Theatre from a vulnerable planet
The language of seagulls and the sheer diversity of sounds they make were a huge source of fascination for translator Luisa Gutierréz Ruiz while she worked on her latest project, Pipsa Lonka’s Cuatro días de proximidad.
Luisa Gutierréz Ruiz studied journalism in Madrid and graduated from the University of Helsinki with a major in Germanic philology and a minor in Finnish language. She is a translator of Finnish prose and drama into Spanish and also works as a communications manager at the Finnish Cultural Institute in Madrid.
A prolific translator, her extensive bibliography of Finnish plays includes classics like Minna Canth alongside contemporary hits like Juha Jokela’s Fundamentalisti (Fundamentalist/Fundamentalista) and Mika Myllyaho’s Kaaos (Chaos/Caos) as well as Broken Heart Story and Tavallisuuden Aave (Phantom of Normality/ El fantasma de la normalidad) by Saara Turunen. The latter was chosen as one of the best translations of 2018 by Eurodram, the European network for drama in translation. Her most recent projects include Rosa Liksom’s novel Hytti nro 6 (Compartment No. 6/ Compartimento número 6) and Pipsa Lonka’s Neljän päivän läheisyys (Sky every day/ Cuatro días de proximidad).
We spoke to Luisa to ask about her experience of reading and translating Pipsa Lonka’s play.
Louisa, you have extensive experience of translating Finnish fiction, prose and drama into Spanish. You recently completed a translation of Pipsa Lonka’s Sky every day which brings together people and seagulls on a beach. What did you make of the play?
I liked it very much. What I particularly enjoyed was the way the humans and the seagulls were portrayed on equal terms and the fact that the seagulls have their own distinctive language. The landscapes that Lonka conjures and the sentiments about our natural environment that she expresses through the text are also very close to my heart. I like ecotheatre because it invites audiences to explore our relationships with other sentient lifeforms and the environments that they inhabit.
Lonka’s plays convey her profound thinking on environmental issues, and they are always characterised by a genuine sense of biodiversity. In her works, human beings are not the only species with a sense of their own agency. In terms of the way you approach your work, was there much difference between translating human and avian dialogue?
Every seagull species has its own distinctive voice, both in Finnish and Spanish. During the translation process, I turned to ornithology books and birdwatching websites to find out more about this topic. And I was amused to discover that seagulls ringed in Finland have been found in Malaga. I also made use of resources provided by SEO Birdlife, a Spanish conservation charity, to make sure that I got the seagull orthography just right.
Plataforma Fluorescente, the Argentinian theatre festival, is planning to run Pipsa Lonka’s Toinen luonto (Second nature) in September. Are there any theatres in Spain or in the wider Spanish-speaking world that you think might be a good fit for Sky every day? Do you think there would be interest in it?
I think it would work well in a Spanish-language setting, because the themes it covers are universal. Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay... As for which theatre specifically, I think in Madrid where I currently live, Sky every day would work well in one of the smaller theatres like Teatro del Barrio or some of the larger ones like the Abadía or the María Guerrero.
We also have the Planeta Vulnerable project that specialises in ecotheatre, and there’s also the international Langaia Festival in Lanzarote. It would be amazing to see Cuatro días de proximidad performed on stage in Spanish.
TINFO / Sari Havukainen, 29 April 2022
Translation by Liisa Muinonen-Martin
Pipsa Lonka's author profile in New Plays from Finland selection