Earlier this year Nielsen BookScan published new data on translated titles in the UK book market in 2016, showing that fiction translated from Swedish represented the highest volume of sales at 19% of translated books sold. Of around sixty translated Swedish authors in total, four authors – David Lagercrantz, Jonas Jonasson, Fredrik Backman and Camilla Läckberg – accounted for over three quarters of those sales. Trends inevitably fluctuate, but success such as this will, we hope, embolden more UK publishers to explore Swedish authors beyond the ‘top four’. As one of our contributors points out in this issue, publishing literary fiction in translation can be a hazardous business and the rewards are not always financial.
The Swedish Academy was founded in 1786 by King Gustaf III in order to advance Swedish language and literature, but it also steps into the international spotlight every year in October, when it announces its choice of recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Academy has eighteen members and membership is for life. Novelist and playwright Sara Stridsberg was elected to this influential literary body in 2016. Here we publish her inaugural address to the Academy, in which she paid tribute to her predecessor, Gunnel Vallquist, and shared some of her insights into the art of literary translation.
Two of the books we feature this time are set on Baltic islands. The hardships of life on a remote island in the Åland archipelago in the 19th century are described in a novel by Anni Blomqvist, which was first published in the 1960s and is to be seen in a new musical adaptation at Helsinki City Theatre as part of the 2017 centennial celebrations. In a tale of a very different kind, Martin Kellerman – who gained international success with his comic strip Rocky – turns to novel writing with a ‘relationship thriller’ set in the Stockholm archipelago in the 21st century.
In her second novel, Sara Razai tackles themes of ethnicity, class and exclusion during one day in the life of two teenage girls, best friends now separated by a continent. Gender roles too are explored by Jonas Rasmussen (Sara Sum Jensson) in his recent prose poem, written in response to a novella by Victoria Benedictsson published in 1888. And as we struggle to absorb national and international news and distinguish between reliable and misleading sources, Magnus Florin’s latest book gives an interesting perspective on truth and falsehood in a timeless universe.
In a contribution to our occasional series, Nichola Smalley offers us a glimpse into the daily life of an independent publisher. And in the latest selection of illuminating reviews of books recently published in Swedish, we meet some familiar names amid the new.
Introduced and translated by Kate Lambert
Anni Blomqvist (1909–1990) wrote the Stormskärs-Maja series of five novels in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Set in the Åland islands in the mid-to-late 19th century, they tell the story of Maja, the second of seven children, who grows up at Vestergård farm in Simskäla and goes on to forge a life with a husband, not of her choosing, and children on a remote island in the Åland archipelago. The books depict, in all its agricultural and domestic detail, a tough, self-sufficient way of life in a rural patriarchal society. Kate Lambert introduces the series and presents her translation of an extract from The Way to Storm Skerry.
Introduced and translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner
Sara Stridsberg, born in 1972, is a writer, playwright and translator, who has won numerous awards and accolades in Sweden. She has written four novels and her plays have been performed at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm. Her first novel, Happy Sally, was published in 2004, but before this she had been thrust into the public eye with her translation of and foreword to Valerie Solanas’s controversial radical feminist text, SCUM Manifesto, in 2003. Her breakthrough novel, Drömfakulteten (Faculty of Dreams) came in 2006, followed by Darling River in 2010 and Beckomberga (The Gravity of Love) in 2014. In May 2016 she was elected to the Swedish Academy, succeeding author and translator Gunnel Vallquist. On 20 December 2016 she gave this, her inaugural address.
Translated by Paul Goldsman
Martin Kellerman is a cartoonist who has gained international success with the comic strip Rocky, about a grumpy dog cartoonist living in Stockholm. In this extract from his first novel, we meet Florian, a disenchanted young man living in his grandmother’s house on the island of Ragnarö in the Stockholm archipelago, his life an existence that revolves around collecting her pension and growing cannabis in her living room. A macabre story with more than a hint of humour unfolds.
Introduced and translated by Darcy Hurford
Sara Razai’s second novel, Djävulen är en lögnare, takes place over one day in November. The story follows two school friends, Meri, living in Kontula, a suburb of Helsinki, and Hope, now back with her family in New Bell, Cameroon, after she and her mother were deported from Finland. The chapters alternate between Meri’s day and Hope’s, showing how their new, separate lives are developing. In February of this year, the Society of Swedish Literature in Finland awarded Razai the Granberg-Sumeliuska prize for women writers. The judges praised it as ‘important and topical, a story about life choices and dreams, class and ethnicity, belonging and exclusion’. Darcy Hurford introduces the novel and presents her translation of an extract.
