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CSS Conference 2017 – Rethinking Scandinavia

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Translating Scandinavia

– a perspective from across the sea
 

Karolina Drozdowska, University of Gdańsk
 

The aim of this paper is to identify and describe a certain type of challenge translators face when translating Norwegian literature into Polish. The particular difficulties presented in the paper arise as a result of the untranslatability of networks of meanings created by interactions between different types of written language in the source text – both when it comes to various versions of the same language (Norwegian standard written language(s) and dialects) and the way different Scandinavian languages (Norwegian, Swedish and Danish) interact with each other in the source text, thus creating complex networks of (very often hidden) meanings, which can be difficult to understand for the readers of the target text.

As a practising literary translator, I shall concentrate first and foremost on demonstrating the abovementioned challenge with the help of examples. My goal is to demonstrate where the difficulties arise and of what nature they are – I have therefore chosen not to concentrate on the final solutions implemented by the translators in the presented cases. As a theoretical background, I have decided to use Antoine Bermanʼs famous text “Translation and the Trials of the Foreign”1, with a special focus on what Berman calls “deforming forces”. The networks of inter-Scandinavian meanings created by the interactions between different variants of the language (or languages) in the source text will be therefore treated as elements of “the foreign”.

Background

Ever since Poland joined the European Union in the year 2004, the economic, and as a result, also cultural exchange between Poland and Norway has become more and more dynamic. Poles are currently the largest national minority in Norway2 and this of course triggers a mutual interest in culture between the two countries. The interest in Norwegian literature has been growing in Poland over recent years. This situation can be perceived as part of a general trend – or “fashion” for Scandinavian literature: Polish Internet pages can be found dedicated both to so-called Nordic Noir literature, that is, crime novels3, and Norwegian romance novel series, called “serieromaner” in Norwegian and “sagi skandynawskie” (“Scandinavian sagas”) in Polish4, and in the years 2016 and 2017, Poland was hit by the “hygge book trend”, not unlike many other European countries5. At the same time, the Norwegian organization NORLA (Norwegian Literature Abroad) supports translators of quality literature through scholarships, subsidies for publishers, and conferences or networking meetings. During the past five years, NORLA co-financed 62 Norwegian titles translated into Polish and published on the Polish market.6 One can safely say that Polish readers have, in 2017, relatively good access to Norwegian literature in their native language and that neither Norway itself nor its inhabitants or their culture seem as distant and exotic for Poles as they seemed some twenty or thirty years ago.

It is therefore not the target readersʼ lack of knowledge about the country or culture that makes the networks of different language forms in the source text so difficult to translate – it is rather the fact that the language situation in Poland and Norway is so different that finding the correct equivalents in the target text for the elements those networks consist of becomes virtually impossible for the translator.

A detailed comparative analysis of the language situation in Poland and Norway is a topic for a separate paper and I will not describe this matter in detail here. A very well written article published by Piotr Garbacz in 20147 gives a detailed comparison of the status of dialects in the two countries: whereas Norway has a number of dialects, and different variants of the spoken language have “equal rights” (they can, for example, be spoken in the media, and it is usual for Norwegians to be proud of their dialects), Poland has a more or less standardized spoken language, and the dialects that did at one point exist in the country have either disappeared as a result of political perturbations or are still spoken in some regions of the country but frowned upon in the public sphere. Garbacz quotes data suggesting that the majority of Poles believe that there exists only one “proper” variant of spoken Polish, so-called “literary Polish”, whereas every variant of the spoken language that does not comply with the norm is “incorrect” or “wrong”.8

If we add this to the fact that Polish only has one form of the written language, whereas Norwegian has two, bokmål and nynorsk, we can slowly start to understand from where the translatorʼs challenge arises. And the two Norwegian norms of the written language do not exhaust the subject: recent studies show that more and more Norwegians have started using a written form of their spoken language (dialect) instead of bokmål or nynorsk in informal contexts9, and introducing written forms of dialects is also a stylistic technique that many Norwegian authors use and that can be found both in popular and so-called “quality literature” (as I shall demonstrate later in this paper). The translator is therefore very often confronted with two or more language variants in the source text, both or all of which are, to equal extent, Norwegian, whereas he or she only has one variant of the target text to be produced in the translation process. When, in addition, we take into consideration the fact that there are two other Scandinavian languages, Swedish and Danish, that native speakers of Norwegian are capable of understanding without actually having to learn (at least when it comes to the written standards),10 we can form a somewhat accurate overview of the problems literary translators who work with the Norwegian–Polish language pair are faced with.

