Saturday, 20 May 2017

En värld är varje människa

En värld är varje människa, befolkad
av blinda varelser i dunkelt uppror
mot jaget konungen som härskar över dem.
I varje själ är tusen själar fångna,
i varje värld är tusen världar dolda
och dessa blinda, dessa undre världar
är verkliga och levande, fast ofullgångna,
så sant som jag är verklig. Och vi konungar
och furstar av de tusen möjliga inom oss
är själva undersåtar, fångna själva
i någon större varelse, vars jag och väsen
vi lika litet fattar som vår överman
sin överman. Av deras död och kärlek
har våra egna känslor fått en färgton.

Som när en väldig ångare passerar
långt ute, under horisonten, där den ligger
så aftonblank. – Och vi vet inte om den
förrän en svallvåg når till oss på stranden,
först en, så ännu en och många flera
som slår och brusar till dess allt har blivit
som förut. – Allt är ändå annorlunda.

Så grips vi skuggor av en sällsam oro
när något säger oss att folk har färdats,
att några av de möjliga befriats.

Gunnar Ekelöf

A world is each person, populated
by blind beings in obscure rebellion
against the I, the king who rules over them,
In every soul a thousand souls are captive,
in every world a thousand worlds concealed, 
and these blind, these nether worlds 
are real and living, though uncompleted,
as real as I am real. And we kings
and princes of the thousand possible within us
are ourselves subjects, caught ourselves
in some greater being, whose I and essence
we understand as little as our superior
his superior. Of their death and love
our own emotions have acquired a tint.

As when a mighty steamer passes,
far out below the horizon where it lies,
so evening-shiny. -- And we know not of it 
until a swell wave reaches us along the shore,
first one, then one more and many more
breaking and crashing until all is
as before. -- Yet all is different.   

Then we shadows are gripped by a strange unease,
when something tells us that people have travelled,
that some of the possible have been set free.  

translated from Swedish by David McDuff

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

FILI Newsletter

The FILI Newsletter for the month of May is out, and can be accessed here. From the letter:

FILI moves to new offices

FILI is moving to a new office suite in the House of Nobility (Ritarihuone) building on 15 May 2017.

Our new offices will be upstairs from our previous location, and our street address will change: the entrance will be at Hallituskatu 2 B. To enter, ring the doorbell. Our new offices are on the second floor.

Items of special interest include the following:

Funding received by FILI

FILI's core funding comes from the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, but we always need to seek additional funding from other sources to support our operations.

The Finnish Cultural Foundation awarded FILI a €50,000 grant to hold translator training courses for two years.

We have also received €8,000 from the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland for our work to promote Finland-Swedish literature abroad.
And the Otava Book Foundation awarded us €6,000 to update our translators' forum (known as ‘Kääntöpiiri’).

Our sincerest thanks to these funders – our work will continue!

Monday, 15 May 2017

Out of the Blue - 2

I have just received a copy of the hardback printed edition of Out of the Blue - it's an attractive book, and it looks instantly readable, like a story that one knows one wants to know the end of. I completely agree with the assessment by Jón Gnarr, ex-Mayor of Reykjavik:
It's an absolutely unique insight into Iceland's culture, mentality, and spirit - a country where the short story is as valued as the sagas.
See also in this blog: Out of the Blue
Body and Soul

Friday, 12 May 2017

Dead Links

The web site of Reykjavík, UNESCO City of Literature / Bókmenntaborgin is a fascinatingly diverse Web publication, offering an enormous amount of information about Icelandic literature, its present and past. It also exists in two versions, Icelandic and English, which interact with each other in a useful way,

What a pity, then, that the section of the site devoted to bio-bibliographical information on over 130 contemporary Icelandic authors does not yet seem to be complete. While the individual authors' pages come up as expected on the browsers I used (Chrome and Firefox), only the top level links appear to work - on many of the pages, clicking on 'Biography', 'From author', 'About author', 'Prizes', etc. yields no response. This is a great pity, and one hopes that the problem will be addressed before too long.

Update May 13: I'm happy to report that the 'books and authors' section of the City of Literature site now appears to be working properly, and the information can be accessed, though a little slowly.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Translation from Nowhere

