Norwich

I've been off the lava rock for most of the past week, and a good thing that was, too. Last winter I made a promise to myself get off the island at least once each post-Jule season to remind myself that there is a whole planet out there somewhere, and to stay sane in the midst of January darkness. I didn't travel then, and sorely missed the shot of Vitamin World we all could use to make life a richer experience.

This year I was lucky enough to have an excellent adventure drop in my lap. I was graciously invited to a Nordic Translators Symposium at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England by FILI, the Finnish Literature Information Center in concert with the British Centre for Literary Translation. The fifteen or so guests from the UK and Scandinavia were very well taken care of, and we were offered an enlightening series of lectures and discussions on the state of literary translation in the UK today.

Summation? It seems everyone could read a book or two more on life in another land, and should, and that there are some very wild and talented translators out there working faithfully to bring the literary universe to the English-speaking public (you know who you all are...wink wink!)

Would anyone out there like to read good Icelandic books in English? Let me know your thoughts...

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

> Would anyone out there like to read good Icelandic books in English?

A good book's a good book, whatever the original language, so that's a big 'yes'. I read 101 Reykjavik in translation and I have to say I found it heavy going, but I'm glad I made the effort.

Normally I'd feel guilty about having to rely on translations and not making the effort to learn the language, or at least plugging slowly away with a dictionary (which is what we do with French newspapers).

It could be argued that so much of a writer's art lies in the language they choose that translations will only ever be a pale shadow of the original, and why should a non-English / American author be forced to bow to the cultural imperialism of the English language in order to be read more widely? Shouldn't a reader who properly values their work be prepared to make an effort to read it as it was originally intended to be read?

But I tried learning Icelandic when I was about 14 and didn't get very far, so I'll take the translations, thank you very much!

Andy

Anonymous said...

When I was in Reykjavik, last october, I went to the famous book store downtown in Austurstraeti street and I bought the book "the sagas of the Icelanders" translated into english. I was courious about Iceland history, mythlogy and literature. I just started to read it so can't tell very much about. Up to know I find icelandic history fascinating and "provincial" at the same time, courious combination. Perhaps it's due to the fact of beeing an isolated island, more civilized than the rest of the world.
Maria why dont you post something about that library, people told it was one of the first in Reykjavik is that right?

Best Regards,
Miguel Castillo Holgado
PD : Keep good posting maria... :)

Maria Alva said...

So that's two "yes" votes for reading translated Icelandic literature, but then both Andy and Miguel are "into" the whole Iceland scene already, Andy as a blood relation and Miguel as a recent guest at Iceland Airwaves. Between the two of them, it sounds like quality, lighter-fare local lit is in demand.

Andy, the language issues you mention were definitely addressed at the symposium, with no clear conclusion other than maybe that English-language readers are a little lazy about delving into other languages and cultures.

Miguel, what library are you referring to? The main city library? I've got that linked in my sidebar...

Mike said...

I'd love to read a good Icelandic book in English. I am going to Iceland in ten days and none of the libraries near me has any recent Icelandic literature, though one has got one or two 30-year-old tomes in the reserve collection. What would you recommend that is likely to be available in a good bookshop? Last year I went to Portugal and picked up some Nobel prize winning fiction in translation before I went, which turned out to be so good that I sought out a few more by the same author (Jose Saramango). Maybe I can pull the same trick with Iceland.

L said...

I would love to read a good Icelandic book in English. I am a complete book whore and have never been exposed to any writing from that country.

Sounds like Icelandic lit would be perfect reading for the long, sweltering summers in Florida...

Cy said...

Me Me Me!

Maria Alva said...

Heya Mike. As far as Icelandic lit goes, try to pick up "101 Reykjavik" by Hallgrimur Helgasson, a modern, very culturally hip take on "Hamlet." You should also try to go to your local alt video shop and try to rent the film version. Another book, "Angels of the Universe" is quality stuff, but a bit heavy. I don't really think there's much more readily available in English outside of Iceland, aside from Halldór Laxness, which is definitely thick reading. You should be able to pick up a few things at Mál og Menning, the big bookstore on Laugavegur, the main shopping street.

Hopefully my friend Alda will be pubishing her fiction soon, and of course I've got certain plans of my own to fill the demand for Quality Icelandic Fiction...but more on that later.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I couldn't find Icelandic books translated into English but surprisingly I've got Paraðísarheimt (don't know the English translationfor this) by Halldór Laxness in Spanish (my native language)at a public library in my town and just could'nt believe it! I also tried (in Spanish) "101 Reykjavík" by Hallgrímur Pétursson and "Ancient Icelandic Saga" by Snórri Sturlsson. I wish I could find more Icelandic literature in my country...
Gabriel