Blanca Ortiz Books copenhagen Culture denmark Eva Valvo Helena Březinová Literature Michal van Zelm National News nordic noir novels Oleg Rozhdestvenskiy Paul Russell Garrett Surf translation translators

the unsung heroes of Danish literature – The Post

Why the Indians are curious and the Danes are sceptic – an intercultural dilemma – The Post

They’re the unsung heroes of Danish literature: that uncommon breed that embraces an oft solitary existence inside the realm of linguistics. Their our bodies could also be overseas, however their hearts and minds are perpetually linked to Denmark. They’re the translators.

Since the late 1990s, the annual Bogforum ebook truthful has offered a stage for them to satisfy each other, uncover new tendencies, talk about with authors, and scout for brand spanking new potential titles for his or her house markets.



Shadow heroes
Anne-Marie Rasmussen, a senior advisor at the Danish Arts Basis and one of the key organisers of the annual gathering, regards the translators as ambassadors of Danish literature.

“The American author Paul Auster has called them ‘the shadow heroes’, which I find is a very beautiful and accurate term,” Rasmussen advised CPH POST.

“Their work is very important. All the translators I’ve met are extremely dedicated to their work. They are passionate about Danish literature and culture, and I am amazed at the depth of their knowledge of both Denmark and the language.”

Elevated curiosity
Rasmussen couldn’t say for positive whether or not Danish literature in more and more hanging a chord overseas, however ‘The ‘Nordic Noir’ wave, began by the Swedish crime writer Stieg Larsson together with the success of Danish tv and collection, specifically ‘Borgen’ and ‘Forbrydelsen’ (‘The Killing’), has definitely spurred curiosity in Danish titles as of late.

CPH POST spoke with a handful of the translators.


Michal van Zelm
Language: Dutch
Based mostly in: Amsterdam
Years translating from Danish: 12
Quantity of Danish books translated: three

How did you become involved?
I began studying Danish whereas learning philosophy in Amsterdam to have the ability to learn Kierkegaard’s books in the unique language. So in the starting I stored fairly a slender focus, however as I progressed, notably after a yr of research in Copenhagen, my curiosity in the Danish language and its literature broadened. I ended up taking a grasp’s diploma in Scandinavian languages and cultures.

What are the fundamental challenges?
Roughly talking one encounters two varieties of issues: linguistic and cultural. Whereas Dutch and Danish cultures have rather a lot in widespread, there’s additionally quite a bit of heritage that’s actually distinctive to Danish tradition (and vice versa). What corresponds to ‘æbleskiver’ in Dutch, for instance? Even when Dutch delicacies has one thing fairly comparable, it’s in all probability not utilized in fairly the similar setting, and thus it won’t name forth the similar associations.

What do you recognize the most about Danish?
Who doesn’t love bolle-å? And all the fuss about the place to place a comma is sort of fascinating. I wouldn’t be stunned if relationships have ended over it. The nice (and perhaps underestimated) Danish linguist Aage Hansen wrote a stunning e-book on the topic some 60 years in the past, which I might advocate taking recourse to in case of marital issues!

Is Danish literature rising in popularity?
Whereas Danish literature appears to be appreciated by some Dutch readers, it doesn’t (but) have the similar broad attraction as Danish cinema for instance, which just about features as a model. I’m afraid few Dutch individuals will have the ability to give an instance of trendy Danish literature. Even when they could have learn some, the names don’t appear to stay. However hopefully it will change.

What’s your favorite piece of Danish literature?
I’m at present studying Josefine Klougart’s ‘New Forest’, which is basically fairly superb. It’s stunningly evocative and overwhelming in its imagery, whereas leaving a lot for the reader to consider. I’m impressed by the method she combines a robust poetic pressure and a humane voice, seemingly with out straining for impact or turning into sentimental.

What are you engaged on proper now?
I’m engaged on the translation of Lili Elbe’s memoirs from the 1930s. It’s the story of one of the first transsexual individuals to bear genital reassignment surgical procedure. The story has lately been popularised by means of a novel and a subsequent film, ‘The Danish Girl’.


Eva Valvo
Language: Italian
Based mostly in: Palermo
Years translating from Danish: 6
Quantity of Danish books translated: 10

How did you become involved?
I wish to say that Danish is my mom tongue … I used to be born in Denmark and grew up in Italy with a Danish mom and an Italian father. The expertise of being in between these two cultures has all the time been half of my life, and doubtless it isn’t by probability that I ended up working as a literary translator – as a bridge-builder between these two nations.

What are the foremost challenges?
The challenges are many and numerous. For instance, translating swear phrases could be problematic, as a result of foul language could also be perceived in another way from nation to nation, and it isn’t all the time straightforward to breed the similar or an identical impact in the goal language. Then, it’s all the time troublesome to translate the so-called ‘realia’: phrases and phrases describing actual issues or precise details which are particularly associated to a tradition. A translated textual content must be understandable to the readers in the goal language, with out smoothing out all the cultural variations. In any other case, why would one hassle studying a overseas guide?

