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Päivi Paappanen

Päivi Tuija Inkeri Paappanen
Born May 9, 1965, Haukivuori

Master of Arts (cultural anthropology), University of Helsinki

Publishing Director 2011–, Like Publishing Ltd
Publishing manager 2006–11, Like Publishing Ltd (Like became a subsidiary of Otava Publishing Company on January 1, 2006)
Director of publishing 2004–05, Oy Like Publishing Ltd
Editor in chief 2001–04, Kääntöpiiri (subsidiary of Like)
Publishing editor 2000–04, Oy Like Publishing Ltd
Finnish translator 1997–2000

Photo: Anna Salvatierra
Written by Päivi Paappanen (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

From globetrotter to publisher

When I graduated from the upper-secondary school of a little country town, I was so hungry for experiences and the call of the open road was so strong that I never once considered college. I had to get on the road and fast. What made it easier to travel the world was that the international brotherhood of punk rock took care of its own. Wherever I went, there was a place to stay, friends, help if I needed it.

So I only applied to university in 1989, after five years of roving round the world. I was working assorted dead-end jobs, but it slowly dawned on me that maybe I could get some use out of my top grades in the Matriculation Examination. Since my travels had honed my English into pretty good shape, I figured I could get in to the University of Helsinki to study English. So I did. Only later did I find out that the acceptance rate for English Philology was the lowest of any major at the Faculty of Arts.

In English Philology I was most interested in translation from English to Finnish. Soon I noticed that a large number of my fellow students were aiming for teaching jobs. Teaching was not my thing. Fortunately, however, a fellow student introduced me to cultural anthropology. Ever since childhood I had been fascinated by different cultures, and now I would be able to study everything I had so passionately read about in my free time. After two years in English Philology, I switched majors to Cultural Anthropology.

At about the same time I got into Latin American studies. At the time you could only take it as a minor. Otherwise I might well have gone over to it entirely, since the nations and cultures of Latin America were my main interest. I seem to recall that the subject had only just been established, and both the teachers and the students were very engaged and excited. My deepest experiences of community and my best memories from my student days are indeed from seminars and get-togethers in Latin American studies. The field work for my Master's in cultural anthropology was conducted in Mexico (To be honest, I only turned in my Master's thesis in 2002 after several years outside academia.).

Even so, I was still drawn by translation, and I began to set my sights on translating literature. After returning from Mexico, I contacted several publishers, and I did get translation jobs. I mostly did translations from English, but also some from Spanish, which I had first learned at the University Language Centre and then gained practice at in the year I had lived in Mexico. I translated full time for a few years, until I was asked to come to work for Like Kustannus, whose people I had come to know in my translating work. And that's where I remain today, 15 years later.

The staff of Like in a Christmas mood. Photo: Like archives.

At Like, I have worked as publishing editor, publishing manager, and now for the last five years as Publishing Director. My university studies have provided me with the ability to search for information and approach sources with a critical eye, and I hope with some breadth of vision.

To be honest it must be said that my globetrotting has influenced me at least as much as my studies. There's no telling where I'd be and what I'd be doing if I had gone to university straight from high school. I remember vividly how at parties arranged by the English philology students club women five years my junior would regret not having travelled and lament that after graduation they wouldn't be able to do so because of their student loans.

Päivi Paappanen in the launch party of The Sick Bag Song, the latest book by Nick Cave, London 2015. Photo: © Jamie Byng.

My current job as Publishing Director of Like is absolutely fascinating and highly varied. I have always been a voracious reader, so it has been really rewarding to be able to select and produce good books. The publishing profile of Like covers practically all my own interests: music, popular culture, cinema, social issues, and of course fiction.

Päivi Paappanen with author Jennifer Clement. Ms Clement's books Prayers for the Stolen and Widow Basquiat have been published in Finnish. Ms Clement was elected President of PEN International on October 15 2015. Photo: © Nora Varjama.

In my job I construct our publishing profile together with our publishing managers and editors. I am in daily contact with literary agents and scouts and fellow publishers abroad; a couple of times a year I attend professional book fairs where the translation rights of books are traded. Of course I also work at our domestic book fairs in Helsinki and Turku, building our stand, hosting authors, and selling books. I discuss book covers and formats with graphic designers and I contribute to planning of marketing, communications, and sales. The budget and assorted administrative duties are also my responsibility. My duties even include the job of personnel manager. In brief, I bear overall responsibility for the operations and development of Like.

Caption: Michael Monroe signing his autobiography, Helsinki Book Fair 2011. Photo: Like archives.

The best thing in my job is our awesome, passionate staff and our wonderful authors, Finnish as well as foreign. Many of our authors have become good friends, and the people of Like are already like part of my family.

  • The fabulous launch party of Norma, the latest novel of Sofi Oksanen, was held on September 23 2015. Towards the end of this HSTV video of the party Päivi Paappanen thanks the author and the performers (timecode 1:28:15).
At the launch party of Norma by Sofi Oksanen, Alexander Theatre, Helsinki. Photo: © Nina Karjalainen.


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