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Trom

It’s good to see that the Faroe Islands have finally joined the Nordic noir scene! This weekend’s showing of the first episodes of Trom on BBC 4 really showcased the Faroese setting, with tiny rural settlements lashed by wind and rain, precipitous cliffs and pounding seas. And the resilient inhabitants going doggedly about their daily lives, dwarfed by the elements.

It is of course particularly exciting for Norvik Press that Jógvan Isaksen’s Walpurgis Tide, which we have published in translation, is one of the novels on which this series is based. Hannis Martinsson, Isaksen’s representative of the long line of amateur detectives who persist in solving crimes where the police are baffled, returns home to his native land after decades in Denmark, only to discover – and immediately lose – a daughter he did not know existed. Impelled to try to solve her murder, he embarks on an investigation which it is hinted will lead him to an international political conspiracy.

An extra dimension is provided in the dramatization by the use of Faroese actors in most of the parts. It is great to hear Faroese spoken here by native speakers – all except for Hannis and the police chief Karla, who speak Danish. A treat for linguists!

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An evening with Bang: part two

Panellists at the live launch of Some Would Call This Living, an anthology of Herman Bang’s writings

This is the second of two blogs reporting on our recent book launch event for an anthology of writings by Herman Bang: Some Would Call This Living. In part two, we hear from the translators.

Charlotte Barslund on her translations of short stories

While working on his short stories, I have come to appreciate just how well Bang captures the inner lives of characters who might at first sight not be regarded as worthy protagonists. He nails the stifled, impoverished lives of decent people. They try their hardest to improve their lot in life, and the few happy times they have and their lives of endless drudgery are invoked with agonising accuracy, leaving the reader with a sense of outrage and frustration at the harshness of the human condition. At the same time he is an astute, witty and entertaining observer of human nature’s less attractive sides: greed, vanity, self-importance, desire, snobbery. These themes are universal, they span generations and cultures.

As a literary translator working in commercial publishing, rather than academia, my priority was to produce translations which would make it clear why Bang is a writer who deserves wider recognition. When I encountered issues in the Danish text such as terms which nobody knew, inconsistencies in the geography in some short stories and errors in the naming of characters, I was very keen that these should be resolved and cleared up. I was surprised at how many anomalies we spotted, given that Bang had presumably had an editor for his published works. One unintentionally funny error included a heroine’s brother and love interest both being given the same name on the final few pages, which spiced up the plot no end. Either Bang’s editor wasn’t paying attention, or it was a case of not questioning what they presumed to be a divinely inspired author. However, in my experience working with 21st-century publishers, you do your authors no favours by not fixing their mistakes.

Paul Russell Garrett on Bang’s autobiographical accounts

Herman Bang was a very complex personality, who wrote in different ways in different genres. It was a stimulating part of this enterprise to be sent several collections of his texts to read, and to be able to compare solutions with other translators.

There is a great deal of humour in Bang’s autobiographical writings, sometimes at his own expense, as in his account of the lamentable reception of a tour of Bornholm he undertook with fellow artists. He can be extremely sarcastic – for example in his description of the Kaiser’s family, whose only function in life seems to be to pose for photographs – and is fond of biting understatements. Otherwise he is frequently a sympathetic observer of the different classes of society, especially those who are lower down the social scale.

He can also write very subtly, making oblique hints at events rather than explaining them fully. In ‘Expelled from Germany’, for example, he dances around the question as to why he is driven out of one place after another, leaving it to the reader to conjecture as to the cause of his discomfort.

Janet Garton on her translations

Bang’s fiction is at times problematic, even frustrating to unravel. He has often been called Denmark’s most important impressionist writer; his style is allusive and the meaning often elusive. He refers to things obliquely, giving the reader a glimpse of a person or a situation which suggests hidden depths or ambiguities which you are left to guess at. Let me give an example.

