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 Crisisby 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 Chitamboand 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.
Bang relates the life story of the notorious author Herman Bang. The title of Willumsen’s novel might be a play on both his extravagant life and his sortie, as Bang’s life came to a sudden end while he was doing a reading tour across the USA. His last days form the back-story of Willumsen’s novel, a novel that weaves fiction and fact together in a touching and exciting portrait of an extraordinary man leading an extraordinary life (read an extract from the novel here).
Willumsen was at first supposed to write a traditional biography about Bang, and she did months of reading and researching previous biographies, his literary works and journalism and his thousands of letters, but the story fired her imagination to the extent that the book became a fictional biography, which describes Bang’s life from the inside rather than the outside. We first encounter Bang in New York, where he is starting out on his USA tour. The city is a grim, grey and loud place, according to Bang, and he is happy to board the train to escape from it, although he seems to want to escape the tour altogether. Unfortunately for Bang, the tour must go ahead, but he does find a way to escape – into his dreams. He dreams of his life, starting with his childhood: his mentally ill father and his beloved mother. Good, bad, sweet and sore memories are mixed and presented to the reader through young Herman’s eyes. As the story progresses we follow him throughout the USA, and in his flashbacks throughout his life. We get to know his youthful infatuations with young men and women, his bohemian life full of wonders but also scandals, his travels and life in different cities in Europe – from Copenhagen to St. Petersburg to Prague, and we discover the hardships he suffered as a well-known writer and a homosexual.
As well as a novelist Bang was a journalist, critic and playwright, as well as an actor and a theatre director. Because of this, he was omnipresent in Danish cultural life. He often wore eccentric clothes that shocked the conservative public, and of course, his homosexuality shocked them even more. His first novel was banned for immorality, as much for its content as for the writer himself.
But although Herman Bang was viewed as what we might now call an attention-seeking drama queen, his novels often focus on quiet, downtrodden people who do not raise their voices; people with a lack of agency; people who seem to accept the fate that society has in store for them. These stories of Stille eksistenser (Quiet Lives) are what made him a celebrated and loved author in Denmark. One example is the novel Tine from 1889. This novel interweaves the Prussian invasion of Denmark with male invasion of female innocence. Tine is a young girl who takes up the housekeeping chores at the neighbouring farm, owned by the charming and handsome Henrik Berg, who has just seen his wife and son shipped off to Copenhagen because of the war. Henrik and Tine become intimate, despite her being much younger and far below him in class – although Henrik is a decent man. Tine is inexperienced and mistakes desire for true love. This is her downfall, and when she realises that Henrik in fact never loved her, she drowns herself.
It seems that the love Bang always wrote about, was the kind of love that fails or the kind of love that cannot be fulfilled. Maybe he saw parallels with his own life, or maybe not – the kind of love that cannot be fulfilled is always novel material. He did write an essay, published in 1922, after his death, where his thoughts on his own kind of love seem rather grim. He writes that homosexuality is a harmless mistake in nature, and he expresses the hope that future medicine will not only cure homosexuality, but prevent it altogether. This tragic conclusion, in which Bang converts the hostility of his own times into a form of self-abnegation, is contextualised by an Afterword by Dag Heede, a leading Danish queer theorist.
The Nordic Council Literature Prize award ceremony will be held November 1st, and we at Norvik Press are looking forward to it with mounting excitement, especially as we have published works by two authors on the shortlist: Kirsten Thorup, nominated for Erindring omkærligheden and Vigdis Hjorth, nominated for Arv og miljø.
Norvik Press published Thorup’s The God of Chance in 2013, a story about Ana, a career-driven Danish woman, and her chance meeting with Gambian teenager Mariama. This meeting is life-changing for Ana; she sees something special in Mariama, and the girl soon becomes the family Ana never had. Because of this, Ana turns their relationship into an all-consuming personal project for herself. However, bringing Mariama into her life proves not to be easy for Ana, who has her own demons to battle, and her life quickly starts to unravel. The God of Chance is a story of opposites that depicts the gulf between European affluence and Third World poverty. Thorup is known for writing socially engaging novels that often take the perspective of the outcasts and the marginalised – and The God of Chance is another brilliant example of this.
Hjorth is the other Norvik Press published author on the shortlist. Her novel A House in Norway is one of our most recent novels. Alma, the protagonist of Hjorth’s story, is an artist who wishes to live a peaceful and undisturbed life that leaves her lots of creative space, but this peace is disturbed when she sublets the apartment in her house to a Polish couple. Alma wishes to be tolerant and open-minded, but finds that she cannot overlook the clash between cultures. A line can be drawn from the theme in this novel to Thorup’s The God of Chance; both of the main characters seemingly welcome foreignness into their lives, but only as long as it can be held at a safe distance, and when it comes too close, they cannot seem to deal with it after all.
