Georgia Today Interviews Emmi Iteranta, Author of Memory of Water

In the framework of The Tbilisi Book Days, Finnish writer Emmi Iteranta visited Georgia to talk about her bestselling book Memory of Water which was published in 2012 and acclaimed by the world. She currently resides in the UK and is a full time bilingual writer, writes in both Finnish and English and feels lucky to be in that position.  She travels a lot and, while in Tbilisi, she expressed her pleasure at the love Georgians have of books. She considers books as a source of knowledge and the cheapest way of travelling in different worlds at different times. Georgia Today met up with her to talk about her bestselling book.

Emmi, can you tell us a little about your life? Where you were born?

I was born in Tampere, Finland. In my early twenties I decided to study Drama and Film studies in the United Kingdom. Then I returned to Finland and finished my degree and started doing lots of odd jobs. I worked as a press officer, as a journalist, a theatre critic. I was interested in writing but didn’t know to get there. After some years in Finland doing these jobs, I decided to go to back the UK and get a creative writing degree. I challenged myself to do something a little bit different. So I went to the University of Kent for one year and started writing Memory of Water as part of my creative writing degree. Then my teachers encouraged me to continue writing.

What genre is the book and what is it about?

Memory of Water is a fiction novel and tells the story of a young woman in a future world where there is shortage of fresh drinking water. She is studying to be a team master and when she comes of age, she has to take responsibility for protecting the secret fresh water source that the family has been guarding for several generations. This is a very dangerous responsibility because within the society she lives, there is a military government in power which is trying to gets its hands on all remaining water resources.  So keeping this secret is a very dangerous task.

It is your first work and it has become a worldwide bestseller. It is also very popular in Georgia. While writing it, did you imagine it would be so successful?

I never expected the kind of success the book has achieved. It won a couple of awards in Finland and has been nominated for several awards for English Translation, which I did myself. It has been translated into 19 languages to date. When I was writing it, my only hope was that someone would publish it and I only expected it to find a handful readers. I never expected anything beyond that. Every step of the journey has been a surprise.

What are your future plans? Are you going to write something else?

I have just finished another novel called The City of Woven Streets, which was published in Finland last month. It is coming out in English next year. The translation right has already been sold in Georgia as well, so the county’s market will see it within the next two years. It differs from Memory of Water in that it does not continue the same story. But it is again about a young woman- this one keeping some secret dreams. In her society, dreaming is forbidden but she is a natural dreamer and so she has to hide it from everyone because if someone finds out she might end up in prison for the rest of her life.

Your characters seem to be risk takers. Do you see yourself in them? Every artist tends to convey what they are in their artwork? Do you?

Yes. The characters have something in common with me. I am much more inclined to be absorbed in my thoughts rather than taking lots of drastic action. I think that’s what we have in common. They are quite introverted and reflective. They want to take risks in what they believe and don’t want to compromise what they hold dear. They are ready to fight for what they think is right.

Meri Taliashvili

26 November 2015 20:44