The long story ‘The Ravens’ tells of an old lady, Frøken Sejer, who is presumed to be wealthy, and is surrounded by a family who are all keen to inherit her wealth and stop her squandering it. She gives a lavish dinner for all of them, which they enjoy greedily, at the same time as wondering privately how much it has cost and counting the silver cutlery and cut-glass bowls, which seem to be mysteriously disappearing. Some of them are hoping to have her declared incapable of managing her affairs and confined to an asylum, and there is a great deal of half-concealed jostling for attention and point-scoring against perceived rivals for the inheritance, not to mention downright thieving. There are many unsubtle hints at possible strategies to worm Frøken Sejer’s money out of her, while she enjoys the whole situation hugely.

There is also a concealed homosexual thread running through the story – concealed because of course it could not be openly acknowledged in 1902. There are odd references to having some business in a kiosk, making it sound as if they are places for flirtation, whether hetero- or homosexual. One of the characters in this story, Willy Hauch, is clearly homosexual; he is introduced as being ‘polished to a shine all over’ and comes in apologising for being late because he has had ‘an errand at a kiosk’. He makes various remarks about not being the marrying kind, and during dinner he keeps an eye on Herr Lauritzen, the attractive young hired waiter, who assures Willy at one point that he has ‘many strings to my bow’. As people depart after the dinner, Willy jumps on to an electric tram and, the narrator tells us,

 suddenly spotted Herr Lauritzen …

‘Fancy meeting you here, Lauritzen,’ Willy said, ‘we’ve caught the same tram.’

‘So it would appear, Herr Hauch,’ Lauritzen replied with a nod.

No more is said, and they both leave the story at this point.

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An evening with Bang: part one

Panellists at the live launch of Some Would Call This Living, an anthology of Herman Bang’s writings

This is the first of two blogs reporting on our recent book launch event for an anthology of writings by Herman Bang: Some Would Call This Living. Part one introduces the anthology using comments from two of the panellists.

Paul Binding on the writer Herman Bang

Herman Bang was a master of very different forms of writing, although there is a thematic unity in his production which binds it all together. On the one hand, he was a superb and respected journalist with an enormous social compass, a sharp observer of social distinctions and dramatic events. In his description of the catastrophic Christiansborg fire of 1884, the immediacy of his account makes the reader feel the heat and hear the flames; in his brief recording of a fatal car accident, ‘In a Flash’, he brings home the terrible finality of violent death.

On the other hand, he also wrote many wonderful short stories and novellas, like Ved vejen (Katinka), often recording the quiet existence of those on the sidelines of life, those whose fates are normally unrecorded. This was the era of the short story, and Bang admired amongst others Maupassant and Chekhov. In a story like ‘Frøken Kaja’ he brings to life the inhabitants of a boarding house with a keen awareness of the tiny distinctions which mark out some of the boarders as being of a slightly higher class than the others.

Bang was in many ways an outsider in Danish literary circles. Although he shared many of the preoccupations of the Modern Breakthrough movement with its emphasis on realistic depictions of contemporary society, he had strained relations with its Danish leaders, Georg and Edvard Brandes – perhaps partly because of his precocious early success as a critic with Realisme og Realister, published when he was only 22. He was also an outsider because of his sexuality, being homosexual during a period when it was regarded with hostility. Despite fleeing abroad, he never achieved a harmonious relationship, perhaps because he was too complicated for anyone to be able to reciprocate fully.

The subversive nature of sexuality is a theme of many of his stories, such as ‘Les Quatre Diables’, which tells of a circus act of high-flying trapeze artists, two men and two women whose harsh early lives have led them to form an intimate bond through their act. But their work and dedication is undermined by desire, as Fritz is seduced by an aristocratic lady who saps his strength in their encounters. Here sexuality is shown to be a threat to a well-regulated society.

Dorrit Willumsen’s novel Bang (also published by Norvik Press) is one of the best ever written about a creative writer, tracing how Herman Bang was hounded across Europe, at one and the same time suffering acutely and deliberately provoking his own tragedy.

