This program presents the work of four talented younger writers who have been selected by faculty at the University of the Arts, Helsinki, and the Columbia University School of the Arts, New York, to represent the best of new writing in Swedish, Finnish, and English.

In cooperation between these two arts institutions, the four Word for Word Writers have been engaged in a collaborative project of mutual translation. They will present excerpts from the resulting work here in a trilingual reading and discussion about international 21st-century art-making with writers on the faculty of both institutions.

About Word for Word

Word for Word is an exchange program that was conceived in 2011 by Professor Binnie Kirshenbaum, Chair of the Writing Program of Columbia University’s School of the Arts, in the belief that when writers engage in the art of literary translation and collaborate on translations of each other’s work, the experience will broaden and enrich their linguistic imaginations.

Since 2011, the Writing Program has conducted travel-based exchanges in partnership with the Deutsches Literaturinstitut Leipzig in Leipzig, Germany; Scuola Holden in Turin, Italy; the Institut Ramon Llull and Universitat Pompeu Fabra– IDEC in Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain); the Columbia Global Center | Middle East in Amman, Jordan; Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.; and the University of the Arts Helsinki in Helsinki, Finland.

In 2017, the Writing Program began a collaboration with the University of the Arts Helsinki, with two students from each program selected to work with a partner for half a year of mutual translation and discovery. The exchange began with a visit to Helsinki by the Columbia students and is culminating this September with workshops, class visits, a lecture, and presentations here in New York.

Participating Translators and Faculty Members

Susan Bernofsky directs the translation program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Her translations include works by Robert Walser, Yoko Tawada, Jenny Erpenbeck, Franz Kafka, and Hermann Hesse. The recipient of numerous awards (most recently the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the Schlegel-Tieck Prize), she blogs about translation at and is currently writing a biography of Walser.

When she was nine, Fanny Ehnvall’s parents gave her Nordstedts Svenska Ordbok + Uppslagsbok. It had consequences. On her work, she writes, “I find all my projects by deliberately misunderstanding dictionaries and following words. Fine art is called free art in Swedish and Finnish. I prefer to practice the latter.”

Jusa Peltoniemi is a professor of theater and dramaturgy at University of the Arts Helsinki. His poems, novels, plays, and translations have been published widely. He is the recipient of The Runeberg Prize, The Spike Award, and was a finalist for the Finlandia Literary Prize.


Elli Salo is a Finnish playwright, dramaturg, and translator. She received her MA in Russian literature from the University of Helsinki in 2011. She is currently enrolled in the MA program in Dramaturgy at the Theatre Academy (University of the Arts Helsinki). Her play Elk hunt is a contemporary wilderness story that investigates our relationship to nature in an era of environmental crisis. The play was premiered at The Theatre Academy of Finland in 2016 and adapted for Radio Yle, Finnish public broadcasting in 2017.

Liza St. James is a writer and translator from the foggiest corner of San Francisco. An editorial assistant at Transit Books and assistant editor of NOON, her work has appeared in Tin HouseTunicaVitriolGuernicaBOMB, and elsewhere. She studied Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania, where she completed her thesis on Honorio Bustos Domecq and Walter Benjamin, and she has presented her translations from Spanish at the Center for the Art of Translation. She teaches in the Undergraduate Writing Program at Columbia University.

Sarah Timmer Harvey is a writer and translator currently based in New York, where she is completing an MFA in writing and translation at Columbia. Excerpts of her latest work, a translation of Calf’s Caul by the Dutch poet Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, were recently featured in Asymptote and will appear Gulf Coast.



Image by Cecilia Larsson/Image Bank Sweden

TUE—9-26-2017—7 PM, free