Mia Spangenberg with Elizabeth DeNoma — 'The Red Book of Farewells' by Pirkko Saisio

Pirkko Saisio’s autofictional novel, in Mia Spangenberg’s tender translation, is a mesmerizing account of radical politics and sexual awakening in a series of farewells.


Third Place Books is delighted to welcome translator Mia Spangenberg to our Ravenna store! Spangenberg will be discussing her work in translating Finnish author Pirkko Saisio's The Red Book of Farewells. Spangenberg will be joined in conversation by Dr. Elizabeth DeNoma, the translator, most recently, of The Darkness Manifesto: On Light Pollution, Night Ecology, and the Ancient Rhythms that Sustain Life by Johan Eklöf. This event is free and open to the public. Registration is required in advance.

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About The Red Book of Farewells. . .

For fans of Tove Ditlevsen and Karl Ove Knausgaard, an enigmatic work of autofiction set in a time of leftist politics and criminalized sexuality.

Pirkko Saisio’s autofictional novel, in Mia Spangenberg’s tender translation, is a mesmerizing account of radical politics and sexual awakening in a series of farewells—to her mother, to the idealism of youth, to friends and lovers, and finally to her grown daughter. The novel embeds readers in a delirious Finland, where art and communist politics are hopelessly intertwined, and where queer love, still a crime, thrives in underground bars. But then one morning in 2002, on a remote island off the coast of Finland, the narrator Pirkko Saisio informs her publisher that she’s accidentally deleted her latest manuscript, The Red Book of Farewells. Playful and mysterious, The Red Book of Farewells is a work that stoically embraces the small revolutions of moving on.


Praise for The Red Book of Farewells. . .

Winner of the Finlandia Prize
Winner of the Aleksis Kivi Prize

“A beautifully rendered portrait of a strikingly queer life—Saisio troubles any distinction we might try to draw between the personal and the political, the remembered and the invented.” 
—Morgan Thomas, author of Manywhere

“This Red Book of Farewells is also a book of welcoming: to life, to love, to death, to art, to revolution, to our ever-changing identities. It is hilarious and heartbreaking and like nothing I’ve ever read before.” 
—Jazmina Barrera, author of Linea Nigra

“Pirkko Saisio has for a long time been a genre of her own, an author with a recognizable style, but in her late works she has crossed borders and combined genres with ever more courage.” 
Helsingin Sanomat

“Self-awareness—and introspection, too, for that matter, are the means by which Saisio writes literature. The stronger the writer's self comes across in the lines, the more rocky and wide open the text becomes. The illusion of control crumbles and Saisio's impressive grasp of drama builds the dialogue, whose few words, yet precise rhythms, give rise to pocket-sized tragedies and comedies.”
—Taina Ratia, Turun (Finland)

“A beautiful song about survival. Despite the sufferings, Finnish Pirkko Saisio dissects the hidden codes of relationships. Like no other, she manages to capture the waiting at the bar, when the person one is waiting for never shows up.” 
—Heidi von Born, Svenska Dagbladet

Mia Spangenberg translates from Finnish, Swedish, and German into English. Her work has been published in Finland and the UK and appeared in journals such as LitHub and Asymptote. She holds a Ph.D. in Scandinavian studies from the University of Washington, Seattle, where she resides with her family.

Pirkko Saisio (b. 1949) studied drama and completed her actor's training in 1975. Her debut novel The Course of Life (Elämänmeno, 1975) won the J. H. Erkko Award. Saisio has been nominated for the Finlandia Prize seven times, winning it in with The Red Book of Farewells (Punainen erokirja, 2003). She has, among other awards, received Aleksis Kivi Prize and State Literature Award. Apart from novels, she has written numerous plays and scripts for film and television and is a well-known theatre director.

Dr. Elizabeth DeNoma is a Seattle-based translator from Scandinavian languages, as well as a publishing consultant, and foreign rights manager with deep expertise in international literature. Her most recent translation is The Darkness Manifesto by Johan Eklöf, published by Simon & Schuster in the United States and Penguin Random House in the United Kingdom.

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