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Riina Vuokko

Born September 5, 1975

Bachelor of Arts 2001 (East Asian Studies), University of Helsinki

Translator of Chinese Literature

Winner of the 2014 State literary translation prize for her Finnish translation of Mo Yan’s novel Life and Death are Wearing Me Out
Winner of the 2015 Jarl Hellemann prize for translation for her Finnish translation of Mo Yan’s novel The Republic of Wine

Photo: Nelli Vuokko
Written by Riina Vuokko (Kaija Hartikainen, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Balancing between the exotic and the homely

As a translator into Finnish I often need to balance between the strange and the familiar, the exotic and the homely. For Finnish readers, the work of a Chinese writer also provides a glimpse into a distant culture and a different society, but it must be more than that.

Literature must work primarily as literature, and I wouldn’t like anyone to read my translations merely as curiosities or eyewitness reports of the reality in China. A translator must be careful not to let the real message of the writer be hidden under unfamiliar and odd-seeming details. On the other hand, excessive explanations or domestication would be an even greater crime towards the original work.

The best thing about a translator’s work is continuous learning. Naturally knowledge of the source language and culture is of central importance, but the most important tool for a translator into Finnish is the Finnish language. I try to read as much original Finnish and translated literature as possible. One thing that is important for professional development is the training organised by translators into Finnish. I also actively participate in KAOS, which represents the interests of translators and operates under the Union of Journalists in Finland.

In a Chinese temple. Photo: Janne Tynkkynen.


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