Group Read, November 2020: The Unknown Soldier

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Group Read, November 2020: The Unknown Soldier

1puckers
Nov 1, 2020, 1:43pm

Our group read for November is Vaino Linna’s The Unknown Soldier. Please join the read and post any comments on this thread.

2DeltaQueen50
Nov 1, 2020, 2:34pm

I will be reading The Unknown Soldier but will probably be starting it later on in the month.

3FAMeulstee
Nov 7, 2020, 6:25pm

I might read The Unknown Soldier in Dutch translation, after I finish my planned reads for November.

4hdcanis
Nov 9, 2020, 11:19am

Oh, this one. I haven't read it but one cannot be Finnish without knowing something of it...

And I must say I am not quite sure if it is the best of entries in the list, not because of its literary qualities but because it doesn't translate very well: Linna plays around a lot with different registers of the language, dialects etc and uses that (and I've heard that he does it really well) for characterisation, but of course that is an element that is not at all easy to translate.

I've heard it mentioned that the older English translation is not good at all (or rather disastrously bad), but I've heard there is a newer translation too.

5annamorphic
Nov 9, 2020, 11:57am

>4 hdcanis: Oh dear, I hope that I have a better, new translation! Planning to start it on Wednesday.

6hdcanis
Nov 9, 2020, 3:04pm

Looked it up, Liesl Yamaguchi translation from 2015 seems to be the one to go for. The old bad one is from 1957 by an unnamed translator...

7ELiz_M
Editado: Nov 9, 2020, 3:36pm

Shoot, looks like I have the 1957 translation.

ETA: But the library does have the 2017 movie directed by Mika Orasmaa

8DeltaQueen50
Nov 10, 2020, 12:55pm

Whew! I've got the 2015 translation.

9hdcanis
Nov 10, 2020, 2:06pm

>7 ELiz_M: Yeah, there are three movie versions of this, each should be reasonably faithful though of course also having a bit different aims, interests and aesthetics...I've seen the oldest one from 1955 couple of times.

10Yells
Nov 10, 2020, 3:08pm

I bought a kindle version and it’s the 2015 one.

11annamorphic
Nov 15, 2020, 9:25pm

I had the 2015 translation which felt fine. But I failed to really love the book. It’s a good read, mind you, but it doesn’t do anything that other war books I’ve read before haven’t done.

12FAMeulstee
Nov 18, 2020, 4:31am

I read The Unknown Soldier in Dutch translation. It was a very good read, Because it was about a (geographical) part of WWII I hadn't read about before, I learned a few new things.
It reminded me a bit of The Sergeant in the Snow by Mario Rigoni Stern, who wrote about the retreat of Italian soldiers from Leningrad.

13DeltaQueen50
Nov 18, 2020, 12:58pm

I started the book yesterday and it seems like it's very accessible. My only problem so far is keeping the characters straight. I suspect a Finn would have the same problems with character names written in English so I will carry on and hope that I can eventually adjust.

14DeltaQueen50
Nov 21, 2020, 12:26pm

I have completed Unknown Soldiers and thought it was an excellent addition to the many other war stories that I have read and appreciated. This book would stand side by side with Battle Cry by Leon Uris and The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer in terms of showing the brotherhood of soldiers as well as the futility of war. I knew nothing about Finland during WW II and found the history very interesting.

15hdcanis
Nov 23, 2020, 5:31am

Keeping track of the characters is probably a bit difficult. In original Finnish that's where Linna's abilities of managing the tones, registers of language and dialects come forth, the characters have distinct voices.
And it should be noted that many local dialects are recognizable and the characters are picked from all around Finland, so that also helps to keep track of people, that you would be able to tell that oh, he's from New York and he's from Texas and he's from Montana...

And I guess that's also a point Linna's making, expressing the situation of having a diverse bunch of people who in normal conditions wouldn't have much to do with each other thrown together and at the same time mostly cut off from their past connections (and I recall someone suggesting that beside war, the book is also showing a societal change away from an agrarian society where an individual has strong connections to a specific place, family and social context)