The Foreign and deforming forces

As stated in the beginning, I will try to present the abovementioned challenges faced by the translator in the light of Antoine Bermanʼs famous text “Translation and the Trials of the Foreign”. “The Foreign” can in this case be defined as all the components of the source text that would be perceived by the receiver of its translation as unusual, strange or peculiar. We can therefore state that, within the scope of the problem presented in this paper, the term “the Foreign” can be used when discussing the following aspects:

  • the fact that Norwegian has two norms of the written language

  • the fact that Norwegian does not have one norm of the spoken language, but rather a variety of dialects whose written forms can be used in the source text instead of, or in addition to, the written norms

  • the fact that two other Scandinavian languages, Swedish and Danish, are more or less possible to understand by a native speaker of Norwegian and that one or both of these languages may be used in the source text in addition to the abovementioned variants of the Norwegian language.

Apart from this, one should take into consideration the fact that different interactions between the different languages/language variants contribute to creating underlying networks of meaning: one’s dialect identifies where one comes from but can also be connected to one’s status (especially in literary texts set in historical times), and where one comes from can often be connected to certain presumptions, stereotypes and prejudice obvious for readers of the source text, but not necessarily comprehensible for receivers of the target text. The same concerns interactions between the three Scandinavian languages, Norwegian, Swedish and Danish.11 I shall explain this phenomenon with the use of examples in the next section of this paper.

As I have already mentioned, I shall not concentrate on describing specific solutions or strategies implemented by translators of Norwegian into Polish in order to solve the problem I mention here, since the aim of the paper is rather to identify and describe the problem itself. It is nonetheless necessary to say a few words about the so-called “deforming forces” or tendencies Berman describes in his text. They can, in short, be defined as factors that cause the translated text to be inaccurate when compared to the original text. Those tendencies (Berman names twelve of them, but comments that some of them “may be more accentuated in one linguistic-cultural space than in others”12) are:

  1. rationalization

  2. clarification

  3. expansion

  4. ennoblement and popularization

  5. qualitative impoverishment

  6. quantitative impoverishment

  7. the destruction of rhythms

  8. the destruction of underlying networks of signification

  9. the destruction of linguistic patternings

  10. the destruction of vernacular networks or their exoticization

  11. the destruction of expressions and idioms

  12. the effacement of the superimposition of languages13

All of these factors will of course play an important role in the process of translating literature from Norwegian into Polish. However, when we consider the linguistic and cultural space, with special focus on the subject this paper considers, we can draw the conclusion that three of Berman’s tendencies will play a particularly significant role. Those tendencies are: the destruction of underlying networks of signification (created in the source text by the interactions between different language forms, more or less untranslatable between the source and target texts), the destruction of vernacular networks or their exoticization (especially when it comes to written versions of dialects in the source text) and the effacement of the superimposition of languages (the interplay between different Scandinavian languages and/or bokmål/nynorsk and written versions of dialects in the source text).

There are of course a number of possible solutions a translator can use in order to try to minimize the influence of such deforming tendencies – the “deformation” will be bigger or smaller depending on the chosen translation strategies and, of course, the skills of the individual translator. It is, however, my opinion that when it comes to the underlying networks of meaning created by the interaction between different language forms in the Norwegian source text translated into Polish, the three abovementioned tendencies will always play an important role.

The translator’s challenges – three cases

In the following section of the paper, I have decided to use examples from three Norwegian novels translated into Polish. The reasons I have chosen these texts are that 1) all of them have been published in Poland quite recently (in 2017), 2) they represent different types of literature – both so-called “popular” and so-called “quality literature”, thus showing that the problems and challenges I describe in this paper arise regardless of the type of text and the “target reader” it is directed at, and finally, 3) the examples, when taken together, depict all of the challenges I have described in the earlier sections of this paper.