What do you respect the most about Danish?
I like the means you’ll be able to say an entire lot of issues with a single phrase, simply by including a prefix or a suffix or by setting two phrases collectively – you can’t do this in Italian. Phrases like these could make a translator’s life arduous, however it certainly feels good whenever you discover a passable answer: a bit like fixing a puzzle or a riddle.

Is Danish literature rising in popularity?
As seen from Italy, Danish literature has a particular place amongst the Nordic literatures. On the one hand, it enjoys its share of curiosity in ‘all things Nordic’ (together with the crime novel craze). On the different hand it in all probability feels nearer to us: thus much less unique, and perhaps much less fascinating. By way of my expertise as a contract literary scout primarily working with youngsters’s books, I’ve seen an increase in the quantity of translated titles in Italy over the previous couple of years. For my part, Danish youngsters’s literature has not been translated and appreciated sufficient in Italy, however I’ve skilled that when you pave the means, publishers come and ask for extra.

What’s your favorite piece of Danish literature?
This can be a troublesome query … does it sound too banal to say HC Andersen’s works? I really like his pleasure of storytelling, his irony and his potential to form a world or an environment, which is recognisably his personal and but turns into half of our personal creativeness.

What are you engaged on proper now?
I’m engaged on a number of scouting tasks in the area of youngsters’s books. I’m getting ready reader’s reviews and pattern translations of Danish books that I’d wish to undergo Italian publishers. After the New Yr, I’ll begin on a criminal offense novel by Katrine Engberg, ‘Krokodillevogteren’ (‘The Courser’), which is the first of a collection. I’ll translate it along with my good friend and colleague Claudia Valeria Letizia.


Helena Březinová
Language: Czech
Based mostly in: Prague
Years translating from Danish: 15
Quantity of Danish books translated: 18

How did you become involved?
My mom needed me to play the piano once I was a toddler, however I used to be rejected by the music faculty as a result of I couldn’t sing at the acceptable degree – so I took German as an alternative. I hated it, however in college I took it once more and picked Danish as one other main. I made a decision on Danish because it had a connection to German and my Danish professors turned out to be much more inspiring than the German ones, so I wrote my dissertation and thesis on Danish literature. Now, I train Danish literature at the college in Prague.

What are the major challenges?
The biggest problem isn’t the language itself, however all the implied hints that a Dane can decode with out hassle – however sadly stay ‘lost in translation’. As an example, the names Putte and Luffe evoke some particular connotations with Danes that a Czech would haven’t any clue about. Danish society is extraordinarily ritualised and the ‘devil is in the detail’ in translation.

What do you recognize the most about Danish?
It’s not a lot the language however the use of it. I actually take pleasure in that Danes, versus us Czechs, keep away from being too bombastic of their use of language. The vocabulary is wealthy sufficient, however Danes keep away from the massive phrases.

Is Danish literature rising in popularity?
Scandinavian literature typically is widespread and I’ve to disappoint the Danes a bit right here and say that Norwegian and Swedish literature is extra common amongst the Czechs. To start with, the Peter Høgh impact generated curiosity in Danish literature, then Jussi Adler-Olsen got here and we now have the Jussi impact. The mild style often opens the door for different genres.

What’s your favorite piece of Danish literature?
Only one? Ouch! Properly then its ‘Lykke-Per’ by Henrik Pontoppidan. Since I first learn the novel 25 years in the past, I’ve learn the e-book a number of occasions and my college students take a look at me incredulously each time we undergo it as a result of they will see how infatuated I’m. Per Sidenius is one of the most fascinating heroes I’ve encountered in world literature. I understood him completely at 20 and I perceive him much more with yearly that passes.

What are you engaged on proper now?
I’ve simply written a e-book on HC Andersen’s adventures and inside are my translations of some of his lesser-known items like ‘The Will-o’-the-Wisps Are in City‘. Soon I’ll begin translating Helle Helle’s ‘de’.


Paul Russell Garrett
Language: English (from Canada)
Based mostly in: London
Years translating from Danish: 7
Quantity of Danish books translated: 10

How did you become involved?
First I fell in love with a Danish woman over Coronas and tequila, after which I fell in love with the Danish language over Tuborg and aquavit.

What are the principal challenges?
I feel I’ve acquired a reasonably good general information of Danish, regardless of solely dwelling in Denmark throughout a yr overseas at the College of Copenhagen, however typically I come throughout on a regular basis phrases that basically stump me: for instance, ‘at love guld og grønne skove’.

What do you respect the most about Danish?
There are such a lot of issues I really like about Danish: the means it sounds, the means complete sentences can sound like one phrase, and the approach lengthy compound phrases can merely be created out of skinny air and sound completely pure in Danish.

