7 Days and Counting goes binary

7days_and_counting_kindleThe kindle edition of the novel, 7 Days and Counting, is now available at Amazon US/UK/EU.

The eBook includes all the paperback edition illustrations, except the translucent bookmark, featuring a piece of art by Eevamaija Poijärvi. What the kindle edition lacks in touch and smell of a physical book, it makes up with its internal references and immediate delivery. The words are the same but the story, as with the paperback edition, might be different the second time around.


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Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

I give this fantastic and surprising comedy full “douze points” “kaksitoista pistettä” ”tolv påäng”!

The feel good Netflix movie pokes fun in a loving manner at the bizarre extravagance known as Eurovision Song Contest. The real life annual TV contest of European Broadcasting Union, that includes also countries that are not technically in Europe, gave the world Abba’s iconic Waterloo, the feat every artist dreams of when they enter an original song to their country’s own competition to get to represent their country.

Homage is also paid to the fate of Finland and other countries that typically rake “un point” from their fellow European countries and the incredible true story of Finland winning for the first time (and despite Saara Aalto’s Monster effort probably for the last time) against all odds with Lordi, the latex monster hard rock band. Spoiler alert: this movie keeps up with the authenticity; neighbouring countries often vote for each other and over the years winning has been a bit of a problem financially for some of the countries and politically for others.

The story in this cookie-sweet comedy, that has a true love affair with Euroviisut, the type of songs Eurovision brings to life that are genuine or genuinely funny, is so well written that it justifies a reckless car race along Edinburgh’s cobbled streets, breathtaking landscape scenes from Iceland we have not seen since the mother of dragons took us there and a song-a-long with real Eurovision winners that rivals even Bollywood’s sing and dance numbers.

The accented English is a character on its own right, and Will Ferrel almost manages to keep it up through the ups and downs of his Icelandic character Lars. The North American actor, and even more so the mainstream audience south of the Canadian border, would not be able to get through a movie spoken mostly in foreign language so one can understand that there was no other choice than to use English seasoned with a pinch of Icelandic. The irony is not lost on Will Ferrel, the co-writer, who does go a bit overboard hammering both the Americans and American exceptionalism and with another particular joke that is beaten to death (if you want spoilers take a look at the character names).

Canadian Rachel McAdams as the elf-loving childhood friend of Lars from their Icelandic hometown is charming and pulls the weight in the surprisingly fresh love story as well as the singing until the end reveals she must have had help from someone else who has lent Sigrit her voice. A quick internet search reveals a Swedish Eurovision alumni Molly Sandén was the helping voice complementing Rachel’s until replacing it. The cameos, like the Irishman Graham Norton, are splendid fun and what a spot on casting to dress up Dan Stevens, an Englishman known by many as the dreamy Matthew Crawley of Downton Abbey, as the refreshing take on the Russian arch-villain.

What makes this not only a great movie but elevates it to a level that I just had to write this review is how it deals with current state of affairs. The apparent and subtle references to the human rights and voting issues are sublime. No movie about Eurovision Song Contest would be complete without a shoutout to its hardcore fans LGBTQ community that is lovingly pampered with Cher’s Believe and more importantly taking precious screen time to raise awareness of the statistics in certain countries.

As the old saying goes truth is stranger than fiction and I’m sure everyone, who has witnessed events unfold this year known in the West as 2020 and the year of the rat in the East, agrees that it most certainly has been exceptionally outlandish. Elections have been postponed citing concerns of spreading corona virus and upcoming elections contested in advance by the current occupants. Vote while you can and make sure every vote counts even if your own favourite song you’d like to hear in 2021 is not on the ballot.

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Lost and Found in Translation

First, I should mention that I have not actually read the Purge but the original novel Puhdistus written by Sofi Oksanen. I highly recommend the Finnish version for its sublime language. Yet, I’m certain any translation of it is worth a read because of the story itself. Based on the first chapter of Purge, I’m fairly confident that the translation is good (as defined in Oxford dictionary, not the synonym to satisfactory to avoid any confusion). Someone once said that successful communication is accidental at best, or something to that effect. I’m curious what that person would have said about translations.

It is inevitable that some things are lost in translation. Dialects and accents never survive the brutal adaption process intact, if at all. Having to strip a piece of writing to its bare bones using standard language is a pity. In the novel, Aliide Truu, has a distinct way of speaking appropriate to her age. As an example, the following translation is correct, but fails to convey the speaker is Aliide and most importantly her tone. Aliide comes across more harsh in the English version compared with the Finnish version:

Sofi Oksanen Puhdistus, page 18: “Että mistä sitä oikein on tultu tänne?”