In The Bookseller, a report of a talk by A L. Kennedy in which she excoriated publishers for their aversion to books in translation, noting that less than 5% of books published in Britain are translated from another language:
In part of an address originally given at European Literature Night, hosted by the British Library, the Royal Society of Literature and EUNIC, on the future of European writing, Kennedy passionately argued that writers have a responsibility “to resist” and to “say more and more often” on behalf of all “citizens of Nowhere”.  Prime minister Theresa May used the phrase at the Conservative Party Conference in October, when she equated being a “citizen of the world” with being “a citizen of nowhere”. It refers to the poor, the sick, the old, the refugees, the immigrants, the non-white, the non-Christian and the non-compliant, Kennedy said.
Kennedy said British publishing’s aversion to risk meant it currently had “little appetite” for foreign works, especially since the abolition of the Net Book Agreement which fixed prices for books, which she lamented had led publishers “into a territory of simple calculations, of profit and loss”. In the UK, translators are “particularly poorly rewarded”, she added, and their positions “always insecure” - a state of affairs that limits the range of literature UK readers are exposed to.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Pia Tafdrup translation project

I've been endeavouring to start a Patreon page for my Pia Tafdrup poetry translation project. The page is now online, and I'm hoping to attract a few supporters for the task I've set myself of completing an English version of Lugten af sne (The Smell of Snow, Gyldendal, 2016). So far I have only three patrons, all of whom are very welcome, but perhaps in the course of time some more may arrive. The Patreon concept is new to me, and I'm still not entirely sure how well suited it is to a project of this kind, which depends not on images, graphics, videos and multimedia but simply on words and (often) virtual paper. At any rate, this is an experiment, and it will be interesting to see how it works out over the course of the next few months. Donations need not be large - in fact, I set a minimum of $1 - and all contributions are gratefully received. I am still deciding what to offer my patrons by way of Patreon rewards, and will post my decisions here (and there) in due course.

By the end of the project, I should have complete translations of Smagen af stål (The Taste of Steel, Gyldendal, 2014) and Lugten af sne. You can follow some of the progress of the work on the Patreon page, and I may from time to time post some draft versions here on Nordic Voices.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

A View of the Kingdom

Nauja Lynge: Ivalu's Color, IPI, 223pp.

Nauja Lynge’s novel is something of a mixed bag: on one level it’s an intervention in the Danish policy debate on Greenland’s status and its exposure to big-power politics, connected with the increased interest in the Arctic region on the part of China and Russia, the Arctic ice-melt due to climate change, the issues surrounding uranium extraction and the approaching reality of Greenlandic independence.  On another it’s a crime story about a trial, an abduction, a case of espionage and a triple murder. The two narratives sit somewhat uneasily beside each other. In their course, however, the reader learns a great about Greenland, its people and history – and in a sense the book is saved from its weaknesses by the tenacity and passionate engagement of its author, whose own experience lies transparently in the background of this autobiographical work.

Perhaps what comes through most clearly from the occasional confusion is Nauja Lynge’s own message: she appeals to Denmark and the Danish people to take more interest in their former colony, and to accept their share of the responsibility for Greenland’s past, present and future, which are inextricably linked. In this, the Danish Realm, the rigsfælleskab of Denmark, Faroes and Greenland – has a vital role to play. Although Greenland left the European Union more than 30 years ago, it needs to consider the consequences of isolation. For if the present vacuum in the Arctic is not filled by a Western presence, it will be occupied by Russia and China, who are waiting in the wings to move into a region they see as ripe for economic, military and scientific development:

Chinese morals and values lie far from Danish values. So when Greenland allies with China and Russia, it positions China as a hostile nation with low morals, which wedges itself into the Kingdom.

It would be interesting to read the original Danish-language version of this book, but it was not available. The English version of the book is not a translation: it's an adaptation, a retelling of the story, with elements of public debate inserted into the story in a way that is at times perplexingly uneven. Throughout, the style is a blend of journalism and crime fiction writing. In the first 90 pages or so the English is distinctly wobbly, with passages that need further editing. Thereafter, however, the style and grammar improve quite a bit, and by the end of the novel – or documentary narrative – the reader feels much more at home, with a sense above all of having learned something.

See also in this blog: Ivalu's Color

Friday, 5 May 2017

Pia Tafdrup audio recordings

News that Pia Tafdrup is currently recording readings of all her poetry collections, which will be distributed as sound files for download over the Internet.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Finns: strong, calm and silent

Janice Turner in the Times, writing about her recent trip to Finland: 
Leaving Finland, I wondered how this country ranks so high in the international happiness ratings, a testament to the forbearance of its people. A stallholder who sold me cinnamon buns told me her bipolar husband struggles desperately through the dark winters. I couldn’t be cheerful in a country where lakes are still frozen in May, there’s little to do but skiing and saunas, where the landscape is unremittingly flat and empty and the architecture (thanks to the retreating Nazis burning every old building) is grim and utilitarian.
But they are strong, calm and silent. Studies show Finns utter the fewest words of any western nation, particularly the men. Which must be maddening in a husband, but in a taxi driver, when you’re tired and empty of small talk, is blessed thing.
 I must say I agree about the silence -- it's been a while since I heard anything from Finland. Hope all the people at FILI are well and busy as usual.