Kati Närhi: “I’m Not Going Back to Serious Comics”


Late on Friday afternoon, the Finnish illustrator Kati Nähri sat down behind one table with her Czech translator Jitka Hanušová and together they have shed some light on the origins of the book Agnes and the Seventh Guest.

"All the names in the book are connected with colours. Agnes, for example, is an old Finnish word for blood. I drew my inspiration from a desk game called Cluedo, in which all the characters are symbolically connected with some colour. A certain Ms. Red is murdered and the players investigate her killing. Some of my other works also reference this game," Närhi revealed. An adolescent girl called Agnes is the main protagonist of her highly original graphic novel, which is dominated by dark blue, red and black. The story is interlaced with humour and parody.

"I wanted to combine the clichés connected with literature for young people, horror literature and detective stories," explained the author, saying that her plots are not premeditated. "I let myself by guided by the characters. Of course I sometimes end up in a blind alley. I even had to chuck out an entire chapter from one of my books. But luckily we have deadlines that help to finish the work."

Humour is a silver thread running through Närhi's contemporary work. And the author says it will stay that was: "I only wrote serious graphic novels as a very young author. But they were so very pathetic that I never want to go back to this approach." Närhi also illustrates children's books by other authors. "What I like about comic books is that I can create my very own world. Illustrations, on the other hand, are less stressful - I simply don't have to make so many decisions."

In the ensuing discussion Jitka Hanušová described some of the specific properties of translating a graphic novel: "To me this genre sits somewhere between prose and poetry. You must fit into the bubble. And you can't solve a problem by rearranging the order of sentences, which translators shouldn't be doing anyway." When translating, Hanušová starts with a rough translation and then returns to any extra texts or the names of characters. "I had quite a lot of work with the title of the eighth chapter, which is actually the first line of a nursery rhyme," she added.

And what are Kati Närhi's future plans? "I'd like to explore some new techniques. And I would also like to write better stories."