Janet Garton on the background to the publication

The story of this anthology goes back to 2018, when I was contacted by a group of Danes going by the mysterious name of De Bangske Morgenmænd (translates roughly as The Bangian Morning Men). I had not heard of them, but it transpired that they are a group of men with a passion for Herman Bang’s works and a desire to promote them, who meet every year on the morning of his birthday to celebrate his achievements. They were aware of how little Bang is known in the English-speaking world, and suggested that Norvik Press might consider publishing some of his short stories and journalism, two genres in which he excelled and which have hardly been translated into English at all. They sent us a quite long and very varied list of short stories, autobiographical pieces, journalism and letters – which is practically identical with the final contents of our volume. We were a little daunted at first by the prospect of such a large publication – a total of 170,000 words to translate – but decided that it would be a really worthwhile undertaking, if we could raise enough funding to cover the substantial costs. It helped a lot that De Bangske Morgenmænd are well connected. We were able to discuss the project in detail when I was in Copenhagen in the autumn of 2019, and as a result we applied to and received funding from Augustinus Fonden and Consul George Jorck og hustru Emma Jorck’s Fond. Professor Poul Houe from the University of Minnesota, who is one of the Morgenmænd, brought us some funding from his university as well as supplying the informative introduction. And the translations were also supported by the ever-reliable Statens Kunstfond. That is how we were able to produce this handsome volume.

Part two will delve into the translators’ experiences while working on this project. Stay tuned!

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Some Would Call This Living: An Anthology

Cover of Some Would Call This Living, an anthology of Herman Bang’s writings

Some Would Call This Living: An Anthology brings together a selection of Herman Bang’s writings – short stories, autobiographical pieces, reportage – in English translation from the original Danish.

Readers familiar with the eccentricities of Bang will enjoy having his fiction and non-fiction gems available in one handsome volume; and readers new to Bang are in for a real treat! For the Bang-curious, you can read two extracts from the Anthology below which provide a flavour of his inimitable flair across prose genres:

Short story: Extract from The Last Ballgown
Journalism: Extract from The Fire

Purchase Some Would Call This Living: An Anthology at your favourite bookshop, or here. Translated by Janet Garton, Charlotte Barslund and Paul Russell Garrett. Introduction by Poul Houe. Get more Bang for your buck by ordering our Bang Bundle with Bang: A Novel about the Danish Writer via our special offer!

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Two of our Swedish translations shortlisted for the Bernard Shaw Prize 2021

Covers of Chitambo and Crisis, the two shortlisted translations

Norvik Press are delighted to announce that two of our translators have been shortlisted for the Bernard Shaw Prize 2021:

  • Sarah Death for her translation of Chitambo by Hagar Olsson
  • Amanda Doxtater for her translation of Crisis by Karin Boye

We are immensely proud of this achievement and its potential to introduce new readers to both of these classics in Nordic modernism and feminism.

The Bernard Shaw Prize is an award for translations into English of full-length Swedish language works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges are Charlotte Berry and Annika Lindskog. The award is sponsored by the Embassy of Sweden, London.

The award ceremony will be held in February 2022. If you are planning on reading the shortlist in the meantime, you can read the full press release here and order copies of Chitambo and Crisis through our website or your local indie bookshop. You can also read extracts from both by revisiting our blogposts: start here for Chitambo, and here for Crisis.

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Coming soon (not with a whimper, but a Bang!)

Cover of Some Would Call This Living, our forthcoming collection of Bang’s writings

Herman Bang (1857–1912) was a sharp-witted observer of the society and manners of his age; with an eye for telling details, he could at one moment mercilessly puncture hypocrisy and arrogance, at the next invoke indignant sympathy for the outcasts and failures of a ruthlessly competitive world. In his novels and especially in his short stories he often takes as his protagonist an unremarkable character who might be dismissed by a casual observer as uninteresting: a failed ballet dancer who scrapes a living as a peripatetic dance teacher in outlying villages (‘Irene Holm’), or a lodging-house-keeper’s daughter who toils from dawn to dusk to make ends meet (‘Frøken Caja’). He can also make wicked fun of pretensions and plots, as in ‘The Ravens’, where the family of the aging Frøken Sejer are scheming to have her declared incapable, whilst she is selling off her valuables behind their backs to cheat them of their inheritance. His wide-ranging journalism has many targets, alerting readers to the wretched poverty hidden just a few steps from the thriving city shops or the ineptitude of Europe’s ruling houses – as well as celebrating the innovations of the modern age, such as the automobile or the department store.
Bang was well known throughout Europe in his lifetime, especially in Germany, where his works were translated early. In the English-speaking world he has had little impact, partly no doubt because of his homosexuality, for which he was hounded across Europe. Even now, only a couple of his novels have been translated. This volume is an attempt to remedy this lack by introducing a broad selection of his short stories and journalism to a new public.