(Trans. Lola Rogers) Purge, page 12: “Now where exactly did you come from?”

Imagine a translation in its place that begins with something an old woman would say, but shows less concern and surprise than for example “Oh my” and ends with a reserved curiosity rather than interrogation.

It is a miracle if any translation remains true to the original work while achieving greatness at the same time. Once in a blue moon, the translation exceeds expectations and is even better than the original. An example that comes to mind is from the Finnish subtitles of the 1980’s Star Wars spoof movie Spaceballs. There is a scene where Lone Starr (Luke Skywalker) jams the radar by throwing a jar of jam into a satellite dish. Dark Helmet (Darth Vader) investigates the thick red goo and says: “Raspberry. There’s only one man who would dare give me the raspberry: Lone Starr!” The Finnish translation obviously misses the joke with “jamming the radar” and the sexual reference, but translation for “giving the raspberry” is still priceless when Dark Helmet gets to say in Finnish “…vattuilee”. The Finnish word “vattu” for raspberry has been made into a verb that conveniently differs only by a single letter from the commonly used profanity equivalent to “f-ing with”.

Another example is the name of the beloved character Jon Snow from George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series translated into Finnish by Satu Hlinovsky. Jon’s Finnish surname Nietos is type of snow that accumulates and hardens and the poetic word is also suggestive of something that is not quite what it seems. A very similar noun “keitos” in Finnish is derived from the verb “keittää” “to boil” or noun “keitto” meaning “soup”. “Keitos” itself is either diminutive soup or something whisked together by too many cooks. You could similarly give new meaning in English to noun “soupling” especially if you couple it with the word “dumpling”.

One of the cherished Finnish novels is Tuntematon Sotilas (The Unknown Soldier) written by Väinö Linna in 1954. It tells a story of the ordinary Finnish men on the Karelian front during Continuation War of 1941-1944 that followed the Winter War between Finland and Soviet Union. The most recent film adaptation, to celebrate the 100 years of independence, was directed by Aku Louhimies in 2017 based on the original manuscript Sotaromaani (the war novel), that Linna pitched to the publisher WSOY with “to give the soldiers, who bore the weight of the calamity, all the appreciation and strip war of its glory”. One of Linna’s motivations was to give the lowly soldier a brain as he felt other stories written by Swedish speaking elite fell short on that front.

The publisher subjected Tuntematon Sotilas to self-censorship known as Finlandization to some degree but most edits served to improve the story. It is a rare depiction of war that has no great heroes or generals as the main character, or any one lead character for that matter, but men from different corners of Finland, all speaking with their distinct dialects trying in their own way to cope and live to see another day. The novel achieves greatness by delivering the first hand account of the low level pawn caught in the senseless war. It has been translated to over twenty languages and should be part of the curriculum everywhere. Unfortunately, as you might have guessed, the original translation to English left something to be desired. Spoiler alert if you are not familiar with Finnish history: the last lines of the novel depict men on their way home after the war has been lost. The benevolent sun is shining on them and the last line is affectionate “aika velikultia”. The first English translation fell far from the mark with blunt “Those were good men.” I hope Liesl Yamaguchi solved this one better and the new translation conveys the brotherhood and bond formed between the soldiers.

Finally, I would not do translations of Finnish novels justice if I didn’t mention Mika Waltari’s Sinuhe egyptiläinen (The Egyptian) published in 1945 and translated to English in 1949 by Naomi Walford via the Swedish translation. This breathtaking novel transports the reader to ancient Egypt and tells a story of an orphan, Sinuhe, rising to become the pharaoh’s physician during historical era when you lived and died as one man saw fit. The depictions of professions and life in Egypt was so well researched that no one believed it had been written by a Finnish author who had never set foot in Egypt. Waltari took artistic liberties with some minor details, using medical practices that were not used until 1000 years later and borrowed a familiar scene from the Old Testament. Still those serve the story that highlights the contradiction between ideals and the reality. The circumstances might have been different thousands of years ago but human condition has not changed. While Sinuhe, the expat of Egypt, was born from the imagination of Waltari, albeit inspired by real historical man, his life journey challenges the misconceptions we humans so easily harbor when it comes to culture, religion and history. The Egyptian was the best seller for two years following its US publication and remained the most sold foreign novel in the US until Umberto Eco came along in 1980.

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Calendar 2,3,5,7,11,13,17,19,23

grow_up“What would I do without you?” – “Grow up?” from 7 Days and Counting.

