Bannlyst is one of Selma Lagerlöf’s most thought-provoking works, and the latest addition to our Lagerlöf in English series, translated by Linda Schenk as Banished.
Lagerlöf was a hugely popular writer in her time, but the publication of Bannlyst in 1918 cost her a great deal of anxiety for two reasons. First of all, she had been suffering from a writer’s block that made it harder for her than usual to be creative and finish her project; and secondly, the theme of her new novel was highly controversial. Because of the time in which this novel was written, namely during World War 1, and the fact that Lagerlöf was a committed pacifist, she wanted to write something to raise the public’s morale. Her aim was to make people aware of the double standard existing in war times that allows killing to be viewed as permissible and let death trump the value of life. War is terrible and should not be glorified. So to make her point, Lagerlöf wrote a story about a polar expedition gone awry and about cannibalism. Is eating a dead man in order to preserve life the worst thing you can do?
Banished is split into three parts, each of which concerns matters of life and death. The first part is about the hero of the story, the explorer Sven Elvesson, and his dilemma as to whether to consume the corpse of his companion or become a corpse himself. His past follows him back to his home village on Grimsön, where he faces judgement and aversion when the truth about what happened during the polar expedition is revealed. The second part of the novel concerns the abusive marriage of the beautiful Sigrun and the local minister Edvard Rhånge. Edvard’s poisonous jealousy is harmful, and Sigrun needs to be cunning and wilful in her struggle for survival and freedom. In the third and final part, the people of Grimsö are forced to open their eyes to reality as they encounter a myriad of dead sailors in the sea after the Battle of Jutland. It is one of the book’s most memorable passages and can be counted among the most powerful literary responses to war in the twentieth century. Read an extract here.
Banished is a thematic heavyweight that unfortunately never seems to lose its relevance. We do not have to look far nowadays to find the glorification of war. Lagerlöf encourages us to take a stand against heinous acts of violence and killing and teaches us that human life is sacrosanct.
Norvik Press is proud to announce the upcoming publication of the English-language version of Ilmar Taska’s Pobeda 1946. This Estonian novel received critical acclaim when it was first published last year. It has already been translated into Finnish, German and Latvian, and Lithuanian and Danish versions are forthcoming. Norvik Press will release Christopher Moseley’s English-language translation, titled Pobeda 1946 – A Car Called Victory, in early spring 2018. Both Norvik Press and the translator have been awarded grants from the TRADUCTA programme, which supports high-quality translations of Estonian works.
Pobeda 1946 is a historical narrative set in Estonia under Soviet occupation. Secrets and mystery dominate – reflecting the covert behaviour of an oppressed people. At the centre of the story there is a young boy, too young to grasp all the things happening in the adult world around him, who unwittingly reveals a family secret to the kind of person in whom you should never confide – a government agent.
Ilmar Taska, the author of Pobeda 1946, is a well-known name in Estonia, but he has also been active beyond the borders of his own country, working in film, theatre and television in the UK and Sweden, amongst others. In addition to producing, directing and writing for the screen, Taska has also ventured into short-story writing in recent years. In 2014, Taska’s novella ‘Pobeda’ won the Estonian literary prize ‘Looming’ in the short-story category, and the following year, his story ‘Apartment to Let’, was included in the prestigious anthology Best European Fiction 2016, edited by Nathaniel Davis. Pobeda 1946 is Taska’s debut novel.
Norvik Press is delighted to introduce Taska’s novel to an English-language audience, especially as the London Book Fair 2018 will be shining a spotlight on Baltic literature. We at Norvik Press are mesmerised by Taska’s book, and will be excited and intrigued to see what other treasures the Baltic region has to offer.
We are happy to announce that Mårbacka has been longlisted for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation. This novel by Selma Lagerlöf (originally published in 1922) was translated by Sarah Death and published by Norvik Press in 2016. We are thrilled that the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation is shedding light on more female voices, as the new prize aims to increase the translations of female international authors and thus make them more accessible to a British and Irish readership.
If you have not read Mårbacka, it is the story of Lagerlöf’s childhood at their family farm Mårbacka in Värmland. It is a warm and personal pseudo-autobiography; Lagerlöf writes about true stories from her upbringing, but she does so with her recognisable artistic pen. The novel is written in a naïve style as the story unfolds through a young Selma. Nonetheless, it contains a dual complexity because the wiser, more grown-up author lets the reader be aware of things that the child Selma herself cannot know. As Sarah Death puts it in her afterword: ‘In many ways [Lagerlöf’s] portrayal of her childhood in Mårbacka is bathed in a rosy glow, but she hints at the shadows (…).’ This proved to be a recipe for success, and when it was first published, Mårbacka won the heart of the reading audience like none of Lagerlöf’s work had done before.
We at Norvik Press are very happy that Lagerlöf is still a relevant voice. We love her authorship and have published many translations of her works. Our forthcoming titles in the series are The Emperor of Portugallia [Kejsarn av Portugallien] and Banished [Bannlyst].