Vikings of Brazil brings Nordic Stories to Brazil
Pasi and Lilia Loman’s Vikings of Brazil has at least doubled the selection of Nordic literature in Brazil. Next thing on the list might be movies and television shows, both of which have a much larger potential audience in the country than literature.
The existence of Vikings of Brazil is, even if indirectly, due to the cartoonist and children’s author Mauri Kunnas.
“I was sitting in my kitchen eating and spotted the English version of one of Mauri Kunnas’ books on the shelf. I started to wonder if it’s ever been published in Brazil. I wasn’t thinking about business, it was all out of mere curiosity that I started digging into it,” says Pasi Loman.
It turned out that the author’s books had been translated into dozens of languages, but none were available in Brazil. Loman was surprised: books this popular and well-sold, and a country this big? It seemed as though Nordic literature was anything but present in the Brazilian market.
Loman started contacting Nordic publishers to ask if he could start marketing their books in Brazil. Practically all the biggest publishers got excited about his idea.
“Many of them probably just thought they’ve got nothing to lose, so let’s let him give it a go,” Loman says laughingly.
Finding work for fellow translators
To start with, Loman already had a convincing list of Nordic authors and books that had been sold in many corners of the world. According to him, many Brazilian publishers were almost surprised they hadn’t heard about the books earlier.
Some companies brought up a problem: they don’t know anyone who could translate from Icelandic or Danish into Brazilian Portuguese. Loman wasn’t left speechless.
“I’d predicted that question and compiled a list of translators with skills in Nordic languages and Brazilian Portuguese. So essentially, I offered the publishers good books and contacts to get them translated.”
In the first year, 2012, Loman expected Vikings of Brazil to sell a handful of books. He ended up signing about fifty deals, and the following year another fifty. Last year the number was over a hundred. About a third of the books are Finnish.
“The change is quite radical in comparison to when the only names known in Brazil were Stieg Larsson and Astrid Lindgren. Due to Vikings of Brazil, the volume of Nordic literature in the Brazilian market is likely to have at least doubled.”
Loman and his wife translate from Finnish to Portuguese together. That way there is a native speaker on both ends. For other Nordic languages publishers find other translators – mostly from the list Loman provides them.
“Some translators have looked me up on Facebook and sent me a message to say thank you after hearing I’ve been the one to give the publisher their contact details.”
This means Loman doesn’t only translate, but also acts as an agent between publishers. When they seal a deal, Vikings of Brazil gets a slice of the price.
Next up: moving images?
Nordic literature is known around the world for its high quality. For example, Finland did exceptionally well as the Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair last year.
In the case of Loman, marketing Nordic literature was the only feasible option. He had moved to Brazil with his wife and had zero experience or contacts in publishing.
“Had I started offering similar services to US publishers, they would’ve laughed it off. As a Finn I was given a chance to show what I’m capable of.”
Just being Nordic is not a selling point for a book. Loman says Vikings of Brazil sells primarily good books – it just happens that they’re Nordic. Loman chooses all the books himself.
Some Brazilian publishers say that Finnish stories take place in a setting too foreign for Brazilians. Others are happy to let readers travel to new worlds. Books go both ways; Vikings of Brazil has helped Finland to find Brazilian books to read.
Expanding to other Latin American countries would require Spanish skills. One option is to employ someone to handle sales outside of Brazil. Another, more likely option is to focus on Brazil and start importing films and television programmes alongside with literature.
In Brazil, films are more in demand than books simply because a big proportion of the country’s citizens lack in literacy skills. Hence there are more potential viewers than readers.
“If we can find suitable partners, I’m almost certain we can reach results similar to those we’ve had with literature.”
Text: Anne Salomäki