When some of us left the SELTA Google Group discussions back in February and started Nordic Voices, I recall that Tom Geddes suggested that we should set up an alternative association for translators of Nordic - not just Swedish - literature. Yet with several months' experience of the blog now behind us, I can see that this is precisely what I don't want to do. In my opinion, approaching Nordic writing and its translation from an individual viewpoint, rather than as a member of a group or organization, is a more challenging and potentially more creative path to take.
In part I think this is because I feel that what we are trying to do here is detach the field of Nordic literature from the narrow circle of specialists, academics and translators where it normally ends up, and bring it to the attention of a wider public that may have little knowledge of Nordic life and language, or may view the subject of "Scandinavia" through preconceptions. Those preconceptions are often widespread, and mostly have the effect of blocking the realization that Nordic culture and literature are just as diverse and mixed as the rest of the world.
While "Nordic" writers tend to be based in the "North", they may also hail from a whole host of other geographic and cultural reference points, whether it's Hallgrímur Helgason writing about Stalinism from Manhattan, Siri Hustvedt describing life in Brooklyn, or Karmela Belinki, who says:
Karmela is Hebrew, OT, means "God's fruitful vineyard" (Mount Carmel in Israel). Belinki is Russian-Jewish and means "little white", probably from a river, which runs i.a. through Lithuania and parts of Belarus, where my paternal family stems from. I pronounce it Karméla Bélinki I consider myself mainly a Finland-Swedish writer, but I was brought up with multiple languages, Yiddish being one of them. I have also written and broadcast in Finnish, I was partly educated in the United Kingdom, and I am fluent in several other languages as well.I think in the end this brings me back to the thought I was trying to express in an earlier post, where I said that I saw two strands in Nordic literature, and that for me the important one was the universal - or universalist - one.
We've chosen a particular cultural area (the Nordic one) as the focus for the blog - but the aim is probably a wider one: to present and consider literary work that may be new and unfamiliar to the English-speaking world, and to track the movement of its local essence out into a wider space where it speaks to everyone. I believe that can best be done on a one-to-one basis, through individual efforts rather than as the activity of a special interest group.