Kategoria(t): Literary thoughts

A Cat Among the Pidgeons

Since 2015, I have written a novel. It would be a part of a larger story that, according to the current plan, consists of five novels. I started to write it in Finnish, obviously, but it has later become clearer that it need to be written in English.

I got this idea when I heard that Finnish author Emmi Itäranta (whose Memory of Water is an excellent book) has written her books in Finnish and English. I thought it would probably be wise to do the same, although it took some time to believe that I could do so. It is not easy to get a book published in Finnish, and even harder it is to get it translated from Finnish. I could remove one obstacle and write it in English.

For the last weeks, alongside doctoral studies, I have edited the latest version of the Finnish script and re-written it in English. As a result, I should have two manuscripts. But the English text seems to be crap. The problem is, obviously, that it is not another script but a translation. Translating is not my cup of virgin blood.

I probably continue with the current method through the first novel because the Finnish script already exists. But with later books, I will try to use English only (as another Finnish author, Hannu Rajaniemi, does). Translating is not significantly easier with one’s own text than with someone else’s — but creating new text in English is not problematic.

I have been convinced by the Internet spirits, that there are significant benefits in writing in a foreign language. The reason for this is something I quote from one of the entries I have read lately. It is about Haruki Murakami:

He had just completed his first kitchen-table novel and found the final result to be lacklustre. As he describes it, his thoughts were simply too complex and when he tried to put them on paper ‘the system crashed.’ For this reason, Murakami chose to rewrite the opening of his novel in English, despite his limited abilities in English composition. But it was precisely the limitations of writing in a foreign language that removed the obstacles he faced trying to write in his native one; unable to pen complex thoughts in English, he discovered that his language became more simplified and free of unnecessary components. He began to find his rhythm and learned that trying to impress in his native tongue by forcing himself to write a beautiful phrase was actually making him a worse writer instead of a better one.

My Finnish text is full of useless words, which makes it hard to translate and also probably unpleasant to read. (But obviously, sometimes overdoing Finnish is intentional.) But if I write a text in English — as I have done with one novella and currently doing with my doctoral thesis papers — the text becomes better. It is easier to dwell in Finnish and go forward in English. It is also easier to express some things in a foreign language for distance reasons.

I may have used some English expressions wrong in this entry. Like the word entry. But I have seen it used this way. Re-creating my novel script in English is anyway the second of my two biggest problems. The second problem is that Dark Matter is cancelled. And that problem is quite significant. It is the best show there have ever been.

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