TRANSLATING PENTTI SAARIKOSKI (work in progress)

Pentti Saarikoski (1937-1983) was one of the most radical and distinctive personalities of contemporary Finnish poetry. A well-known public figure engaged in Leftist politics, he considered modernist poetry as a means for social transformation; but he always wrote from a first-person point of view that made his collections relatable, transforming them into manifesto-diaries of sorts –and as a matter of fact, his posthumously published diaries are also considered one of his major literary contributions. His poetical output is a highly idiomatic mixture of political agitprop, intimate lyricism fuelled by the contemplation of nature, and meditation infused with references to both the Greek classics (Homer, Heraclitus…) and figures of 20th century history, blended into a greater mythology through which the present unfolds as a larger-than-life reality. His taste for collage and his tongue-in-cheek tone –nurtured by irony towards his own bohemian public persona and his taste for stark contrast between intellectualism and down-to-earthness– make him one of the most recognizable voices in the canon of Finnish literature.

The following is from a project of translating several of Saarikoski’s collections. The collection Out Loud belongs to a series of short poetry books that follow closely Saarikoski’s breakthrough collection Mitä tapahtuu todella? (What is really happening?) from 1962. As the title suggests, the form and tone are reminiscent of political leaflets, and the language the poet elaborates relishes in subversion of a broad cannon ranging from the Gospels to Mao Zedong. The anger of the activist is however penetrated by a more personal melancholy. Saarikoski’s recent completion of the translation of James Joyce’s Ulysses (soon to be followed by his translation of The Odyssey itself, making him the only person who has translated both opuses) bleeds into the text through his identification with Odysseus, under his pseudonyms Oudeis (Nobody) and Polytropos (The Ingenious, or more literally The man of multiple turns).

The collection consists of ten sections, of which we present here three examples.


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