Anna Svärd, the latest addition to Norvik Press’s “Lagerlöf in English” series, is the third and final volume of what is known as the Löwensköld Ring trilogy. The characters from Charlotte Löwensköld, the second book in the trilogy, reappear in this novel, and the curse that has rested upon the Löwenskölds relating to the eponymous ring comes to fulfillment. Anna Svärd focuses on what makes a relationship, and what creates or destroys a family.
As if by design, but in fact entirely by coincidence, the Västanå Theatre group, which performs in Värmland every summer, often but not always putting on bright, musical renditions of Lagerlöf works, will be performing The Löwensköld Ring (Löwensköldska ringen) this summer, beginning on midsummer day and continuing into the autumn.
The story of the Löwensköld family, its secrets and its complications, is both a fine portrait of late nineteenth-century life in Värmland and astonishingly topical in its insights into human behavior, not least gender roles. These were late Lagerlöf works, in fact the last strictly fictional books she wrote, and they reflect a mature and perceptive writer.
For anyone traveling around Sweden this summer, even a non-Swedish speaker, reading the books (or even just the first volume, which I understand will be the focus of the play) in English would surely make it entirely possible to enjoy the performance which, although in Swedish, will be so full of song and dance and excitement that the language might seem almost irrelevant.
This slideshow, although not from this summer’s performance which hasn’t yet opened, gives a good idea of what Västanå’s plays are like. They are performed in a wonderful old barn called Berättarladan, or “Storyteller’s Barn”, beautifully situated just next to the lovely Rottneros Park, well worth a visit, and not far from Selma Lagerlöf’s home Mårbacka, where visitors to the house and grounds can anticipate Norvik’s soon-to-be published translation, by Sarah Death, of Lagerlöf’s somewhat fictionalized memoir of the same name: Wishing all readers and visitors to Sweden a full and satisfying summer.
Linda Schenck, translator
Anna Svärd by Selma Lagerlöf and translated from Swedish by Linda Schenck.
Now available at all good bookstores and online >
A memorial event will be held at UCL on the 17th May 2016 to honour the life and work of Professor Helena Forsås-Scott, a much respected Director at Norvik Press.
Memorial Event for Professor Forsås-Scott Tuesday 17 May 2016, 2-4.30pm
Haldane Room, Wilkins Building
London WC1E 6BT
Helena joined UCL in 1994 and retired in 2010 as Professor of Swedish and Gender Studies. She was a pioneering force in Gender Studies at UCL and a much-loved colleague, supervisor, mentor and teacher in the Department of Scandinavian Studies.
Helena’s major publications include Re-Writing the Script: Gender and Community in Elin Wägner (2009), Gender-Power-Text: Gender and Modernity in Twentieth-Century Scandinavia (2004), Swedish Women’s Writing 1850-1995 (1997) and A Century of Swedish Narrative: Essays in Honour of Karin Petherick (1994).
Helena was a Director of Norvik Press and Editor of the ground-breaking translation series Lagerlöf in English.
Personal reflections During the event there will be short contributions from some of Helena’s friends and colleagues. We would however also like to collate personal reflections from those who knew and admired Helena’s work. If you would like to share your personal reflections on Helena and her work, please email these to firstname.lastname@example.org
Book a place A limited number of spaces will be available for this event so we would kindly ask those who wish to attend to book a place as soon as possible via Eventbrite: Book a Place >
A few months ago, the brilliant Dedalus Books got in touch to request a few examples of our Nordic fiction in translation that could be included in a list surveying literature from, or set in, EU nations.* The complete list was published in The Guardian today. Maybe our intrepid readers will discover something new from an unexpected corner of Europe? The Guardian Bookshop is going to carry a selection of works listed, but you can, as always, find stockists of Norvik Press publications via our website www.norvikpress.com and at many good bookshops, online and offline alike.
*Not EEA nations: so examples of our publications from Norway and Iceland are not included. Our translation of Viivi Luik’s The Beauty of History (trans. Hildi Hawkins) is listed under Latvia, although it’s an Estonian novel, because much of the novel takes place in Latvia.