More quotes at facebook.com/TheFrictionist

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Kapok stocks 7 Days and Counting

My newly released novel, 7 Days and Counting, is available at the Kapok online store with free world-wide shipping.

Stock pile at kapok on sun street

Address: 3 Sun Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong


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7 Days and Counting Book Launch Party

The story begins on Saturday, October 27th at Kapok on Sun Street.

Hosted by: Frictionist & Kapok
When: Sat 27.10.2012 5pm-7pm
Where: 3 Sun Street, Wanchai, Hong Kong

RSVP: Facebook or publisher@frictionist.com


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7 Days and Counting to be released on Saturday, 27.10.2012

Over twenty Informal Editors from Finland, UK, Japan, Belgium, US, Australia and Hong Kong helped to refine 7 DAYS AND COUNTING that reads like a modern romance, unfolds like a mystery and at the end opens up for interpretation. Now the polished novel, which has been awarded a Literary Arts Grant by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, is coming out as an unique book befitting the story that challenges your perception.

Reserve the date 27.10.2012 from 5pm until 7pm. Invitation to follow.

The first book in 7 Days and Counting series.


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Sullied solids

The most famous word in Shakespeare’s Hamlet is the one we don’t know, the adjective omitted here:

O, that this too too          flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the everlasting had not fixed
His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter – O God, God!
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world.

Attempts have been made to resurrect the misprinted word as “sullied” and “solid” among others, but what is a beloved brought back to life for one is a Frankenstein to another. Everyone seems to agree though that we are free to speculate until a long lost original manuscript will set the record straight and Shakespeare has his last word. We pledge so strong allegiance to the author that if such a manuscript were ever found, we would debate about its authenticity – not whether there is a right word for Hamlet.

“Solid flesh” would fit nicely with melt, thaw and dew, but solid as an opposite of liquid doesn’t add anything that isn’t already implied. Based on the meaning, “sullied” would be the logical choice as “tarnished flesh” adds to the verse, provides explanation for Hamlet’s desire to commit suicide, and it fits well with “weary” and particularly “stale”.

The “too too” preceding the misprinted word indicates either desperation, emphasis or temporary amnesia. The desperate tone is set at the beginning with the “O”, and it continues through out the passage, so desperation cannot be ignored. If “too too” is also used as an emphasis then boolean “solid” makes hardly sense. “Sullied” on the other hand lends itself to both desperation and emphasis as there can be different degrees of stained. I prefer “sullied” because it ties closely to a reoccurring motif of incest in the play and gives the most freedom of expression to Hamlet. Imagine if a manuscript surfaced and it revealed that it was frustration and amnesia that Shakespeare was aiming at, and there was a blank to begin with. Would we accept his artistic choice when for years we have been in search of the right word?

We are reluctant to correct a mistake, even a blatant one, if it is made by an artist. When a famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto designed Finlandia Hall, he chose white Mediterranean marble for the exterior walls that proved to be ill-suited for the harsh conditions of Northern winter. The same Carraran marble was used when the music hall was renovated after his death, because it was the architect’s choice. As a proponent of functional design I have no doubt Alvar Aalto would have chosen differently had he known how the constant freezing and thawing affects the marble. His mistake would have been corrected by others had he not been a famous architect. Instead, a decade later, Finlandia Hall is once again in desperate need of a renovation.

I strongly believe we should aim for the integrity of the work instead of the integrity of the author’s final judgement. Sullied solids should not be blindly determined by what we might find in a manuscript or a blueprint if it is in contradiction with the work. People make mistakes. Artists make mistakes. And sometimes those mistakes are what gives the work a more profound meaning; other times they are just what they are – mistakes.

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7 Days and Counting receives a Literary Arts Grant from HKADC

It is official. 7 Days and Counting has been awarded a Literary Arts Grant by Hong Kong Arts Development Council. My first novel will be published in 2012. This would not have been possible without the help of the Informal Editors. Thank you.

I’ve updated the beginning of the 7 Days and Counting blog version to reflect the version that is currently going through the final editing process.

An electronic Advance Reader Copy will be available in February. Anyone who would like to review 7 Days and Counting, please send an email to Frictionist (publisher@frictionist.com).

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In the Digital Desk Drawer: The Shy Star

Are you looking for a children’s story that has something for the adults as well? A short story set in Hong Kong Park you happily read again and again even if your children become obsessed with it? Take a peek at the sample of The Shy Star and join Informal Editors.

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