Some Would Call This Living: An Anthology. Translated by Janet Garton, Charlotte Barslund and Paul Russell Garrett. Introduction by Poul Houe. Forthcoming February 2022get more Bang for your buck by ordering our Bang Bundle with Bang: A Novel about the Danish Writer via our special offer!

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Norwegian gems

Professor Janet Garton, a Director of Norvik Press, recently gave a talk on a selection of our Norwegian novels in translation. You can watch her presentation below.

Video showcasing our favourite Norwegian gems

The gems under discussion are:

Click on the links in the book titles to find out more about each of these treasures!

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A sisterhood of necessity

Members of the Lotta Svärd organization, Finland’s equivalent of the Swedish lottor, prepare food for Finnish volunteers on a clearance camp shortly before the Continuation War (1941). Credit: Uusi Suomi.

As part of our celebration of Women in Translation Month, Sarah Death introduces an extract from The Angel House, the third part of Norvik’s recently republished Katrineholm series. 

Kerstin Ekman’s central project in this quartet of novels was to depict the lives of women in a world run by men, the ‘town within the town’. The four books have become known collectively as Kvinnorna och staden, generally translated as ‘Women and the City’, and are a portrait of the town of Katrineholm in periods both before and after it gained its official city status in 1917.  It is barely more than a collection of fields and hamlets as the first novel opens and as the series unfolds we see it develop into a bustling town and thriving railway hub.

Women are not only the beating heart of Kerstin Ekman’s quartet, they are also the community’s backbone, a vital component of its workforce. We often see them labouring away on their own, as in our extract about Ingeborg Ek (see Linda Schenck’s recent post: ‘Round and round we go’). That dust keeps collecting on the furniture, those berries keep ripening and are crying out to be preserved for the winter, those nappies need an urgent wash. Individual women even labour in the night, be it nursing a new baby, setting dough and baking bread, making sweets to sell at your market stall, or hemming a frock to meet a dressmaking deadline.   Sometimes they are worn out, numb, at the end of their tether, sometimes desperately lonely, and sometimes they are relieved to be left in peace.

But there are also many scenes in the books of women working together, living in what we might call a sisterhood of necessity. This can be at an everyday level, sharing the privies and backyards, looking after the children, watering the communal gardens, feeding the cats, keeping an eye on each other’s washing and slipping through the hedge or across the stairwell to borrow a cup of sugar.  It can be at the level of individual friendships, many of which we see flourishing, like the one between Ingrid and Maud who enjoy their nights out dancing even though there is a war on. It can be in small clusters, like the group of elderly ladies, Tora, Ebba and a few other good friends who come together for a weekly whist evening and a comforting chat over beer, coffee and sandwiches as they try to come to terms with old age.

And it can be on a larger scale, the most notable example being the lottor, the Women’s Defence Volunteers, roped in from diverse walks of life to perform the heroic feat of feeding and watering the troops whose trains pull up at the station platform at any time of day or night. Dog-tired, possibly after a day’s work in their regular jobs, they drag themselves through their shifts and – rather to their own surprise – forge a precarious kind of solidarity that becomes increasingly precious to them, a bulwark against war, loneliness and all the other trials of life.

Click on the book cover below to read the extract.

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Round and round we go…

Delicious drottningsylt. Credit: Ove Lindfors.

As part of our celebration of Women in Translation Month, Linda Schenck introduces an extract from The Spring, the second part of Norvik’s recently republished Katrineholm series. 

