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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

My best memories fromthe University of Helsinki

From the University’s perspective, I must have been a dreadful student. I studied everything that interested me without any final goal in mind; I sat in countless lectures, but finished few study modules—in other words, I wasted resources and gained few study credits. I read theoretical philosophy, religious studies, literature, anthropology, Russian, Japanese and Turkish, and later at the faculty of science also geography.

From the perspective of my work as a translator none of this was in vain. In this job you should really know everything, about everything, but because that is not possible, the second best alternative is to have as broad an education as possible. I am extremely grateful to all of my university lecturers. It is really sad if in the name of efficiency the right to study superficially futile subjects is being taken away.

My warmest memories at the University of Helsinki are connected to the old Orientalia library, which was then situated on Meritullinkatu. Saturday morning was the best time to go there for study. On other days there was a great risk of spending several hours with friends over a coffee and doughnut at the Alku bar on Kirkkokatu.

Today, the Orientalia collection is part of the University Main Library. While this handsome new library does not have the same homely feel, I wanted an office as close as possible. It feels safe to work when you know that your beloved old books are patiently waiting for you just a short walk away.

Photo: Nelli Vuokko.


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