Anja Snellman


Aleksi Poutanen/Kone Foundation


Enchanted by Poetic Language

Continents: A Love Story came out in English in 2019. The book was translated into Czech in 2007 by Viola Capkova, who was fascinated by Anja Snellman’s creative and poetic language.

How did you decide to translate Continents: A Love Story?

I was contacted and offered the assignment. I had previously translated Anja Snellman’s Skin into Czech and had discussed the book in a study, so I accepted immediately, without even reading the book. Continents is a timeless and universal book: relationships are always relevant.

What convinced you to translate the book without even reading it first?

I have always liked Snellman’s style of writing and her way of using language. She uses long, rich sentences, playing with metaphors, repetition, rhythm, and tempo. In her prose, wonderfully flowing, complex sentences intertwine with concise expression—sometimes a single word is enough to convey deep, insightful meaning.

Translating such prose is very challenging, but also fascinating and rewarding. Personally, I prefer rich and creative language to a laconic, minimalist style. 

What was the translation process like?

Anja Snellman’s creative language translates naturally into Czech. Unlike Sonia O. Was Here, Continents does not contain slang, which would have been more challenging to translate. However, there were other challenges.

Snellman uses allusions that the translator must research carefully, and she creates entirely new words, often compound nouns. The Czech language has fewer compound nouns than Finnish, so their translation calls for creativity.

I have translated a great deal of poetry, and working on Anja’s prose is very close to translating poetry. Anja also frequently uses irony, for which Czechs have a particular fondness as a way of expression.

 Viola Capkova

Viola Capkova works as a lecturer in literature studies and creative writing at the University of Turku, where she also serves as an adjunct professor in the School of History, Culture and Arts Studies.

Capkova is in charge of Struck by the Unknown: Fiction as a promoter of the Finnish language among adults with an im/migrant background, a research project funded by the Kone Foundation.

“Literature is a key carrier of meaning in culture that opens a window to various societal phenomena,” says Capkova.

“Our research group thinks that fiction plays a central role in learning both the Finnish language and about Finnish culture. We are looking for a new way of engaging adults with an immigrant background in Finnish society by teaching them the language and culture through literature.”

Marketa Hejkalova was interviewed by Suvi Huttunen
Photo by Aleksi Poutanen/Kone Foundation

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