Gleb Sumarokov (Institute of Linguistics, Literature and History of Karelian Research Centre, Russian Academy of Sciences):

Points of intersection of Finnish and Slavic fantasy of second half of XX - early XXI centuries

The fate of literary texts outside of their home country has been of interest to literary scholars for a long time. Recent developments in comparative, translation and reception studies produced many works dealing with this issue. While much broad research on reception has been done in case of comparative literature of both Finnish and Russian nations, little is known about mutual reception of fantasy genre among those nations. This report looks more closely at mutual literary exchange and reception of such genre in two countries – Finland and Russia. The report does so by looking at literary relations in the genre of Slavic and Finnish fantasy of the second half of XX - early XXI centuries. It aims to investigate and distinguish main typological connections between Finnish and Russian fantasy traditions concerning such Finnish authors like Johanna Sinisalo, Emi Itäranta and Marina and Sergey Dyachenko, Maria Semyonova as representatives of Slavic fantasy.     

Literature written in the Finnish language is surprisingly young. It develops quite rapidly thanks to the fact that both a thriving folk culture and highly creative tradition of oral poetry existed throughout Finn’s history. On the contrary Russian literary tradition is much older and had plenty of time to establish its basis in the field of world literature. However, fantasy genre is quite new for both nations and contemporary literature is yet to establish concrete literary tradition of fantasy as a genre.

In Finland realism is widely seen as the correct way to write, while other genres are deviations from this norm. Although one could easily forget that even realistic worldbuilding is in fact fictional, many readers decline works with elements of fantasy on the basis. One of the greatest functions of literature in both countries has been the depiction of history and human destiny in a form both easily approachable and recognizable; literature has thus become an important part of nation collective memory. Nowadays more and more Finnish and Russian authors decide to dedicate their literary efforts to fantasy. Mythological tradition appears to be quite influential on both nations. Russian and Finnish epics are still a part of modern literary discourse, which becomes apparent if we take a closer look at modern fantasy genre. On the one hand, we have runes and ancient skaldic tradition, which is still a part of Finn’s collective memory. On the other hand, Russian mythological tradition has inspired Slavic fantasy, which has its own distinctive features. Both Finnish and Russian authors take inspiration from mythological traditions of their own culture, which reflection can be seen upon many contemporary works.

The study was carried out with the financial support of RFBR within the project No. 20-012-00171.