The years have their cycles, and we our rituals. Never have they become more distinct than during the course of the ongoing 2020–21 pandemic. Kerstin Ekman’s writing also has its cycles, and with Norvik Press having republished the Women and the City tetralogy they, too, have become increasingly distinct. The echoes of previous books in the later ones, the return of places, names and rituals. So I find myself writing this little introduction to a section smack in the middle of The Spring, book two of Women and the City, at the same time as I am reading and rereading her forthcoming novel, Löpa varg (roughly ‘Wolf Run’), set for publication in September 2021. I hope this brief text may serve both as a look back, and a bit of a forward teaser, no spoilers.

The extract below features Ingeborg Ek, foster mother to Ingrid. Ingrid comes from a household where there is just barely enough money to pay the rent and put porridge on the table (often for breakfast and dinner), so we partly imagine her moving into the home of ‘one of the most industrious, most thorough people on earth’ who ‘never made a hollandaise sauce with fewer than ten yolks’ and whose life is regimented by seasons, rituals and their demands (with no mention of their pleasures), and partly see her through the narrator’s eyes. Ingeborg ‘regularly wore herself out at Christmas time’, baked the seasonal cakes for every holiday, spent the summer making jams and jellies, and before she knew it the next Christmas was over, leaving ‘candle wax on the runners, pine needles on the carpet, cigar ash on the sofa and rings on the tabletop from glasses’.

In Ekman’s 2021 novel, the female protagonist, Inga, lives in rural Hälsingland and makes an orange marmalade that takes three days, prompting her husband to comment: ‘You can only find the kind of time you need to make marmalade like that up here.’ But she does her chores out of love, and even recruits her husband, a thought that would never have occurred to Ingeborg Ek. He tells the reader: ‘In the spring light everything was suddenly visible: greasy fingerprints on cupboard doors, limescale stains in the bathroom, cobwebs by the ceiling cornices. Inga swished through the whole house at a mad pace but quite cheerfully, armed with cleaning agents, mops, rags and scrubby sponges. She assigned me to deal with the bookcases.’

Hence, what goes around comes around, in the calendar, in Ekman’s texts, and in our lives. I’m heading out into the woods now. If there are ripe blueberries, I will be able to make raspberry and blueberry jam tonight, the kind the Swedes call the queen of jams, drottningsylt.

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Nonprofit publishing: an interview with Ian Giles

Credit: Canva

Ian Giles lives in Edinburgh and is a commercial and literary translator of the Scandinavian languages. He is the current Chair of the Swedish-English Literary Translators’ Association (SELTA) and a frequent contributor to Swedish Book Review. Ian’s PhD focused on who published and read translated Scandinavian fiction in the UK during the 20th and early 21st centuries, and the roles of the various agents involved in this process continue to engage him. Ian is also Treasurer of the Scottish Society for Northern Studies, itself a small, charitable publisher.

The following interview took place between Ian Giles (IG) and Cath Jenkins, representing Norvik Press (CJ), over Zoom during July 2021. It has been condensed and edited for clarity.

CJ: Norvik describes itself as a nonprofit publisher. What is the difference between nonprofit and not-for-profit?

IG: Well, I suppose the easy way to distinguish between the two is that nonprofit Norvik Press would very much like to make a profit – and doesn’t! Therein lies the rub: a not-for-profit doesn’t actually need to make a profit, whether it’s because of deep-pocketed benefactors, or because it’s a charitable endeavour. Whereas nonprofit Norvik is operating on a shoestring, with the aim of at least being cost-neutral. It costs money to publish each new thing, so you sort of drip-feed your publications out. Whereas something like Dalkey Archive Press, there’s a regular explosion of titles.

Norvik Press has a longevity to it, which means that you want to ensure that decisions that you make are decisions that you can live with in the long run. When you’ve got smaller, newer publishers, for instance, whether they’re nonprofit or not-for-profit, when they’re in startup mode (and we all have a startup mode at some point, when I started as a translator I was more like a startup than I am now!), they can do what they want, they don’t know whether they’ll still be doing this in thirty years’ time. And so the decisions they make now aren’t made with an eye towards the long-term, and I think that’s a problem.

