Volume 143, 2022
Viking Peterson, Department of Culture and Aesthetics, Stockholm University
“Every Age Demands Its Own Literary History”: Theoretical Adaptation and Self-Reflection in the Writing of Literary History in Sweden (“Var tid kräver sin litteraturhistoria”. Litteraturteoretisk anpassning och självreflektion inom modern svensk litteraturhistorieskrivning)
The supposed end of literary history was announced as early as the 1970s, and since then there has been a debate about the possibility of writing literary history to adapt to modern literary studies. The purpose of this article is to analyse how a literary theoretical adaptation and self-reflection was designed in a number of handbooks in Swedish literary history from 1987 to 1996. Against the background of literary historiography problems, as formulated by René Wellek, Roland Barthes and Hans Robert Jauss, among others, handbooks relate to the criticism that was directed towards the writing of literary history.
The study is based on Lönnroth / Delblanc, Olsson / Algulin and Göran Hägg’s handbooks in Swedish literary history and mainly analyses the paratexts in handbooks such as preface, postscripts and headings, but poetological and ideological outlines are also examined to determine developmental directions in Swedish literary historiography. The article shows an increased awareness of the problems of literary historiography and that different ambitions for renewal of the genre can be found in the handbooks. A stripped-down narrative, increased literacy in the literary-historical presentation and an open subjectivity regarding the literary texts are some of the most important tendencies that the article highlights.
An overview also outlines the development of Swedish literary historiography after the publication of the latest handbooks with a national perspective. Both regional and ordic perspectives complement the picture of Swedish literary history and highlight the literary theoretical reflection on literary historiography. The article concludes with a discussion of a possible future for literary historiography and the ways in which the genre can continue to be relevant to literary studies.
Anders Ohlsson, Centre for Languages and Literature, Lund University
Hjalmar Gullberg on the Contemporary Situation and Man’s Existential Conditions (Nuets verklighet och existensens villkor i Hjalmar Gullbergs Andliga övningar )
Swedish poet, translator and member of the Swedish Academy Hjalmar Gullberg (1898–1961) has been described as a writer with a religious vocation rooted in a premodernist lyrical tradition, who turned to modernism only in the 1950s, while abandoning religion. The aim of this article is to question this recurrent description of Gullberg’s oeuvre by way of an analysis of his third collection of poetry “Spiritual Exercises” [Andliga övningar 1933], which marked his poetic breakthrough.
Drawing on the concept of poetry of interaction, while simultaneously considering “Spiritual Exercises” as a cohesive poetic statement, with its five parts taken together despite thematic and stylistic differences, the analysis uncovers contemporary political and existential conditions. Furthermore, the article highlights Gullberg’s critical and ironical dialogue with a range of voices and discourses — contemporary, political and religious — as a means for him to describe the experience of modernity.
Eva Lilja, Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion, University of Gothenburg
Falling Rhythms in Free Verse: Ingemar Gustafson’s poem “Den som blundar går runt solen” (Fallande rytmer i fri vers. Ingemar Gustafsons ”Den som blundar går runt solen”)
This paper investigates how falling rhythms work in free verse. More specifically, it investigates a poem by Ingemar Gustafson, which is included in his book, Den hemliga metern [The Secret Metre] (1956). In analysing falling rhythms, the paper focuses on acoustics and semantics, and how they interact. In addition to this, the paper also investigates four devices that make cognitive time pass more slowly, namely: (i) falling phrases, (ii) equivalences, (iii) back-structuring, and (iv) extensions. Falling phrases start with a prominence, aiming at making the reader’s attention stay with the beginning of the phrase. The equivalence is a case of approximate repetition, making the reader’s attention to return to the first incidence. Back-structuring points to the fact that the reader will be able to fully recognize the figure only when it is completed. An extension follows after the semantic focus of the sentence, by this turning the reader’s attention backwards. These four falling devices aim to guide the reader’s attention backwards, into an earlier site in the text. Since poetry always uses short lines, any poem makes a succession of sequences, and these four returning devices may reinforce the segment, slow down the reading speed, stabilize the text, and spatialize it. Together, they contribute to lyrical density.
