Highlights from NORLA’s translators conference at Holmen, 14-16 May 2014

At NORLA’s international translators conference on 14-16 May, 150 translators representing 35 different languages outside the Nordic region and some 100 Norwegian authors, speakers, publishers, agents and industry professionals were convened. The conference was an enthusiastic convocation on the subject of the translation of Norwegian literature for three event-packed days at the Holmen fjordhotell outside of Oslo.

The conference was financed by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and it is the second time that NORLA and the Ministry have collaborated on an international conference for translators of Norwegian literature. The last time was in 2009, when 125 translators representing 31 languages attended.

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Opening address by Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende

Opening address by Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende and prologue by author Erik Fosnes Hansen
The conference was officially opened by the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende on Wednesday 14 May, who referred to translators as “important foreign policy representatives for Norway”, because “the impact of good literature can be more powerful and more long-term than political resolutions.” Brende emphasised that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Norwegian government, indeed, all of Norway is immensely appreciative of the work translators do for literature and for Norwegian interests abroad.

Read Børge Brende’s opening address (in Norwegian) here.

Erik Fosnes Hansen held a prologue paying homage to the translator as the author’s “voice” in the world, and described the humbling experience through which a young and internationally acclaimed author came to understand that the most important thing is to thank his translator for his success abroad.

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Erik Fosnes Hansen greeted the translators with an eloquent prologue

A veritable festival of literature
NORLA’s translators conference was of a scope comparable to a good festival of literature. Participants had the chance to choose from between no less than 70 seminars, workshops and lectures – enabling in-depth immersion in Norwegian literature and culture through meetings with authors, speakers and the Norwegian publishing industry.

Topics ranged from everything from the situation of the Norwegian language to stylistics; from new Norwegian drama to nursery rhymes, picture books and the creation of comic books; from the universe of children and childhood in literature to a historical retrospective on the role of the father.

Abundant programme
There were seminars about contemporary poetry and the short story, non-fiction for children and adolescents, and national reference works, about translating humour, and Norwegians’ relationship to nature.

Beyond this, New Norwegian (nynorsk) for dummies and new non-fiction (also the biography and autofiction), different perspectives on Norwegian crime fiction, language use in Norwegian feminism and “pitching” – how to sell a book to a publisher.

Several of the translators also contributed professional translation expertise by leading popular and well-attended seminars, where (hard-won) practical experiences were shared on the subjects of how to translate profanity or incorporate culturally specific information in literary translations.

There were seminars about translation and adaptation – and about the translator as a disseminator of literature. One seminar was on the subject of “my life as a translator” and another about Norwegian sentence structure and verbs: syntax, hypotaxis, and parataxis. There were also seminars about translating Norwegian dialects and the translation of physical depictions of people and places.

Strengthening ties between the Norwegian book industry and translators
The translators also had the opportunity to meet many authors, which contributed to giving the translators a strong sense of their work of bringing Norwegian literature out into the world being greatly valued.

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Herbjørg Wassmo

The translators also had the chance to meet Norwegian agents and publishers at a lively and productive agent café where the network of the Norwegian book industry and the translators was strengthened, and a high-tempo exchange of book-related information took place.

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The agent's café was a buzzing success! Photo: Ebba D. Drolshagen

At NORLA we are certain in our knowledge that the conference will have strong, positive effects, in the short and long term, for Norwegian literature abroad.
For the translators are the most important ambassadors for Norwegian literature worldwide!

Do you understand Norwegian?
During the conference the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, NRK, made a series of short interviews with some of the translators who participated. We reccomend listening to the translators’ interesting stories and hear how they all ended up as translators of Norwegian literature here.