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CSS Conference 2017 – Rethinking Scandinavia

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Imagining Scandinavia in Ukraine

Viktoriya Trostohon, Borys Grinchenko Kyiv University


Abstract: Ukraine has been an independent country for almost 27 years now, and thence it developed quite solid expertise in various fields of academic research. Many of them have a substantial basis as the legacy of the Soviet era. Nonetheless, Scandinavian studies comprise a lacuna on the level of Ukrainian tertiary education. 

In my presentation, I intend to discuss several ways Scandinavia is made known to a Ukrainian “consumer” and various, yet scattered initiatives that help shape the manner the Northern countries emerge in the minds of my fellow-citizens. 

First of all, fiction translations both lingering from the Soviet times (and the erstwhile censorship left a rather peculiar selection in the home libraries of intelligentsia), and the ones that have been appearing since the ’90s (which is always a translator’s trafficking of cultural contexts and mentalities according to their individual taste). 

Secondly, language instruction (I will concentrate on Swedish at this point) offered as a qualification by only three universities in Ukraine: Taras Shevchenko Kyiv University, Ivan Franko Lviv University, and Lesya Ukrainka Eastern European University. Language study also requires knowledge of culture, literature, and history, and is often carried out by the same instructor(s) which does not invite specific diversity. 

Thirdly, I will talk about three ambitions initiatives implemented by the former exchange students who have studied in one of the Nordic countries. These are Språkcafé i Kiev (since 2012) – originally, a language learners’ club that turned into a bigger organization uniting people with interest in Sweden and everything connected with it. Furthermore, there is Ukrainian-Scandinavian Center (since 2013), which is the first known attempt to build a foundation for adequate representation of Scandinavian countries and unite different existing as well as emerging initiatives, spread the knowledge of the region in Ukraine, and create a conducive environment (demand) for the Studies on the academic level in the long-term perspective. Finally, Swedish Language School – Kyiv (since 2017) works towards popularization of the image of Sweden in Ukraine through language learning.

These are three key factors that create an image of Scandinavia in Ukraine (apart from marketing of commercial products), and you will get a good laugh or even a chill upon learning what one of the Executed Renaissance authors wrote about Norwegians in his travel notes.

Theme: Scandinavia in the Eyes of the World

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Translating Scandinavia

Karolina Drozdowska, University of Gdańsk

Abstract: The aim of the paper is to present the problem of translating Scandinavian literature  into Polish, with a special focus on how interactions between the specific languages (Danish, Norwegian and Swedish) can be and are translated – as this particular aspect poses significant problems both for the translator and the reader/viewer. As a translator of Norwegian literature, I have come across a number of cases where Swedish or Danish words and phrases have been “woven” into the Norwegian text – translating such language interactions into Polish can pose a significant problem, especially when the Polish reader is unaware of the regional historic and/or cultural context. It is therefore my opinion that interactions between specific Scandinavian languages in translated texts can be perceived as elements of the foreign (according to A. Bermanʼs theories) and should be approached as such by the translator, who, at the same time, should remain aware of the deforming forces he or she is going to be forced to face in the translation process (with special focus on the destruction of underlying networks of signification, the destruction of vernacular networks or their exoticization, and the effacement of the superimposition of languages).

For many years, “Scandinavia” has been an exotic term for Poles. Both cultural and economic exchange was very limited and a lot of stereotypes arose – not only about the Scandinavians themselves, but also their language (difficult to understand) and culture (very little accessible). In the last years, and especially after 2004, when Poland joined the EU and European borders stood open for Polish workers, the situation has been changing rapidly. Poles are, at the moment, a large minority in the Scandinavian countries (the largest minority in Norway), and this has also contributed considerably to the cultural exchange between Poland and the entire region. This has resulted in a growing interest in Scandinavian literature and an accordingly growing demand for translations from those languages. It is my opinion, that to translate from a Scandinavian language into Polish needs also to be combined with helping the reader/viewer understand what the Scandinavian region actually is and what the interactions between the countries constituting it – and therefore, their languages – are. To translate is therefore to explain. And, in this explanation, we have to forget about globalization and growing nationalism for a while and start perceiving Scandinavia as a historical and cultural region – otherwise the language interactions (and cultural interactions they implicate) will become completely illegible for the reader/viewer of the translated text. 

In my paper, I will give examples of the abovementioned phenomenon, concentrating mainly on Norwegian (popular) literature translated into Polish.

Theme: Scandinavia in the Eyes of the World

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Freedom starts as early as childhood

Davide Finco, University of Genoa


Abstract: Scandinavian countries are still popular in Italy for their children’s books, nowadays likely the second point of literary interest after detective stories and a sort of avant-garde children’s literature which testifies Nordic culture vitality and its attention to the new trends and topics; but there was a period when some children’s writers, the most famous of which were women, really contributed to the renewal of Italian children’s literature, set a trend and, at the same time, indirectly reinforced the stereotype of Nordic countries as lands of freedom, opportunities and utopias. This was possible thanks to some Italian writers and editors who gave a crucial input to the development of the national children’s literature from the late 1950s, while acknowledging the importance of Scandinavian works in their education and considering the mediation of Nordic literature in Italy as a fundamental part of their contribution.

We may say that this phenomenon began with Karin Michaëlis’ series (1929-1939) on Bibi – a young girl who is unusually free to travel around Denmark and abroad – which was early translated into Italian, with some adaptations but on the whole overcoming the fascist censorship. Later on, Astrid Lindgren’s adventures about Pippi Longstocking (1945-1948, collected in 1952) played a revolutionary (as well as much discussed) role when it appeared as one of the first titles in the new editorial series for youth “Il Martin Pescatore” by Vallecchi in 1958. Tove Jansson’s Mumin-series (1945-1970) is to be mentioned, too, as a source of inspiration for some authors through a peculiar (quite Nordic) view of the world in a very fantastic setting. My paper is meant to briefly reconstruct the status of Italian children’s literature in that period and define the Scandinavian influence with the help of statements by Italian children’s writers and descriptions taken from histories of children’s literature and handbooks of that time. As mentioned, this topic will be thereafter useful to assess what image of the Nordic culture emerges from the Italian perspective in relation to this seminal experience.

Theme: Scandinavia in the Eyes of the World

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