Saturday, 28 March 2009

Northern Lights - conference papers in book form

Translation is a practical activity but sometimes needs some theoretical underpinning. There is a whole continuum from descriptive to prescriptive, when aspects of translation are discussed. The papers from the Nordic Translation Conference, held at University College London in 2008, have been collected together to form chapters of a book entitled Northern Lights - Translation in the Nordic Countries, editor B.J. Epstein, published by Peter Lang, Oxford, Bern & New York, 2009. While the accent is on description, the thoughtful translator can glean tips and modi operandi from the various chapters here.

For a brief description of the conference itself, where these papers were first read, I can do no better than quote from the introduction:

The Nordic Translation Conference took place in London on 6-8 March 2008, and it was exciting for two considerable reasons. First, a major international conference had never before been convened to address translating from, and between the Nordic languages. And second, the variety of topics discussed spanned a fascinating range of studies, ideas, practical advice, and inspiration, encompassing seven languages Danish, Faroese, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, and Old Norse; unfortunately there were no papers discussing Greenlandic or Sami) and issues about children's literature, poetry, linguistics, subtitling, interpretation, legal and political translation, among others.

The resulting book is divided into six parts. The first deals with the differences between related languages; the second, translations to and from English; the third, challenges created by specific styles; the fourth, children's literature; the fifth, the position and role of the translator; and lastly, political issues. There are nineteen chapters altogether.

The majority of papers, now chapters, focus on the linguistic examination of literary texts, but also deal with everything from subtitling crime films to tag questions in translations between English and Swedish. Style in skaldic verse is examined, but so is the contextualisation of Nordic literature when finding a British audience. Children's literature is used as the basis for three chapters, and the Finnish language for a further three.

One paper, not included on account of the author's computer problems at the time, deserves a mention, and that is Martin Murrell's paper "Cultural Competence and Literary Licence", which dealt with translations of work by Eino Leino, Eva Ström, and others.

The Nordic focus was heartening. To quote again from the introduction:

Though the Nordic countries, by virtue of their small populations and their traditionally externally focused outlook, have long recognized the importance of translation, the study of Nordic languages has never played much of a role in the field of translation studies. At translation studies conferences, the more widely spoken languages, quite naturally, have taken the centre stage, and the few attending Nordic specialists often comprise the audience for each others's talks, gathering together to eagerly share research or just to sympathize over being so alone in the field.
Well, Nordic specialists were certainly not alone last March! The hall was filled to bursting point at the plenary sessions. And it is to be hoped that when the next Nordic Translation Conference comes along, scheduled for 2011, a similar book of papers will be compiled, again covering the Nordic languages.


Unknown said...

Thanks very much for your review, Eric. I'm pleased with how the conference was and how the book turned out!
Looking forward to 2011!
Best wishes,

Danielle wright said...

I would love to receive some Nordic children's rhymes for my site: - can anyone help? I have a lovely rhyme from Iceland in My Village: Rhymes from Around the World.
Thanks so much.

David McDuff said...

In Finland, Kirsi Kunnas (now in her 80s) has written and published a large amount of poetry for children, including nursery rhymes, and some of her work has been translated by Herbert Lomas - see his anthology of Finnish poetry (Contemporary Finnish Poetry, Bloodaxe, 1991). I think Kirsi Kunnas's Wikipedia entry has a sample.