping guide

Salli Journalism Prize for the Shakespeare Project Work Group 2006

Photo: Mika Federley
Written by Päivi Alanko-Koivisto and Tomas Sjöblom (ed.)
Translated by
Joe McVeigh

Publishing in theory and in practice

Publishing is easy in theory: choose good books, publish them and then get them on the shelves at bookstores. Sometimes you do it to get a bestseller, sometimes to make a cultural contribution. Between the two there is always room for popular fiction and thrillers for avid readers.

Doctoral studies helped me to see that I am more theoretical than empirical by nature, and publishing too is considerably more difficult in practice than in theory. Bestsellers are like prophets: false ones abound, and often you cannot spot the real deal until it is too late. There is an abundance of Nordic thrillers, but how to differentiate between them? Even the definition of popular fiction can stir up an academic debate that can have more participants than the book would have buyers.

Copies of Keltainen kirjasto (‘The Yellow Library’) publication series by Tammi Publishers on Päivi Koivisto-Alanko’s bookshelf.​
Copies of Keltainen kirjasto (‘The Yellow Library’) publication series by Tammi Publishers on Päivi Koivisto-Alanko’s bookshelf.​

And the cultural contributions: it is easy to recognise the literary value of a book you would love to publish, but can you say you are creating culture if only a few hundred people will buy it? Or should you try to find a work of similar quality that could achieve the sales of at least a thousand copies? And you still need the bestseller to finance all this.

On a serious note, the situation in the book industry is difficult, although there are some bright spots. The sales of translated fiction have been on the decline for a long time, and in particular literary fiction is struggling to remain profitable. While there is increasing competition for the money being spent on entertainment, the book industry is at the same time undergoing an upheaval. It is both an exciting and frightening time to be in such a traditional field: no one knows in what form publishing and literature will come through this bottleneck. I believe stories and storytellers will still find their place, but I am still tempted to call this the end of an era. The only possible way is forwards.

With writer John Irving at the Porthania building.​
With writer John Irving at the Porthania building.​

More on the web:

  • Ylen Keltainen kirjasto – ikkuna maailmaan -artikkelissa kerrotaan Suomen pitkäaikaisimmasta kirjasarjasta. Artikkelissa haastatellaan muun muassa Päivi Koivisto-Alankoa. (‘The article “The Yellow Library—Window into the World” by the Finnish Broadcasting Company on the longest running publication series in Finland. Among the interviewees is Päivi Koivisto-Alanko’. Link in Finnish.) http://yle.fi/uutiset/keltainen_kirjasto__ikkuna_maailmaan/7192112
  • Yle Areenan Käännöskirjallisuus muutoksen kourissa -äänitteessä keskustellaan käännöskirjallisuuden tilaa ja tulevaisuuden näkymiä Suomessa. Kysymyksiä pohtii Päivi Koivisto-Alanko muiden kirjallisuusalan vaikuttajien kanssa. (‘On a recording on the Finnish Broadcasting Company’s Areena website Päivi Koivisto-Alanko and other members of the book industry discuss the current state of literary translation in Finland as well as its future.’ Link in Finnish.) http://areena.yle.fi/1-2733154
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