A large and enthusiastic audience, of whom several had already found time to read the book, gathered for the launch of our first venture into Faroese crime fiction, Walpurgis Tide by Jógvan Isaksen. The panel was introduced by the book’s editor at Norvik Press, Professor Janet Garton. Our chairman was Nordic crime-fiction aficionado Barry Forshaw, who jovially and expertly held the reins in the discussion between the book’s author and its translator John Keithsson. Jógvan Isaksen is a man of many parts who teaches at Copenhagen university and is the author of numerous books, ranging from academic titles to two successful series of crime novels, which are only now starting to be translated into English. He also finds time to take the helm at the Faroe Islands’ leading publishing house. The discussion and audience questions ranged far and wide on topics including Faroese reliance on its traditional whaling and fishing industries, the challenges of translating dialect, the Faroese tendency to live and work abroad, the stark beauty of the landscape, the broadening out of the islands’ publishing industry from more esoteric fare to include popular fiction, and the central importance of the midday radio news in Faroese cultural life.
The author and translator explained why they had chosen to start with the third of the nine books featuring freelance journalist Hannis Martinsson as the main protagonist and pondered on which other books in the series would have appeal for the new, wider readership. Jógvan Isaksen acknowledged Agatha Christie and other Golden Age British crime writers, and American west coast crime from the likes of Hammett and Chandler, as some of his primary sources of inspiration. Parallels were drawn with Icelandic crime fiction; in both small nations, crime rates are very low and murders extremely rare, making the success of the fictionalised crime genre there all the more intriguing. We were lucky enough to have Victoria Cribb, translator of Arnaldur Indridasson and Yrsa Sigurdardóttir, in the audience.
We would like to thank the Faroese Representation in the UK and the Danish Embassy for hosting the event and making us so welcome.
Walpurgis Tide is available at all good bookstores and online>
Norvik Press and the Representation of the Faroes in London cordially invite you to to a wine reception to launch the English translation of the Faroese thriller Walpurgis Tide. Featuring a Q&A with author , translator John Keithsson, and critic Barry Forshaw.
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
6.00 – 7.30 pm
at the Embassy of Denmark
55 Sloane Street
London SW1X 9SR
RSVP to email@example.com
by Wednesday 27 January 2016.
Please note that guests will be required to bring photographic identification to the event.
Walpurgis Tide is available at all good bookstores and online>
Kestin Ekman’s wonderful poem Childhood, now published by Norvik Press as a dual language English/Swedish publication. Translated from Swedish by Rochelle Wright.
Kerstin Ekman is primarily known as a novelist, but she has occasionally turned to free verse, especially when the subject is autobiographical. In 1993-1994, Swedish TV 1 conducted a series of talks with prominent writers under the rubric ‘Seven Boys and Seven Girls’. In place of an ordinary interview, Kerstin Ekman read aloud Barndom (Childhood). The poem, which was published for the first time in Swedish Book Review in 1995, appears here with original photographs kindly provided by the author. The prose passages are quotations from Ekman’s 1988 novel Rövarna i Skuleskogen (The Forest of Hours, transl. Anna Paterson, Chatto & Windus, 1998).
Childhood has a new foreword by Kerstin Ekman, translated by Linda Schenck. The volume also includes a bibliography of critical literature (largely in English) on the author and her work, plus a full list of Ekman titles available in English translation.
This publication was the initiative of Norvik Press director Helena Forsås-Scott, who sadly lost her life to leukemia before the project came to fruition. The book is dedicated to her. Norvik Press will donate the first year’s profit on sales of the publication to the Marie Curie charity in the UK in memory of Helena, who was cared for at the Marie Curie Hospice in Edinburgh in her final days.
Available to purchase from all good bookstores and online >
Norvik Press is looking forward to the forthcoming publication of our translation of Selma Lagerlöf’s Mårbacka. Here is a little about the background to Mårbacka and a preview of a chapter from the book.
The property of Mårbacka in the Swedish province of Värmland went through several incarnations. It was a fairly modest farmhouse when Selma Lagerlöf was growing up there, becoming immersed at her grandmother’s knee in the storytelling that was to be such a central aspect of her own life. Financial difficulties led to the family’s loss of the house, but Lagerlöf, by then an established writer, was later able to buy it back, rebuild it and make it the centre of her world.
