Waiting for translation: Margarita

A real old-school holiday resort. Sauna, muscle-reviving massage for the old biddies with health problems, berry and mushroom picking, rowboats to the island in the middle of the lake, home-cooked food with produce from the estate. A local community where everyone knows their place, because it’s been that way for generations. They don’t make them like that anymore. It can’t last.

A woman who’s sure she doesn’t want a child, but is forced to have one anyway. Her body rejects it. She cannot eat, or drink, or move without retching. Her death – and that of the baby she feels is not hers, but the state’s – looms ever closer.

A pearl hidden in a pocket. Will ripping it from its shell, killing its host in the process, bring bad luck, and turn the thief mad?

A soldier who’s sure he doesn’t want to fight, but is forced to do so anyway. He can’t get out of the woods, and danger looms ever closer.

A mussel nestled on a riverbed. Open to whatever floats by, filtering the water that enters it, until one day that water is so dirty, it’s close to stifled. It’s death – and that of the river itself – looms ever closer.

A man who’s sure he doesn’t have the power to protect all he surveys, but is forced to survey the forest anyway. It is cut down too soon. These are good trees, old trees, and the life that they shelter will be cut down with them. The trees are not his, but the state’s – and their demise looms ever closer.

A new start. A new job, in the city. The freedom to wear trousers without anybody staring. The freedom to escape the past and start life all over again, without being forced to do anything. It won’t be easy. How long can it last, and what does it cost? Is there another way forward?

It took me a while to get into Margarita, but once I was in, I was hooked. Anni Kytomäki looks at the 1940s and 1950s with more than half a century of hindsight, asking questions that were harder to ask then than they are today. Whether they are easier to answer is something else. The novel is only in Finnish at the moment, but it won Finland’s top literary award, the Finlandia Prize, in 2020, and rights have been sold for four other languages already. I hope Margarita finds the right English translator soon!

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