Is Danish literature rising in popularity?
Nordic Noir has been an enormous boon for Danish literature. The elevated visibility and recognition of Danish TV, movies and books has actually opened up an area for a wider vary of Danish authors to be translated into English. I feel the progress of smaller publishing homes in the US and the UK with a concentrate on translated fiction has additionally helped. Fitzcarraldo Editions is a superb instance.

What’s your favorite piece of Danish literature?
‘Kongens Fald’ (‘The Fall of the King’) by Johannes V Jensen – I used to be hooked from the first web page.

What are you engaged on proper now?
I’ve simply submitted my translation of ‘Vivian’ by Christina Hesselholdt, which is to be revealed by Fitzcarraldo Editions in early 2019. Her second novel to be revealed in English, ‘Companions’ (‘Selskabet’), was revealed by Fitzcarraldo in 2017. And final month the playwright Anna Bro was in London to see a staged studying of ‘Varmestuen’ (‘The Warmhouse’). It’s the second play I’ve translated by Anna Bro, and we’re hoping for a full manufacturing and UK tour in 2020/21 for this fabulous play.


Blanca Ortiz
Language: Spanish
Based mostly in: Madrid
Years translating from Danish: 23
Quantity of Danish books translated: about 50

How did you become involved?
It was in the center of a heatwave in Greece in the late 1980s. I sat subsequent to some Swedes on the flooring on a stuffed Interrail practice. That was my debut with the Nordic language. A month later I used to be in a Danish class in Madrid, as Danish was the solely Nordic language on supply in the Spanish capital again then.

What are the essential challenges?
For me, the most troublesome facet isn’t the phrases in the ebook, however the cultural variations. The hardest factor might be transferring a actuality, which in lots of instances is totally totally different, and the distant cultural references in order that they have the similar impact on the reader as these not conversant in them. And swear phrases! In Spanish, they’re ‘slightly’ extra aggressive and various than the Danish ones.

What do you recognize the most about Danish?
It’s so economical: that Danes are in a position, with two or three phrases, to say issues that a Spaniard would require two or three sentences to convey. And I additionally envy their magical capability to create new phrases by merging previous phrases.

Is Danish literature rising in popularity?
In 2008, Spain noticed a spike in publishing Danish books – classics in addition to trendy. Spanish publishers realised that there’s extra to Danish literature than HC Andersen, Karen Blixen and crime novels. The subsequent problem shall be to get the excellent Danish youngsters’s books on the Spanish market. We translators and others have labored lengthy and onerous at that, and we at the moment are starting to reap some early rewards.

What’s your favorite piece of Danish literature?
It might be inconceivable to select only one e-book, however I can say that the ebook I’ve most loved translating is ‘The Brummstein’ by Peter Adolphsen.

What are you engaged on proper now?
’Myter og sagn fra Grønland’ (’Greenland Myths and Legends’) by Arctic explorer Knud Rasmussen.


Oleg Rozhdestvenskiy
Language: Russian
Based mostly in: Moscow
Years translating from Danish: 35
Quantity of Danish books translated: about 25

How did you become involved?
Once I began at the philological school at the State College of Moscow in 1976, there have been no Nordic language courses and I solely managed to enter the new Danish class in the second semester. From the starting, it was my intention to review Nordic literature, and the schooling made it potential for me to work with literature from virtually all Nordic nations, however Danish literature might be the precedence – the old flame, so to talk.

What are the primary challenges?
When translating a piece of literature, the largest problem is to ‘get under the skin’ of an writer to grasp the talent of following their considering whereas appropriately utilizing the inventive supplies of one’s personal language. It truly is an artwork. There are specific variations between Danish and Russian, and at occasions it may be a problem equalising them.

What do you recognize the most about Danish?
Danish is a really particular, exact and laconic language that sounds very uncommon – and I like that. I take pleasure in listening to Danish spoken by the Danes and I respect the individuals and the tradition. It’s additionally fascinating that such a small language can unite individuals from utterly totally different nations – corresponding to in the case with the Danish Artwork Basis and the Danish translator gatherings.

Is Danish literature rising in popularity?
Whenever you take a look at our rising translator workforce with representatives from throughout the planet, one has to say that Danish literature is sort of well-liked globally. In fact, it’s not amongst the massive literature nations, and in some locations (together with Russia) it’s seen by many publishers as a sort of ‘risk area’. However luckily, the time when most books have been revealed for purely political and ideological causes, regardless of high quality, is lengthy gone.

What’s your favorite piece of Danish literature and what are you engaged on proper now?
Tom Kristensen’s ‘Hærværk’ (‘Havoc’) is one of the greatest Danish novels that hasn’t misplaced its relevance – truly it’s extra topical than ever. Language-wise, it’s a masterpiece and it’s also what I’m engaged on now, though I’m additionally engaged on smaller items, akin to essays and articles and brief tales.

The gang in Copenhagen in late October 2018

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