Reviewed and translated by Harry D. Watson
Magnus Florin is an author, essayist and critic, a man of the theatre in his role as chief dramaturge at the Royal Dramatic Theatre (Dramaten) in Stockholm, and a former head of drama at Radio Sweden. Florin’s latest novel, Förföljarna (The Stalkers), 2017, is his longest yet, and like his earlier books it makes up in quirkiness and originality for the lack of a straightforward storyline and a gripping plot. ‘Nordic noir’ this is not. Harry D. Watson presents a review of the novel, with translated extracts.
Introduced and translated by Paul Russell Garrett
Jonas Rasmussen’s Ur Mörket över axeln (2013) is a prose poem inspired by Victoria Benedictsson’s novella Ur Mörkret (From the Darkness), which was published posthumously in 1888 and follows on from her exploration of what it was to be a woman in love in the 19th century. Benedictsson’s highly personal, existential exploration is retold and transformed by Rasmussen in an attempt to investigate what it is to be a human being. While Benedictsson focussed on differences between the sexes, Rasmussen chooses to focus on similarities between the sexes in a conscious effort to empower women and to destroy the deeply held and antiquated gender roles in society. Paul Russell Garrett introduces the work and presents his translation of extracts from it.
What’s involved in running a small independent publisher? What decisions need to be taken on a daily basis? What long-term goals do you need to unfold over time to keep the business both viable and relevant? What additional challenges or benefits present themselves when you publish literature in translation? In this look at day-today life at a small literary publisher, Nichola Smalley, Publicity, Marketing and Sales Manager at And Other Stories, tackles these questions and gives a glimpse into the world of UK publishing.
We are very sad to report that Anna-Lisa Murrell, a member of SELTA for many years, died at her home in Rayleigh, Essex, on 26 January 2017.
We present a tribute to long-time contributor to Swedish Book Review Eric Dickens, who died in 2017 and whose last review for SBR appears in the current issue.
Annah Björk and Mattias Beijmo, Båt 370 - Döden på Medelhavet (Boat 370 - Death on the Mediterranean)
Reviewed by Alice E Olsson ▸Read Review
Hédi Fried, Frågor jag fått om Förintelsen (Questions I've Been Asked about the Holocaust)
Natur & Kultur, 2017.
Reviewed by B J Epstein ▸Read Review
Moa Kärnstrand and Tobias Andersson Åkerblom, Modeslavar: den globala jakten på billigare kläder (Slaves to Fashion: the Global Hunt for Cheaper Clothing)
Leopard förlag, 2016.
Reviewed by Dominic Hinde ▸Read Review
Cecilia Hansson, Hopplöst, men inte allvarligt: konst och politik i Centraleuropa (Hopeless, But Not Serious: Art and Politics in Central Europe)
Natur och Kultur, 2017.
Reviewed by Fiona Graham ▸Read Review
Agneta Pleijel, Doften av en man (The Scent of a Man)
Reviewed by Marie Andersson ▸Read Review
Peter Sandström, Laudatur (Autumn Apples)
Schildts & Söderströms (Finland), 2016.
Reviewed by Deborah Bragan-Turner ▸Read Review
Ann-Luise Bertell, Vänd om min längtan (Turn My Longing Around)
Reviewed by Darcy Hurford ▸Read Review
Kjell Westö, Den svavelgula himlen (The Sulphur-Yellow Sky)
Schildts & Söderströms (Finland), 2017.
Reviewed by Kate Lambert ▸Read Review
Agnes Lidbeck, Finna sig (Supporting Act)
Reviewed by Janny Middelbeek-Oortgiesen ▸Read Review
Johannes Anyuru, De kommer att drunkna i sina mödrars tårar (The Rabbit Yard)
Reviewed by Nichola Smalley ▸Read Review
Martin Engberg, En enastående karriär (An Outstanding Career)
Reviewed by Emma Naismith ▸Read Review
Anders Roslund & Stefan Thunberg, En bror att dö för (The Sons)
Reviewed by Anna Holmwood ▸Read Review
Anders de la Motte, Slutet på sommaren (End of Summer)
Reviewed by Ian Giles ▸Read Review
Charlotte Cederlund, Gryningsstjärna (Morning Star)
Reviewed by Alex Fleming ▸Read Review
Elise Karlsson, Linjen (The Line)
Natur & Kultur, 2015.
Reviewed by Eric Dickens ▸Read Review