Hjorth visited London for the book launch for A House in Norway in February this year, and delighted us all with an animated reading and a lively discussion of the book. On our SoundCloud page, you will find an audio clip from the launch of her reading from the Norwegian version of A House in Norway, accompanied by the translated extract.
That was the final straw. She didn’t get out of the car, but turned it around, drove home as fast as she could, impatiently, she could feel her heart pounding in her throat, blood roaring in her temples, all the clichés, this was how deep outrage felt, that was enough, there had to be limits, she couldn’t get home quickly enough, she had to get back while her body and her mind still felt as they did now, before it subsided even a little and she started having the slightest doubt; this time she called no one, she didn’t want to be talked out of anything or calmed down now that she was in full flow without any inhibitions; she couldn’t get home fast enough to express it, she forced the car up in the drive, parked it and ran outside and could smell burned rubber, she registered that Alan’s car wasn’t there, but even if it had been there she would still have done what she did, she ran up and banged on the door again and again because she knew they were in there, her car was in the drive and all the lights were on, she hammered on the door and didn’t stop until it was opened a little, and Alma pushed it open and stormed into the small hallway and glared at the Pole’s anxious face and her hair in old-fashioned curlers and she was wearing a singlet, of course she was, in the middle of winter. That’s enough, Alma shouted, this time you’ve gone too far, she yelled, you bloody well move out now!
We wish our authors the best of luck for the ceremony!
Norvik Press is proud to announce the upcoming publication of the English-language version of Ilmar Taska’s Pobeda 1946. This Estonian novel received critical acclaim when it was first published last year. It has already been translated into Finnish, German and Latvian, and Lithuanian and Danish versions are forthcoming. Norvik Press will release Christopher Moseley’s English-language translation, titled Pobeda 1946 – A Car Called Victory, in early spring 2018. Both Norvik Press and the translator have been awarded grants from the TRADUCTA programme, which supports high-quality translations of Estonian works.
Pobeda 1946 is a historical narrative set in Estonia under Soviet occupation. Secrets and mystery dominate – reflecting the covert behaviour of an oppressed people. At the centre of the story there is a young boy, too young to grasp all the things happening in the adult world around him, who unwittingly reveals a family secret to the kind of person in whom you should never confide – a government agent.
Ilmar Taska, the author of Pobeda 1946, is a well-known name in Estonia, but he has also been active beyond the borders of his own country, working in film, theatre and television in the UK and Sweden, amongst others. In addition to producing, directing and writing for the screen, Taska has also ventured into short-story writing in recent years. In 2014, Taska’s novella ‘Pobeda’ won the Estonian literary prize ‘Looming’ in the short-story category, and the following year, his story ‘Apartment to Let’, was included in the prestigious anthology Best European Fiction 2016, edited by Nathaniel Davis. Pobeda 1946 is Taska’s debut novel.
Norvik Press is delighted to introduce Taska’s novel to an English-language audience, especially as the London Book Fair 2018 will be shining a spotlight on Baltic literature. We at Norvik Press are mesmerised by Taska’s book, and will be excited and intrigued to see what other treasures the Baltic region has to offer.
Norvik Press congratulates managing editor Professor Helena Forsås-Scott on the recognition of her work by the Swedish Academy.
The prize, which is awarded as part of the Swedish Academy’s annual Belöningar ur Akademiens egna medel [Awards from the Academy’s Own Funds], is given to six people annually and is worth SEK 60,000. In her academic roles at University College London and The University of Edinburgh , as well as in her editorship at Norvik Press and various other publications, Helena has played a major role in celebrating and promoting Swedish literature in the UK.
Helena is currently editor of the Norvik Press “Selma Lagerlöf in English” series, which provides English-language readers with high-quality new translations of a selection of the Nobel Laureate’s most important texts and in 2014 Norvik Press published the second edition of Forsås-Scott’s book Re-Writing The Script: Gender and Community in Elin Wägner.
Norvik Press would like to extend to Helena its warmest congratulations. You can read the Swedish Academy’s announcement of the award here (in Swedish):
Sarah Death, one of our Managing Editors of Norvik Press, has been awarded the medal of the Order of the Polar Star, a Swedish order of chivalry, for her services to Swedish literature and language abroad.
Sarah has served as the editor of Swedish Book Review for over ten years and is a previous recipient of the George Bernard Shaw Prize (twice) and the prestigious Swedish Academy Translation Prize.
Norvik Press congratulates Sarah on this great honour and thanks her for her hard work and dedication.