Today, the house and gardens at Mårbacka are open to the public in the summer months and attract visitors from all over the world. In the Mårbacka shop they can purchase translations of her work, including titles from the Norvik Press ‘Lagerlöf in English’ series.
Details of all Norvik’s Lagerlöf titles can be found here > Read about today’s Mårbacka >
The book Mårbacka, the first part of a trilogy written in 1922-32, can be read as many different things: memoir, fictionalised autobiography, even as part of Selma Lagerlöf’s myth-making about her own successful career as an author. Soon to be available from Norvik Press in my new translation, it is part family history, part ethnography and folklore, part mischievous satire in the guise of innocent, child’s-eye narration, part declaration of filial love. Above all it is a testimony to the love that the place and its stories and people inspired in Lagerlöf and her nearest and dearest. Its power of attraction can clearly be seen in the taster chapter below, a draft extract from the section at the very heart of the book, ‘Old Buildings and Old People’.
In this season of Nobel Prizes, Norvik Press gratefuly acknowledges funding from the Swedish Academy for the translation of Mårbacka and several of our other Lagerlöf titles. The author herself won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1909. We also thank the Anglo-Swedish Literary Foundation and the Barbro Osher Foundation for recent grants to the Lagerlöf project.
THE RAISED STOREHOUSE
All the old folk on the farm declared with one voice that the building next in age after the stone huts was the old raised storehouse. But it was not built there by the first permanent resident; it had surely come into existence some hundred years after his time, when Mårbacka was turned into a proper farm.
The farmers living there then had presumably put up a raised storehouse as soon as they could, because it was expected that a farm of any importance would have one.
At any rate, it was an extremely modest example of its kind. It was supported on low posts with no form of decoration. The door was low, so you had to stoop to enter. But the lock and key were all the bigger by comparison. They would not have been out of place in a prison.
The storehouse had no windows, only some little openings with shutters. In summer, when they wanted the windows open, they used screens of twigs to keep out the flies. They wove the thin twigs into a lattice, until they had a square big enough to fill the window. Not much light found its way through the gaps, but at least it was not completely dark.
The storehouse had two storeys, and the upper one was much better appointed than the lower. That must have been where the farmers kept their most treasured possessions once upon a time.
It was likely that the storehouse was just the same in Lieutenant Lagerlöf’s time as it had been originally. It might have had a new roof, but other than that it had been left in peace. The staircase was not replaced, even though the steps were so narrow that you could scarcely get your foot on them, and the window openings remained unglazed.
The place looked magnificent in autumn. On the lower floor there were big bins full of freshly milled flour. Beside them stood two vats, full to the brim with pieces of meat and bacon in brine. Alongside these were ranged tubs and buckets of different types of sausage – pork, beef and potato – made after that autumn’s slaughter. Tucked in the corner were a barrel of herring, a cask of salted laveret, another of vendace and usually a firkin of salmon, too; in addition to this there would be pots of salted beans and salted spinach and firkins of yellow and green peas.
On the upper floor stood great tubs of butter, which had been filled over the summer and were to be saved for the winter. Cheeses were ranged in long rows on shelves above the window openings and aged smoked hams hung from the ceiling. The homegrown hops were kept in a sack as big as a bolster, and malted grain in another. A whole year’s supplies were assembled there.
In the food store it was the housekeeper who ruled the roost. The food store was hers, and its key was seldom entrusted to anyone else. Miss Lovisa Lagerlöf might be allowed to preside over the pantry and the milk store, but the housekeeper preferred to go to the storehouse herself.
It was she who reigned over all the proper cooking, too. Making jams and cordials and baking biscuits could be left under Miss Lovisa’s supervision, but if there was a joint to be roasted or cheese to be made or crispbread to be baked, then it was the old housekeeper who would take the lead.
The little ones at Mårbacka had a huge amount of love and unlimited respect for her. In fact it was quite possible that they considered her the person of the highest standing on the whole farm.