Case 1 – Crime/thriller
The first extract has been taken from the book Jeg skal savne deg i morgen written by Heine Bakkeid.14 This crime/thriller/horror novel tells the story of Thorkild Aske, an ex-detective and current drug addict, who embarks on a mission to look for a lost young man in the Norwegian far north. Aske, at first sceptical of the assignment, talks on the phone to Ulf, his psychiatrist, who persuades him to take it on:

– Slapp av. Ulf drar på a-ene unaturlig lenge, selv for en bergenser.15

This one, relatively short, line poses at least a couple of problems for the Polish translator. First of all, it is made clear that Ulf speaks a dialect, in this case – a dialect typical of the inhabitants of/people born in the Norwegian city of Bergen. The entire concept of Norwegian dialects is, as I have mentioned above, a “foreign” concept for readers of the target text and it is not uncommon for editors of the Polish translations to change the word “dialect” (Polish “dialekt”), into a word they consider more “familiar”, that is, “accent” (Polish “akcent”).16

In addition, if the translator wishes to be true to the source text (and the Norwegian reality) and thus convey the message that a specific way to pronounce the vowel “a” is indeed typical for the Bergen dialect, he or she has to find a Polish translation of the phrase “slapp av” that also includes this vowel (ideally more than one). Once this problem is solved, the rest of the task may seem relatively easy. The novel is entirely written in bokmål and the only way the reader is informed about the fact that certain characters speak dialects is through comments woven into the narration like the one quoted above.

However, the fact that Ulf has a Bergen dialect has an underlying meaning in the novel and this meaning will – almost inevitably – become obliterated in translations into other languages, not only Polish. Askeʼs psychiatrist is a sort of “mephistophelian” character in Bakkeidʼs novel – he persuades Aske to embark on a risky and potentially dangerous mission; he is a “catalyst” for the plot, which basically means he makes the protagonist go places and do things. There is something shady about him – the reader learns he did time in prison, he has a long and interesting history of love affairs and he smokes one cigarette after another. He is also very often nonchalant in his conversations and meetings with Aske, and the fact that he speaks a Bergen dialect is in my opinion meant to accentuate all of those traits even more. It is a stereotype in Norway that people from Bergen are usually very straightforward, like to talk a lot and may sometimes seem arrogant. In fact, a survey conducted in 2010 concluded that one in five Norwegians consider the Bergen dialect to be the most irritating in the entire country.17 It might be one of the reasons this particular dialect is often spoken by villains in Norwegian (or Norwegian dubbing of) cartoons.18 Ulfʼs dialect is therefore an element that emphasizes the characterʼs identity and the role he plays in the plot.

This underlying meaning, perfectly legible for the reader of the source text, disappears almost entirely if the reader of the target text is not accustomed with Norwegian cultural codes. The example shown here demonstrates two aspects of the target text that pose potential challenges for the translator: a vernacular network (even though its existence is merely signalized in a sort of meta-commentary within the narration) and an underlying network of meanings which, almost inevitably, become “lost” in the translation process.

Case 2 – Critically acclaimed novel series
The next two examples I would like to demonstrate come from the book Lykkens sønn by Herbjørg Wassmo19, part two of the so-called “Dina series”20. The entire series, starting with Dinas bok21, gained enormous popularity, both in Norway and abroad (Dinas bok was ranked number three in The Guardian’s “Top 10 Norwegian novels” in 2014)22 and was met with much praise from critics.

We can observe interactions between different language forms throughout the series, but this aspect becomes, in my opinion, most apparent in Lykkens sønn, which tells the story of Dinaʼs son, Benjamin, who moves to Copenhagen in order to study medicine and become a doctor. The novel is set in the second half of the 19th century, which means it includes a lot of historical context which itself can be perceived as “foreign” for the reader of the target text. But this historical context also serves as a background for the interaction of different language forms.

The first thing about Lykkens sønn (and the rest of the “Dina series”) that the reader of the source text notices, is that the novel is written in two different variations of the Norwegian language: one of them is the written standard, bokmål, the other – a written version of one of the dialects typical for Northern Norway, where Dina and her family come from. And, whereas the narration is written in bokmål, most of the dialogues are written in the dialect, unless of course characters who take part in the conversation do not come from the North (in which case their dialogue lines are also written in bokmål). One should also add here that the sequences written in dialect are often archaized, which makes the situation even more complicated, not only for the reader of the source text, but also for the translator – since the Polish language, with its one standard, does not allow solutions other than the obliteration of this vernacular network – leaving only some (limited) space for stylistic techniques such as the archaizing and maybe exoticization of some words and phrases.

