Today I’m pleased to welcome Antti Tuomainen to the blog. Antti is the author of Dark as My Heart, The Healer and The Mine. His latest novel, The Man who Died was published by Orenda Books on 10 October 2017.
Today Antti has written a guest post about humour.
As this is my last guest blog this time around, I think it’s an appropriate time to admit the many fears I had. I can honestly admit that I was worried, very worried. And the reason for this fretting, worrying, near panicking? Well, humour.
I know – humour is supposed to make light of worries and such, but in this particular case it was a little more complicated. Allow me to explain. The book that was to be The Man Who Died in the UK was published in Finland in 2016 as Mies joka kuoli. It was in many ways a new direction for me, something I had to do at this point in my writing career. After writing five very dark novels ranging from the dystopia of The Healer to the icy North of The Mine I felt that I needed to do something different. I believe I needed to be more me in my writing. Enter humour. I have had at least two great influences along the way: American noir literature and comedies of a very wide variety. So I brought those two great passions together and wrote the noir comedy I really wanted to write.
The result was Mies joka kuoli. And I was so worried before its Finnish publication. What would readers think? Would the humour work? What if I’m crazy? (Never mind the last question.) The book came out and it was a roaring success. It has been, by far, my most successful novel in Finland. I couldn’t have been happier. Except, of course, for one thing. The book was going to be translated. This is a happy thing, naturally, and something I’m constantly grateful for, but I couldn’t help having the same worry I had been having before the Finnish publication: would it work?
Worrying doesn’t help much. Everybody knows it. I know that. But one doesn’t stop smoking just because it ultimately kills you. I don’t smoke but it’s a useful metaphor: the worry-monkey on your back is a persistent fellow. So I spent many an hour thinking how badly and in how many ways a noir comedy (who the hell writes a noir comedy, I kept asking myself) could be misunderstood, could fail. I was especially worried about one thing. I knew that humour doesn’t travel very well. Something that is funny in Germany might not be so amusing in Japan and so forth. So I foolishly tried to imagine the state of humour in Britain and then… I don’t know what. (I know, I’m slightly neurotic.) You can’t do that, of course. You just end up watching far too many episodes of Monty Python, The League of Gentlemen and Little Britain. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about.
What finally freed me from my worries was – as it always is – the actual publication of the novel. As the first reviews and blog posts started coming in I could breath at least a little more freely. It seemed that the book had been understood just the way I had meant it to be. I’m probably not exaggerating when I say that reviews so far have mostly been, as they say, glowing. I’m very grateful. I took a chance, made a leap, followed my instinct. It seems as if it’s been the right thing to do.
So, now The Man Who Died in its translated form is enjoying quite a fantastic second life in the United Kingdom. I know we’ve only just begun but the direction seems clear. The Man Who Died is very much alive and going strong. And I don’t worry that much anym… Wait, there’s the French publication coming up… And the Polish… Not to mention…
About the book
A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he’s dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists.
With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition, The Man Who Died is a page-turning thriller brimming with the blackest comedy surrounding life and death, and love and betrayal, markinng a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir.
About the author
Finnish Antti Tuomainen (b. 1971) was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011 Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labelled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable’. Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen ‘The King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula.
About the translator
David Hackston is a British translator of Finnish and Swedish literature and drama. He graduated from University College London in 1999 with a degree in Scandinavian Studies and now lives in Helsinki where he works as a freelance translator.
Notable publications include The Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy, Maria Peura’s coming-of-age novel At the Edge of Light, Johanna Sinisalo’s eco-thriller Birdbrain and two crime novels by Matti Joensuu. David is currently working on a translation of Riku Korhonen’s latest novelSleep Close. His drama translations include three plays by Heini Junkkaala, most recently Play it, Billy! (2012) about the life and times of jazz pianist Billy Tipton. David is also a regular contributor to Books from Finland. In 2007 he was awarded the Finnish State Prize for Translation.
David is also a professional countertenor and is currently studying early music and performance practice at Helsinki Metropolia University. He is a founding member of the English Vocal Consort of Helsinki.
(all novel, author and translator information taken from Orenda Books website)