After all, the children could observe that whenever relatives came to visit, they would immediately go out into the kitchen to say hello to the housekeeper, and whenever anything of note happened in the family, Lieutenant Lagerlöf would call her in and tell her about it, and when Daniel and Johan were going back to school each new year and autumn, they were always told to go and bid the housekeeper goodbye.
The children also heard strangers say that Mrs Lagerlöf was very fortunate to have such a faithful servant in her kitchen. Nothing in her charge was ever overlooked or neglected.
Nowhere, moreover, was there such Christmas beer, such crispbread and such good cooking to be had as at Mårbacka, and everyone agreed that this was all thanks to the old housekeeper.
So it was no surprise that the children considered her the mainstay of everything. They firmly believed that without the housekeeper, everything would go wrong at Mårbacka.
But one day, little Anna Lagerlöf discovered a secret she found really alarming. She could not bear it alone, but had to tell her sister Selma that she had overheard two of the maids talking as if the housekeeper were married and had a husband.
There is no describing how much this troubled the two little girls. For if the housekeeper was married and had a husband, they could not be at all sure of keeping her at Mårbacka, could they?
How would it be for their mother, who relied so much on her excellent help? And how would it be for them, accustomed as they were to her giving them some tasty little treat each time they went into the kitchen? And how would it be for the whole farm?
It was vital that they find out the truth of the matter. They agreed to ask Nanny Maja, the new nurserymaid, if the housekeeper could possibly be married.
Well, Nanny Maja knew the whole story. She had heard it from her mother, who had been in service at Mårbacka at the very time it all happened.
It was the honest truth, though until then the children had never heard a word about the housekeeper’s marriage. And her husband was alive and living in Karlstad, where he was a carpenter. So he was not even conveniently dead.
And this was supposedly how it came about: when the lieutenant and his brother went off to school in Karlstad, old Mrs Lagerlöf sent with them her faithful housekeeper Maja Persdotter, to take care of the boys and cook their meals. There in the town she made the acquaintance of a carpenter, who proposed to her.
And Nanny Maja’s mother said that the spring the housekeeper came home and told her mistress she was getting married, the old lady was downcast and fearful, for she realised she would be losing her greatest treasure. ‘And what sort of husband are you to marry, Maja?’ she enquired. ‘Do you know him to be a good man?’
Oh yes, she had assured herself of that. He was a master carpenter with his own workshop and his own house. He had put his home in order so that they could marry at once, and he would make the best of husbands.
‘But how can you possibly feel at home there, in the barren streets of a town,’ said old Mrs Lagerlöf, ‘as someone who has spent her whole life in the countryside?’
Oh, that did not worry her either. Things would be so good for her from now on. She would be able to live such an easy life and would not have to bake or brew but could simply go to the market and buy everything she needed at home for the housekeeping.
When old Mrs Lagerlöf heard her talking like that she realised the housekeeper had been seized by the urge to get married and there was nothing to do but prepare for the wedding. And the wedding was held at Mårbacka, the bridegroom came and appeared to be a wise and able fellow, and the day after the wedding he travelled to Karlstad with his bride.
But a fortnight later, or perhaps it was scarcely even that long, Mrs Lagerlöf took up the key to the food store to go out and carve some ham for the evening meal. And she never took up that storehouse key without thinking of Maja Persdotter and wondering how she was getting on. ‘If only I had not sent her to Karlstad, then she would not have met the carpenter,’ she thought, ‘and I would still have my excellent assistant and would not need to run to the food store twenty times a day, as I have to now.’
Just as she was about to enter the storehouse, she happened to glance towards the avenue and the road, for there was an unobstructed view in those days. And she was rooted to the spot, for who should be approaching beneath the birches but someone so like Maja Persdotter, her faithful helpmeet and servant ever since her young days, that the storehouse key fell from her hand.
The nearer the stranger came, the more her doubt faded. And when the woman stopped in front of her and said ‘Good evening, ma’am,’ she could not but believe her own eyes.
‘Why, it’s you, Maja Persdotter!’ she said. ‘Whatever are you doing here? Have you not got a fine husband?’
