“Of course Germans have a certain interest in Finland, but…”
Johannes and Rita Öhquist were among the most important mediators between Finland and Germany in the first half of the twentieth century. Johannes Öhquist’s unpublished writings, particularly his correspondence with German publishing houses, are especially indicative of the ideological, aesthetic and economic criteria informing literary exchanges between the two countries. Those exchanges can be analyzed in terms of the concepts of openness and closedness. The fact that Öhquist was frequently asked for advice on works to be translated would suggest that Germany was open to Finnish literature, especially in view of the ideological turning toward Nordic cultures. However, that same ideological context involved marked closedness with respect to certain themes and details that either appeared to threaten the “good image of the Nordic” or were already present to the point of saturation within German literature itself. Passages from the correspondence help sketch out the norms by which publishers’ readers and other gatekeepers defined the German readership’s interest in Finnish literature, and how those norms also affected the way some works were translated by the Öhquists.