Another aspect of the problem is that – as was also the case with the previous text I discussed in this section – the interactions between the different language forms are also closely connected with a network of meanings. The way one speaks implies where he or she comes from but could – and definitely did in the 19th century – indicate status. In Lykkens sønn this particular aspect goes beyond national borders, as Benjamin – who speaks a Norwegian dialect – moves to Copenhagen. His language not only unmasks him as a foreigner, but also as a foreigner who comes from a remote district of the country, thus giving him the lower status that a student coming from Christiania (who would speak a language variant much more similar to Danish) might have.

The problem becomes even more complicated as the language interactions become interwoven in the historical context I mentioned above. The extract below describes some of the language difficulties Benjamin faced as a Norwegian in Copenhagen:

Jeg snakket nødig mitt eget morsmål. Oppøvde korte danske setninger og godt blikk og holdt ellers munn. Røpet jeg språket, fikk jeg høre om Carl 15.ʼs unnfallenhet da den svensk-norske regjeringen forsto at det var alvor og ikke kunne tenke se å risikere blod for å forsvare en bror.23

Benjamin did not want to speak his mother tongue, because he knew it unmasked him immediately as a Norwegian. And Norwegians in Copenhagen were often, in the times in which the novel is set, perceived as “traitors” or at least disloyal, because Norway (at that time in a personal union with Sweden and ruled by the Swedish king) did not come to Denmark’s aid in the Schleswig war of 1864, thus bankrupting the idea of Pan-Scandinavianism, and the inter-Scandinavian alliance and brotherhood.24

To sum up this aspect of the described problem: Benjaminʼs North-Norwegian dialect in Copenhagen unveils him as: 1) a foreigner; 2) a foreigner coming from a country which for centuries was under Danish rule – automatically giving him a lower status; 3) a foreigner coming from a remote district of that particular country, a district associated with little prestige – giving him an even lower status; and finally, 4) a foreigner coming from a “traitor” country. All of these factors contribute to the fact that Benjamin tries to avoid speaking his mother tongue.

All of the abovementioned aspects – both when it comes to the networks of hidden meaning, mostly built on a historical context, and the interplay of the language forms – are extremely difficult for the translator to convey in the target text. Especially in a situation when he or she only has one form of the target language at his or her disposal. The challenge seems even greater when one takes into consideration the fact that most readers of the target text come from a different cultural/historical background than readers of the source text and have little idea of what the implications of being a Norwegian man in 19th century Copenhagen might be.

The next aspect of the challenge the translator has to face while working with Wassmoʼs Lykkens sønn arises from the fact that Benjaminʼs language evolves throughout the course of the story. He arrives in Copenhagen speaking a Northern Norwegian dialect, but – during the course of his studies – adopts the spoken Danish language and thus a more “Danish” identity. The identity shift is marked by a language shift – in the source text, Benjaminʼs utterances, written in dialect in the first parts of the book, change into standardized bokmål, a language variant which is very close to the written standard of the Danish language. This shift is almost impossible to translate into Polish, once again, due to the fact that the target language only has one standard – and one variation, both spoken and written.

This particular problem can be illustrated by the following example. The extract comes from one of the last chapters in the book, describing a meeting between Benjamin and his mother, Dina, whom the young doctor has not seen in many years:

Hun sto midt på golvet, ferdig, mens hun lot blikket gli over rommet noen ganger.

– Så i dettan rommet har både du og Johan bodd? Sa hun.

– Ja, mumlet jeg.

– Lika du dæ her?

– Jeg bor her, sa jeg.

Da vi skulle til å gå ut døren, sa hun:

– Du snakka dansk?

– Ja.

– Til mæ også?

– Til deg også.25

Here, we can clearly observe a confrontation between two language variants in the source text – the written form of the North Norwegian dialect, spoken by Dina, and the standardized bokmål used to mark Benjaminʼs utterances (which Dina calls “Danish”). This differentiation between the two language variants will, once again, almost inevitably disappear in the target text, as the target language lacks sufficient tools that would allow the translator to preserve this aspect.