‘He does nothing but drink,’ replied the housekeeper. ‘He’s been drunk every day since we got married. He drinks the pure alcohol he uses for his work. Such a ne’er-do-well is too much to bear.’
‘But I imagined you would have nothing to do but go to the market and buy everything you needed and be spared all that work?’ said Mrs Lagerlöf.
‘Honoured mistress, I promise to coddle and care for you, if only you’ll let me return home again,’ said the housekeeper. ‘I’ve been longing to come back to Mårbacka day and night.’
‘Come in then, so we can talk to your master about this,’ said the old lady, and she was so happy by this point that there were tears in her eyes. ‘And by the grace of God we shall never again be parted in this life,’ she added.
And so it proved. The housekeeper stayed at Mårbacka. Her husband must have realised that it was not worth trying to coax her back. He never came to get her, but let her stay where she was. She removed her wedding ring from her finger and put it in her clothes chest, and the matter was never spoken of again.
Lieutenant Lagerlöf’s young daughters should have been reassured once they heard all this, but they remained anxious for a long time afterwards. After all, with the carpenter still being alive, what was to stop him turning up one day to order his wife back? And whenever they found themselves by the storehouse where they had an unobstructed view up to the road, they always expected to see him coming. Nanny Maja had told them that if he came and demanded his wife back, she would have to go with him.
They did not really know how old the housekeeper was. She had forgotten what year she was born and the date recorded in the church registers was said to be wrong. Now she was over seventy, but the carpenter might want her back with him even so, outstanding woman that she was.
Norvik Press is deeply saddened to hear the news of the death, after a short illness, of Professor Helena Forsås-Scott, one of our Directors and founder and Editor of our translation series Lagerlöf in English. Helena joined UCL in 1994 and retired in 2010 as Professor of Swedish and Gender Studies. Helena was a pioneering force in Gender Studies at UCL and a much-loved colleague, supervisor, mentor and teacher in the Department of Scandinavian Studies. Her major publications include Re-Writing the Script: Gender and Community in Elin Wägner (2009), Gender-Power-Text: Gender and Modernity in Twentieth-Century Scandinavia (2004), Swedish Women’s Writing 1850-1995 (1997) and A Century of Swedish Narrative: Essays in Honour of Karin Petherick (1994).
“a distinguished novel by one of Denmark’s foremost writers … compellingly readable” Paul Binding, Times Literary Supplement
Norvik Press is looking forward to hearing Helen Cross discuss The God of Chance by Kirsten Thorup on BBC Radio4’s program A Good Read on July 16 at 4.30pm.
The God of Chance focuses on the relationship between Ana, a high-flying Danish career woman from the international finance sector whose work is her life, and the young teenager Mariama, two women whose circumstances are completely different. Ana first meets Mariama selling snacks on a beach in Gambia, and the girl gradually becomes a substitute for the family she has never had. The novel moves to Copenhagen and then to London as Ana brings Mariama to Europe to be educated; the girl finds the cultural shock and living with Ana intensely difficult, whilst Ana’s obsession with her leads to her own carefully controlled life descending into chaos.
Translated by Janet Garton for Norvik Press in 2014, The God of Chance was originally published in Danish in 2011 and is the latest by the prize-winning Danish author Kirsten Thorup. She is well known for her series of four novels about little Jonna from the provinces, which are also about growing up into the rapidly-changing Danish society of the late twentieth century; and Bonsai (2000), an unflinching account of the scourge of Aids and its devastating effect on an ordinary family.
If you would like to purchase a copy it is available online and in all good bookstores.
Join us in Soho on Tuesday May 5th, 6-7.30pm, for the launch of Klaus Rifbjerg’s Terminal Innocence. Featuring translator Paul Larkin and Dr Mikkel Bruun Zangenberg, Danish literary critic and Lecturer at the University of Kent at Canterbury. Paul and Mikkel will be in conversation, telling us all about Rifbjerg’s role in twentieth-century Danish literature, and discussing the perils and pleasures of translating a novel that has been described as the Danish Catcher in the Rye. Light refreshments and light entertainment from the 1940s supplied.