The book by Gustafson (who converted to Catholicism 1957) describes the painful process of change from a sceptical view of life to a religious breakthrough. The poem specifically discussed in this paper opens the last suite of the book, where “you” walks around the sun with her eyes closed. Something else hints at its existence but “you” continues to walk around in the beautiful summer. The metrum is modernist free verse, in which most lines are falling, especially in the first half of the poem. The first, third and fourth stanzas fall, but the second one rises. The falling rhythms of the poem create a slow tempo, a feeling of rest, and some solemnity. All in all, cognitive time delays forward movements and spatializes the sequences.
Joni Wallin Lämsä, Department of Communication and Media, Lund University
In the Stead of Another: Memory Places and the Rhetoric of Witnessing in Göran Rosenberg’s A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz (I stället för en annan. Minnesplatser och vittnesretorik i Göran Rosenbergs Ett kort uppehåll på vägen från Auschwitz)
As the last witnesses of the Nazi genocide disappear, the question of who can speak in their stead about the horrors of the Holocaust surfaces with renewed urgency. In this article I study a mode of testimony that consists in the act of bearing witness to another person’s suffering. By elucidating the role of place in the memoir of the son of a Holocaust survivor — Göran Rosenberg’s A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz (2012) — I show how the text invites the reader to approach the trauma of the author’s father at different geographical locations. The rhetorical address of the text thereby gives shape to a community of vicarious witnesses that can attend to victims of the Holocaust beyond the ideal of immediate empathetic involvement.
Elin Svahn, Institute for Interpreting and Translation Studies, Department of Swedish Language and Multilingualism, Stockholm University
Great Translations, Great Translators? Non-Retranslations and their Translators from the Mid-1900s Forward (Stora översättningar, stora översättare? Uteblivna nyöversättningar och deras översättare från 1900-talets mitt och framåt)
Within retranslation studies, several scholars have recently pointed to the need to further explore the phenomenon of non-retranslation, i.e., work that has been published in several editions for an extended period of time without being retranslated. A bibliography on nonretranslations in Sweden has shown that the majority of the titles were first published in the 1950s. From a translation historical viewpoint, the 1950s Sweden is characterized as a time when Swedish literary translators started to come together as a collective with the founding of the Swedish Association of Translators in 1954. Hence, this essay sets out to explore a time and a phenomenon: literary translation in the 1950s and non-retranslations. The phenomenon of non-retranslations is approached through three titles that were first published in Swedish in the mid-1900s: Hermann Hesse’s Stäppvargen (Der Steppenwolf) in Sven Stolpe’s translation (1932), John Steinbeck’s Öster om Eden (East of Eden) in Nils Holmberg’s translation (1953), and Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour tristesse in Lily Vallquist’s translation (1955). Stolpe, Holmberg, and Vallquist further represent three different kinds of translators: the author-translator (Stolpe), the union-engaged translator (Holmberg), and the “ordinary” translator (Vallquist). In an analysis of archive material exchanged between the translators and the publishing houses they worked with and writings on the titles in the press, the conditions regarding both the titles they worked with and the conditions regarding the professional practice more generally, are discussed. The findings are cast in relation to Berman’s notion of “great translations” and “great translators”. The results suggest that different conditions applied for the three translators, most notably that the author-translator Stolpe had various advantages and that different forms of cultural capital can be associated with both translators and non-retranslations. Interestingly, the essay also highlights the translators’ limited influence on the translations’ statuses as nonretranslations, which points to the need to investigate the publishing houses’ role in relation to non-retranslations in the future.
Malin Podlevskikh Carlström, Department of Languages and Literatures, University of Gothenburg and School of Languages and Translation Studies, University of Turku
Swedish Crime Fiction in the Soviet Union: Publication and Paratextual Framing
This article investigates the publication and paratextual framing of Swedish crime fiction in the Soviet Union. Based on an analysis of the written peritexts of 21 editions, conclusions are drawn regarding: 1) the representation of the genre of crime fiction, and in particular Swedish crime fiction; 2) the representation of Swedish crime fiction authors; 3) the representation of the source culture of Sweden; 4) ideological aspects of the paratextual framing. A premise for the analysis is that in a literary system governed by strict censorship, the peritext becomes a tool used by the censorship apparatus, and industry-created peritexts are often ideologically motivated. The analysis reveals that Swedish crime fiction and Swedish crime fiction authors are clearly distinguished from the general Anglo-American crime fiction genre. Swedish crime fiction is described as being written by authors whose main purpose is not to entertain the reader, but rather to reveal the truth about social injustice and capitalist society. Secondly, positive representations of Sweden are ironically corrupted and used in combination with details from the storyline of crime fiction novels in order to show that all positive representations of Sweden and Western society are false. Thirdly, the paratext creators try to convince the reader that gruesome images of Sweden from crime fiction novels are true representations of everyday life in Sweden. To conclude, it is clear that state censorship was involved in both the selection and the paratextual framing of Swedish crime fiction in the Soviet Union. Furthermore, it is reasonable to assume that the real purpose behind the publication of Swedish crime fiction was not related to literature as such. Instead, these novels were deliberately selected for publication in the Soviet Union for the purpose of corrupting the image of Sweden and creating a representation that better suited the ideology of the State.