This language interaction – or confrontation – is once again closely interwoven in an underlying network of meanings: the excerpt above describes a meeting between a mother and a son – both of whom spent long periods of their lives abroad (while Benjamin studied to become a doctor in Copenhagen, Dina moved to Berlin). Dina, a charismatic, independent and unbroken woman, kept her “natural”, original language, thus keeping her identity intact. Benjamin, however, changed the way he speaks and allowed himself to become influenced by the foreign country and the culture he lived in. The first conclusion one can draw from the exchange quoted above is that Dina is somehow “stronger” than her son; the fact that she kept her dialect might suggest that she is less willing to accept compromises than Benjamin. By asking him (with some disbelief) “Du snakka dansk?”, she expresses a certain level of disappointment. And after that, when she asks again: “Til mæ også?” and her son confirms, the language shift becomes a symbol of personal disloyalty, of distance between the two characters and the loosened emotional bonds between the mother and son – since Benjamin refuses to speak to his mother the way they spoke to each other when he was a child and they still lived together.

All of the underlying meanings described above – the identity shift and the different aspects of Benjamin and Dinaʼs confrontation – will not go completely unnoticed for readers of the Polish language target text. The information that Benjamin speaks Danish is, after all, quite explicitly included in the conversation between the two characters. Still, the conversation in the Polish target text will take place in one variant of the Polish language – the dialogues between Benjamin and Dina will lack the differentiation one finds in the source text.

Lykkens sønn is a good example of how a writer can – through differentiation of language versions and variants within a text – create intricate networks of underlying meaning. The translation of such a text to a language with only one written and spoken norm demands a lot of skill and effort from the translator in order to prevent the complete obliteration of those networks in the translation process.26

Case 3 – A family saga
The final two examples I would like to demonstrate in this paper come from the book Alltid tilgivelse27 written by Anne B. Ragde, part 4 of the so-called “Neshov series” or (in Poland) “Neshov family saga”28. The series won many prestigious awards in Norway and became very popular among readers – over one million two hundred thousand copies of the first four parts were published in Norway alone.29

The “Neshov saga” tells the story of three brothers: Tor, Margido and Erlend, as well as Torʼs daughter, Torunn. The narration varies throughout each of the volumes in the series, presenting the point of view of the “main character” of a particular chapter. In Alltid tilgivelse, the narration is presented from the point of view of Margido, Erlend and Torunn (there is a different “main character” in each chapter) in part one of the book and only Torunn in part two. Even though the bookʼs narration is “filtered” through a set of different characters, the language the novel is written in can be called coherent – there is no particular differentiation between the ways the characters speak, no vernacular elements of dialects. Both the narration, regardless of the character it is “filtered” through, and the dialogues are written in bokmål.30

Whereas the Polish translator does not have to face the challenges that the use of a dialect might pose in Ragdeʼs books, he or she faces a different difficulty: elements of other Scandinavian languages (Swedish and, especially, Danish) that appear both in the narration and the dialogues.

The entire concept of the inter-Scandinavian language situation, where native speakers of one of the three languages can understand the two others without any great difficulties (at least in writing and at least to some extent) can be described as “foreign” for readers of the target text. One should also take into consideration the underlying meanings that connect such interactions between different languages.

The first excerpt from the text comes from one of the chapters written from Margidoʼs point of view. The character decides to concentrate on a more healthy lifestyle and goes to the store to buy some healthy food – he looks at the shelves with crisp bread (knekkebrød), but is overwhelmed by how many different kinds and brands there are to choose from:

Han endte opp med en variant som het Sport Pluss og var en naturlig källa till protein. Bildet viste mørkebrune, ruglete knekkebrød med agurkskiver på. De så ikke gode ut, så da var de nok sunne.31

Here, the use of the four Swedish words (a “quotation” from the product packaging) serves as a means to stress the humorous aspect of Margidoʼs choice: he chooses the bread that looks the least tasty, assuming that it will be the healthiest. The fact that the least tasty looking bread is Swedish might be a hidden allusion to the many Norwegian-Swedish stereotypes and the jokes they are connected to.32

This aspect will go more or less unnoticed by the reader of the target text who is unaware of the inter-Scandinavian cultural context.