I went to an interesting conference earlier this year, about translating minority literatures, at the University of Nottingham. The keynote was Ondřej Vimr, and he did a very interesting lecture about how these days in publishing – as in all areas of work life, but especially in publishing – everything happens quicker. We know that everything happens quicker, ask Norvik Press how long it took to publish a book in 1988…! Where people would have taken a risk before, because they had time to figure out whether they could take the risk, now they just turn it down, because you can’t afford to take a risk. And so I think the Norvik ‘grown-up’ approach is nice. There can come a maturity, with the limitation of means, that can lead to probably better-than-average decisions, because you have your binding principles of ‘can’t go bust’. And indeed, in a way, it helps that Norvik has, and has had, a paid assistant for a long time in one shape or another because it often focuses minds, that there’s a need to pay someone’s salary, however modest that is. Whereas if you or I were just our own imprint, digging into our own pocket, ultimately we can be like ‘Well, I can eat nothing but cereal for six months!’, or ‘What does it matter if I stick it all on a credit card!’ And it does make a difference.

Norvik Press has a longevity to it, which means that you want to ensure that decisions that you make are decisions that you can live with in the long run

CJ: In terms of the general direction of nonprofit publishing, do you see focusing the mind as something that might help us prepare for the future?

IG: I mean it’s always that. Sometimes I’m very cynical about this. I think if you’re at the rock-face of the industry, all the words blend into one and sometimes I go, ‘Why do we translate anything?!’ In a world of infinite possibilities, the likelihood is that something you translate from Language A into English has probably been written in English already, or someone is having the idea right now, nothing’s ever original. And so, to move beyond that, you have to be less cynical, but you also need to identify what is worthwhile, about the thing you’re translating. Publishing is an incredibly subjective, taste-based industry. Often, as a thought exercise, I try to think ‘What other industries are there in which this is the case?’, possibly restaurants and food, but you know, the role of an acquiring editor is incredibly important and ultimately we’re not saying that acquiring editors are somehow much, much smarter or somehow much, much more erudite than your average citizen. We’re really saying that through circumstances, they’re a taste-maker. With small publishers, what you can end up with is strokes of genius because on the one hand, they might read something and they might have great taste and they might go ‘This is the book that we must have’. But just as love can feel like love, but sometimes it is not love, I think equally you can go ‘This is the book, we must have this book!’, and then it just takes a second person to say, ‘It’s okay…’ and the purse-strings are not loosened. I think stuff coming out at the end good, is more important than it just coming out.

CJ: Yes, I agree it needs to be that mixture of passion and prudence.

IG: This is where publishing is weird again, isn’t it. Because everybody believes in the power of literature. Even if you find the book for you but you go ‘No, our list is full for the year’, or you check the piggybank and there is no chance, well then you’re not too upset. If another publisher comes along and goes, ‘Well, I’ll do that. It looks great’, you say, ‘Well, isn’t that nice that it all worked out’.

CJ: Yes! And adding to the weirdness: Brexit. Do you have any thoughts on the way that post-Brexit funding for publishing is going?

IG: It’s difficult. I was just having a look before we spoke at the article I wrote on small presses and funding in general [State Dependence: How ARE Britain’s Small Presses Translating Norwegian Literature Anyway?]. On the domestic front, it’s not a great time to be looking for money for the written word, especially if the written word has got something to do with abroad! The pandemic hasn’t helped, on the basis that money in the arts needs to be diverted elsewhere to more pressing things. Publishing has, on balance, got off pretty lightly really. In the context of what we do in Norway, interacting with the Nordics, things could be worse, because ultimately English is an important bridge language. But the ties between the Nordic countries and the UK are very strong, and not everyone is in the EU in the Nordics of course.

More generally, there’s a lot of stuff disappearing through the cracks in the funding world and the problem is that if you’re a small publisher that needs to apply for money to do everything, now the money isn’t there. Anybody who works in any industry where you rely on grant funding, always knows in the back of their mind that this is not a long-term guaranteed source of income and could go away at any time. But normally you hope that there will be a whisper of when that’s coming. I think Brexit has been, on the admin front, actually worse than people imagined, and the pandemic has added to that, because there’s a lot of personal lobbying that goes on in the publishing world that simply hasn’t been able to happen for the last eighteen months.