Claes Wahlin, Department of Culture and Aesthetics, Stockholm University
Translation as Poetical Manifesto: Poundian Wine in Lars Forssell’s Wineskin. Two Examples (Översättning som poetiskt manifest. Poundskt vin i Lars Forssells läglar: två exempel)
This article considers two early works of the Swedish poet Lars Forssell from the perspective of translation. His slim volume of translations of Ezra Pound, 25 dikter (1953) includes conventional, that is, semantically faithful renderings of some, mainly early, poems by Pound. An examination of the paratext and articles on Pound written by Forssell in the years preceding the volume makes it clear that Forssell was aiming to influence Swedish contemporary poetry. The selection was made with this aim in view — here I am using some terms from the skopos theory, mainly those concerning the expected function in the target language — and with reference to the principles of imagism and the poetical idiom that he identified in Pound.
The second work, F.C. Tietjens — dikter och imitationer (1954), is a conscious imitation of Pound’s Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920). Forssell borrows the structure of the English original, using similar strategies (quotation, paraphrase, translation) as Pound, but transferred to the Swedish context. In connection with this, I look backwards to the English 17th century and the concept of imitatio and its influence on theories on translation, particularly as conceived by John Dryden and the Earl of Roscommon, thereby hoping to be more precise as to what kind of text F.C. Tietjens is, ending with a short discussion concerning to what extent “old” theories of translation can be of use in another context, in another epoch, and how these compare with some later theories of translation that are similar to the skopos theory.
Lars Liljegren, Department of Culture and Society, Linköping University
The Intended Reader and the Translator’s Capital: Cultural and Social Sensitivity When Translating “the N-word” in Huckleberry Finn
Many readers of literary translations undoubtedly understand that more than merely linguistic aspects must be considered in translation. Indeed, understanding the norms and expectations of the target culture is especially essential to any translator aiming for a successful reception, particularly when the subject matter, or a certain linguistic use, in the source text is incompatible with the social or cultural norms of the target culture. To demonstrate just how sensitive the translator of literature needs to be to sociocultural norms and values, I will compare the four most recently published Swedish translations of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) and their translation of the so-called “n-word”. I will demonstrate that whatever translational strategy is adopted, translators must consider aspects such as the intended reader, the different cultures and times involved, the changing connotations of words and, not least, their own social and professional capital.
This paper examines the history of translations into Swedish of The Thousand and One Nights, focusing mainly on the more extensive ones that attempt or purport to translate the “complete” work. Considering the textual history of the Arabic Alf layla wa-layla, however, the notion of “completeness” is largely illusory, since there is no definitive original text of the work, only a large number of differing versions. But the Swedish translators, beginning with Hinrik Sandström in the 1830’s and ending with Nils Holmberg in the 1960’s, also fail to provide faithful renderings of any single one of these versions; they fall short for a variety of reasons, mainly their lack of knowledge of the Arabic language and of Arabic culture, and an eagerness to adapt the text to the expectations and the taste (and at times the prudishness) of the Swedish audience and/or publishers. In many cases, these adaptations had already been made in the French, German, Danish, and English translations used as source texts for the Swedish ones. The only Swedish translation made directly from the Arabic, Professor Axel Moberg’s 400-page volume of selected stories (1928), comes closest to the original, but his translation covers only a small part of the entire work, and Moberg, too, deviates intentionally from the Arabic text in his treatment of poetry, saj‘ (rhymed prose) and sexually outspoken passages.