The second example from Ragdeʼs book seems even more problematic. The following excerpt presents a challenge the translator has to face in most of the chapters written from Erlendʼs point of view. Erlend, the youngest of the Neshov brothers, lives in Copenhagen, together with his Danish partner Krumme. The two men have three children they raise together with a couple of their lesbian friends. The following excerpt is a dialogue between Erlend, Krumme and their son, Leon. The first utterance is delivered by Krumme:

– Jeg går ut fra at du snakker om …

– Min avskyelige mor, ja. May she rest peaceless.

– Hva er avsyyyelig? Sa Leon.

– Erlend, da. Små gryter har også ører, hvor mange ganger skal jeg si det, lille mus, de forstår jo stadig mer. Det er bare et norsk ord, Leon, jeg vet ikke hva det betyr på dansk, ikke tenk mer på det, skatt.

[…]

Krumme lo høyt.

– Du er fandeme god til å hisse deg opp over ingenting, Erlend.

– Far sa fandeme! Ropte Leon.33

Let us take a moment to consider all of the aspects of the challenge the translator of Norwegian into Polish faces in this one small excerpt from the source text:

  1. Even though the dialogues are written in Norwegian, we should assume that Erlend, Krumme and Leon speak Danish.

  2. Erlendʼs utterance includes elements in English (this, however, does not pose a significant problem for the Polish translator; the English words and phrases can be introduced in the target text without any modification and they will have more or less the same effect they have in the source text).

  3. Erlendʼs utterance includes a Norwegian word (avskyelig), which sounds “foreign” to Leon who a) distorts the word, and b) asks what it means. Since we have assumed that the characters “really” speak Danish in this scene, even though we read their conversation in Norwegian, we also have to assume that the word “avskyelig”, even though it is not “foreign” for the readers of the source text, is indeed “foreign” for the characters.

  4. Krummeʼs utterance includes a Danish word (fandeme), which, even though it is “foreign” for the readers of the source text, is not foreign for the characters (since we have assumed that the characters “really” speak Danish in this scene, even though we read their conversation in Norwegian; Leonʼs reaction is only caused by the fact that he hears one of his fathers use a word which he had been told should not be used).

In this particular case (which is representative for all of the chapters written from Erlendʼs point of view), the intricate interplay between the different Scandinavian languages is almost impossible to translate into Polish so that, in the same time, it remains intact. Whereas the Danish or Swedish words and phrases can either be left in Danish and Swedish (and explained in a footnote) or translated into Polish, but with an added comment that they have been uttered in a different language (which would be an example of Bermanʼs deforming tendency number 2, that is, clarification), the humorous aspect connected with the interplay between the languages will almost inevitably disappear in the translation process. The use of a Norwegian word in an “assumed Danish” dialogue is an aspect which we have to assume is almost completely untranslatable into Polish.

Even though Ragdeʼs novel is written in just one, coherent variant of the Norwegian language, the introduction of elements of other Scandinavian languages still poses a considerable difficulty for the Polish translator. In the Neshov series, the interplay between different languages is most often connected with humor, and obliterating those interactions by wiping out the language differentiation may lead to the humorous aspect becoming “lost in translation”.

Conclusions

The cases described above demonstrate some of the biggest difficulties a translator working with a Norwegian text and translating it into Polish might have in regard to the interplay and interactions between different language versions/variants, or even several different languages in the source text. The examples given in this paper help to identify certain elements of “the Foreign” in the source text and to explain why the occurrence of deforming tendencies, defined by Berman, is sometimes inevitable.

The problems and challenges a translator is faced with which have been described in this paper can most probably occur also with other language pairs, not only Norwegian (as the source text) and Polish (as the target text). Most of them will also be relevant for language pairs where the source language has more than one norm/variant, as opposed to the target language with only one norm and no alternatives a translator may choose from.

However, with regard to this particular language pair, there are more conclusions one can draw from the cases presented above: translating a Norwegian text is not just translating the language – it is also translating the underlying networks of meaning built upon the historical and cultural context of which the language situation in Norway is a significant part. Furthermore, translating Norwegian literature actually means translating Scandinavia, as the cultural and historical connections between the countries constituting the region will almost always become interwoven in the source text, more or less explicitly (the current Norwegian language situation itself is, after all, a product of historical and political processes in Scandinavia which began many centuries ago).