CJ: Yes, indeed, personal relationships are so important in small press publishing – relationships with embassies, in-person meetings, in-person conferences. As a nonprofit publisher, we’ve really missed these the past year. Particularly going to bookshops and handing out our catalogue, meeting booksellers face-to-face who are so supportive of presses like us… you can still build relationships over social media – we’ve been trying to do that – but nothing really replaces in-person recommendations and conversations.

IG: I think you’re right, I think it’s people. People do/say/buy things because their friends tell them to, I mean peer pressure is real, and one of the interesting realisations from my research is the discovery that in the world of publishing in particular, people mostly do things because their friends tell them to. Because if you were to examine most things that happen in publishing books, and to say ‘What’s the business case for this?’, well, there isn’t one. You tend to do what your friends tell you to do slightly more if they tell you in-person, and it feels like a genuine interaction with a friend, than you do online.

Since March last year I have been attempting to pitch a couple of books that I’ve got ready to go, and I don’t want to cold-pitch to people with a lecture on a slide deck; I want to slide into someone’s DMs in real life, with a glass of wine, and say ‘I was reading this really great book that I actually have translated, I’m not saying you should publish it, but I liked it. Why don’t you read it’. It’s the same with your relationship with booksellers, you don’t turn up and say ‘I need you to take twenty-five copies of Chitambo or I’m leaving’, what you say is ‘It might not be easy to sell this to everybody, but actually it’s really good. Try it’.

CJ: Yes, it’s all about genuine interactions for nonprofits! I suppose something that attempts to replicate that for the peri-pandemic era is the subscription model, where a press interacts with readers as supporters – on Patreon, for example – and in return readers receive hand-picked books.

IG: I think that’s the way everyone’s going, you can see the bandwagon, whether you jump on it or not, and it’s quite a good bandwagon, so if I weren’t on it, I would probably jump on. The great thing with say a subscription club, if you’ve got someone taking Norvik’s three titles for the year or whatever it is, if it’s at a pretty reasonable cost and they enjoy the book, then they tell other people about it, they buy copies to give as gifts. So I think it’s where small presses on a shoestring can set themselves apart. The key thing is to maintain some degree of humanity, a human touch. People should feel like they’re interacting with a knowledgeable friend.

CJ: I think the key word for me really is ‘human’. My favourite thing about our new website is that we have our Get to know us section, which we didn’t have before. So now it’s possible for you to go to our website and see our faces. I look awful in my photo! But, you know, these are the faces of the people who make Norvik Press happen, and readers can really get to know us.

IG: Yes, it’s to Norvik Press’s credit there that I think there’s an appeal to the fact that there are real people behind it, with other things on the go, beyond what you do for Norvik.

CJ: I think backstories are so important and fit really well with the whole publishing endeavour – storytelling!

IG: I think so, Norvik’s backstory is always very pleasing. There are books that simply should be available, and Norvik makes that happen, it is quite laudable. The Lagerlöf in English project was worthwhile, it was high time these were retranslated and reintroduced. But similarly publishing something like Vigdis Hjorth’s A House in Norway, it’s completely the opposite end, it’s a contemporary novel by a contemporary Norwegian writer. And that’s what people would use the word ‘curate’ for these days… and that’s what Norvik does, it curates a cool mix. The only comparison I’d make is to Archipelago Books – they also always seem to somehow have their finger on a pulse you didn’t know existed, or that you needed!

that’s what Norvik does, it curates a cool mix

CJ: Thank you so much Ian, this has been such an informative and inspiring conversation – it’s reminded me why we do what we do, really, and why we put up with the challenges of being a nonprofit, because there’s also the rewards – being able to do something that we’re passionate about.

IG: Honestly, I’m really pleased that Swedish Book Review, Norvik Press and Scandinavica all live on. If you had asked me three or four years ago, would all of these things still exist, I would not have been certain. It all boils down to funding and lots of hard work.

CJ: Definitely. Well, we have made it through what a pandemic has thrown at us so far, so hopefully we’ll be able to survive after this!