Guest Post: Emmi Itäranta, author of MEMORY OF WATER

We’re so excited to welcome Emmi Itäranta, the Finnish author of internationally acclaimed dystopian novel MEMORY OF WATER, out now in the United States from Harper Voyager US! 

Memory of Water: a tale of twin novels 

This, dear reader, is the story of my book Memory of Water. Or books: conceived in two languages, separated at birth.

It began in January 2008. I stared out of my window into a fog-filled day in Canterbury, United Kingdom, where I had moved the year before. I only had a few hours to write a piece for a creative writing class, and nothing much seemed to stir in my winter-weary brain.

Then, an image came: I saw a young woman preparing a last cup of tea for herself in an isolated house in a future world that was running out of fresh water.

I didn’t know her name, or her story, or anything else about her world. Yet the image was strong enough that I had to put it into words. I thought it could be the beginning of something, or perhaps the end. In the class my tutor told me, ‘This is a novel.’ I didn’t believe her yet.

To my surprise, the image began to expand, to claim more words, and it began to do so in two languages: in my native Finnish, and in my adopted second language, English. Over the next two and a half years, I added more and more words around the image, until I knew the woman, and her story, and her world. In September 2010, I had the full manuscript of my first novel in Finnish and English.

Many people have asked me why I wrote Memory of Water in two languages instead of just one. Wasn’t it very slow? Wasn’t it hard work? Wasn’t it, at the end of the day, slightly against all reason and sanity?

The answer to all is yes. And yet I feel that I couldn’t have written this book any other way. The English version is not a translation. The Finnish version is not a translation. They are both the original, and each was shaped by the constant presence of the other. They are twins, inseparable, and would not be the same without each other.

–Emmi Itäranta, 2014



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