Finally, one can conclude that the vivid cultural exchange between Poland and Norway, of which such literature translations are an important part and medium, will gradually contribute to more and more culture transfers, thus making the abovementioned cultural and historical context more available and accessible for readers of such target texts. This, in turn, might lead to a situation where “the Foreign” actually becomes more “familiar” and the deforming tendencies defined by Berman will play a less important role in translations.

Thus, thanks to the work of literary translators, Scandinavia and Poland will (hopefully) be brought closer together – not geographically, but in terms of a growing understanding of cultural and historical contexts.


  1. Antoine Berman, “Translation and the Trials of the Foreign”, translated by Lawrence Venuti, in Lawrence Venuti & Mona Baker (ed.), The Translation Studies Reader, London and New York: Routledge, 2000, pp. 284–297.

  2. https://www.ssb.no/innvbef (accessed 09.09.2017).

  3. http://deckare.pl/ (accessed 09.09.2017).

  4. http://saginorweskie.pl/ (accessed 09.09.2017). I write more about the phenomenon of the popularity of this type of literature in Poland (and specific challenges it poses for the translator) in: Karolina Drozdowska, “Pyry nad fiordem i inne wynaturzenia – czyli o ʻsagach skandynawskichʼ i ich przekładach na język polski”, in Paulina Biczkowska et al. (ed.), Wynaturzenie. Literatura, Kultura, Język, Translatoryka, Gdańsk; Sopot: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Gdańskiego, 2013 pp. 296–302.

  5. http://www.polityka.pl/tygodnikpolityka/ludzieistyle/1688434,1,moda-na-hygge-dlaczego-swiat-jest-tak-zafascynowany-dania.read (accessed 09.09.2017). Four different books with the word “hygge” in their title have been translated into Polish as of September 2017, see http://www.empik.com/szukaj/produkt?q=hygge&qtype=basicForm (accessed 09.09.2017).

  6. Ten in 2012, twelve in both 2013, 2014 and 2015 and sixteen in 2016. For more information about NORLA, see http://norla.no/nb/om-norla (accessed 09.09.2017).

  7. Piotr Garbacz, “Dialekter i Norge og Polen – forskjellig status?”, in NOA Norsk som andrespråk, årgang 30, 2/2014, pp. 24–39.

  8. Garbacz, “Dialekter i Norge og Polen – forskjellig status?”, 2014, p. 28.

  9. http://forskning.no/content/dialekt-i-sosiale-medier (accessed 09.09.2017).

  10. When, however, it comes to the spoken variants of the Scandinavian languages, the situation seems a lot more complicated, see for example http://termcoord.eu/2014/05/scandinavian-languages-mutually-understandable/ (accessed 10.09.2017).

  11. Inter-Scandinavian stereotypes are discussed in a number of publications, both by serious researchers in the field of anthropology, see for example http://hyllanderiksen.net/Scandinavian_images.html (accessed 10.10.2017), and by laymen, see for example https://www.quora.com/What-do-Sweden-Norway-Denmark-and-Finland-think-of-each-other (accessed 10.10.2017).

  12. Berman, “Translation and the Trials of the Foreign”, 2000, p. 288.

  13. Ibidem.

  14. Heine Bakkeid, Jeg skal savne deg i morgen, Oslo: Aschehoug, 2016; published in Polish as Heine Bakkeid, Zatęsknię za tobą jutro, translated by Karolina Drozdowska, Katowice: Sonia Draga, 2017.

  15. Bakkeid, Jeg skal savne deg i morgen, 2016, p. 16.

  16. Which, of course, leads to the translator having to explain that the use of the word “accent” is incorrect, or, in the best case, imprecise, as Norwegian dialects are something rather different than, for example, English accents.

  17. https://www.nrk.no/troms/--bergensk-mest-irriterende-1.6931483 (accessed 11.09.2017).

  18. https://www.dagbladet.no/kultur/bergensere-har-en-veldig-pastaelig-dialekt-mange-hoyprofilerte-bergensere-som-hans-wilhelm-steinfeld-og-davy-wathne-er-jo-litt-brautende/64031140 (accessed 11.09.2017).

