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Video: Cristina Sandu Introduces Her First Canadian Novel, The Union of Synchronized Swimmers, on a Sunny Helsinki Evening

cover_the union of swimmers

Cristina Sandu is a novelist with a unique relationship with her translator—in that, unlike most writers published in translation, she translated her own novel, in this case from Finnish to English. Sandu speaks six languages and currently lives in the UK. Her first novel, The Whale Called Goliath, was a sensation in Finland, winning the most prestigious literary award in the country. 

The Union of Synchronized Swimmers is her new novel and her first to be published in English. In Finnish, it already won the Toisinkoinen Literary Prize, a prominent Finnish prize dedicated to second novels specifically. In Canada, it was released by Book*hug Press just last week. 

Book*hug has shared a video of Sandu discussing the book, and the titular characters' experiencing of defecting from an unnamed Soviet country. Sandu's charmingly low-fi video and brief reading from the book is a fascinating peek into the process of writing, translating, and finding inspiration. 

Thanks to Book*hug for sharing this video, and stay tuned to Open Book for an upcoming excerpt from The Union of Synchronized Swimmers.  

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The Union of Synchronized Swimmers

It’s summer behind the Iron Curtain, and six girls begin a journey to the Olympics. But will they return?

In a stateless place, on the wrong side of a river separating East from West, six girls meet each day to swim. At first, they play, splashing each other and floating languidly on the water’s surface. But as summer draws to an end, the game becomes something more.

They hone their bodies relentlessly. Their skin shades into bruises. They barter cigarettes stolen from the factory where they work for swimsuits to stretch over their sunburnt skin. They tear their legs into splits, flick them back and forth, like herons. They master holding their breath underwater.

Then, one day, it finally happens: their visas arrive. But can what’s waiting on the other side of the river satisfy their longing for a different kind of life?