Translator Ant O’Neill: “Moomins overshadow everything else Tove Jansson did”

Translator Ant O’Neill: “Moomins overshadow everything else Tove Jansson did”

31.03.2018 | Uncategorized

The Scottish cartoonist, writer and translator Ant O’Neill is currently in Tampere translating previously untranslated material by Tove Jansson including for example her work for the political satire magazine Garm (1923–1953). This is what he tells about his project.

How did you get the idea of translating Tove Jansson’s work?

“I went to Finland about four years ago for a holiday and visited the Moomin museum in Tampere. There I picked up some comic books. I found the drawing style of Tove Jansson quite different and amusing. At that point I had learned Finnish for couple of years. When I was reading the material I became aware of her work at Garm. I realised, that the only way to get to read them was to translate them myself.

What inspires you at the moment?

“Finland. I have become aware that Finland, Sweden, and Norway are all very different countries. I find similarity between Finland and Scotland, like a keep-it-yourself attitude. And humour is quite similar between the Scots and the Finns. For example, the Finnish comic Fingerpori has some Scottish kind of humour coming through.”

Is this translation project similar with the work that your previously done?

“This work is not a case of only translation anymore. I have been doing a chronology of all the years Tove Jansson used to work for Garm. I had to do some research on Finnish history during the Winter War (1939–1940), and the Continuation War (1941–1944), (both between Finland and Soviet Union during the World War II), and all things happened on Olympics in Helsinki (1952). The historical aspect makes this project different. The comics I have done before exist in their own little bubble, and they don’t have the same political side.”

What is the most challenging part of this project?

“Tracking down the material is hard, because some of it is so old. Also, Moomins overshadow everything else Tove Jansson did, and I think in Britain it is difficult to get the audience for her other non-Moomin related work. Everybody is interested in just Moomins, and they don’t want to look beyond that.”

What is the best part of the project? What do you enjoy doing the most?

“In Tampere I have to speak Finnish, which is the best part. Also, that I have a chance to explore Finland, which I haven’t been able to do before. But, I do also have responsibilities. I have a cat in Tampere I have to look after.”

Ant O’Neill is doing his translation project at Moomin Museum in Tampere during March 2018. You can read more about his project here:

Interview: Veera Heinonen

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