  19. Herbjørg Wassmo, Lykkens sønn, Oslo: Gyldendal, 1992; published in Polish as Herbjørg Wassmo, Syn Szczęścia, translated by Ewa M. Bilińska, Sopot: Smak Słowa, 2017. All excerpts from the original Norwegian text quoted in this paper have been taken from the 2002 edition.

  20. Until recently known as the “Dina trilogy”, until book four was published in the Autumn of 2017: Herbjørg Wassmo, Den som ser, Oslo: Gyldendal, 2017. The first two parts of the series have been published in English as: Herbjørg Wassmo, Dinaʼs Book, translated by Nadia Christensen, New York: Arcade Publishing, 1996; and: Herbjørg Wassmo, Dinaʼs Son, translated by Nadia Christensen, Cambridge: Black Swan Publishing, 2001.

  21. Herbjørg Wassmo, Dinas bok, Oslo: Gyldendal, 1989; made into a film in 2002. The film, directed by Ole Bornedal and entitled I am Dina, starred, among others, Gérard Depardieu, and was a Swedish-Norwegian-Danish production.

  22. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/may/21/top-10-norwegian-novels-dea-brovig-knausgard-hamsun (accessed 12.09.2017).

  23. Wassmo, Lykkens sønn, 2002, p. 240.

  24. https://www.britannica.com/event/Pan-Scandinavianism (accessed 12.09.2017).

  25. Wassmo, Lykkens sønn, 2002, p. 414.

  26. For more examples of translations from Norwegian to Polish where the interplay between the language standard and the written version of different dialects poses a particular challenge for the translator (this time in popular literature), see: Drozdowska, “Pyry nad fiordem i inne wynaturzenia – czyli o ʻsagach skandynawskichʼ i ich przekładach na język polski”, 2013, pp. 299–300.

  27. Anne B. Ragde, Alltid tilgivelse, Oslo: Forlaget Oktober, 2016, published in Polish as Anne B. Ragde, Zawsze jest przebaczenie, translated by Ewa M. Bilińska and Karolina Drozdowska, Sopot: Smak Słowa, 2017.

  28. The other books in the series are: Anne B. Ragde, Berlinerpoplene, Oslo: Forlaget Oktober, 2004 (also published in English as Anne B. Ragde, Berlin Poplars, translated by James Anderson, London: Harvill Secker, 2008); Anne B. Ragde, Eremittkrepsene, Oslo: Forlaget Oktober, 2005 and Anne B. Ragde, Ligge i grønne enger, Oslo: Forlaget Oktober, 2007. Part 5 of the series was published in August 2017 as Anne B. Ragde, Liebhaberne, Oslo: Forlaget Oktober, 2017.

  29. http://oktober.no/Forfattere/Norske/Ragde-Anne-B (accessed 14.09.2017). A TV mini series based on the first three parts of the “Neshov saga” (Berlinerpoplene, directed by Anders T. Andersen and Sirin Eide), broadcast in 2007 and 2009 became one of the most popular programs in the history of Norwegian television (https://www.nrk.no/kultur/knalltall-for-berlinerpoplene-1.4030416, accessed 14.09.2017).

  30. Anne B. Ragde was even given a prize for her extraordinary command of this form of the Norwegian language presented in the first part of the series, that is, Berlinerpoplene, the prestigious Riksmål Prize (Riksmålforbundets litteraturpris, 2005, http://oktober.no/Forfattere/Norske/Ragde-Anne-B, accessed 14.09.2017).

  31. Ragde, Alltid tilgivelse, 2016, p. 131.

  32. There are entire pages in the Norwegian Internet devoted to so-called Swedish jokes or “svenskevitser” (for example https://humoristen.no/kategori/vitser/svenskevitser/, accessed 14.09.2017), and the question of Norwegian-Swedish stereotypes has become a considerable problem in recent years, especially in the context of economic migration between the two countries (see for example http://forskning.no/kultur-innvandring-kulturhistorie-samfunn/2015/02/liker-og-hater-bli-kalt-partysvensker, accessed 14.09.2017).

  33. Ragde, Alltid tilgivelse, 2016, p. 12.