Kirsti Baggethun - Translator of the Month for December

Kirsti Baggethun is Norwegian, and has translated around 100 books. She started out translating from English and Spanish to Norwegian, but ever since the 90s she has almost exclusively translated from Norwegian to Spanish, in collaboration with Asunción Lorenzo. She has also translated several novels by Jon Fosse, in collaboration with Cristina Gómez Baggethun.

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The apple and the tree? From the right: Kirsti Baggethun and her daughter Cristina Gómez Baggethun.

Kirsti has translated a range of authors, including Knut Hamsun (several of them first time translations), Jostein Gaarder, Dag Solstad, Kjartan Fløgstad, Kjell Askildsen, Linn Ullmann, Karl Ove Knausgård, Vigdis Hjorth, Lars Saabye Christensen and many, many more. For years, she combined translation with being Head of Arts at the Norwegian Embassy in Madrid, as well as working as an Assistant Professor in Norwegian language and literature at the Complutense University of Madrid. Kirsti has lived in Madrid for the last 50 years, but has still got a strong connection to Norway. Her favorite place on earth is Vang in Valdres.

In our interview, we asked her:

What is the best thing about being a translator?

Throughout my work, I have been in close contact with colleagues in Norway, especially thanks to our wonderful translator’s organization (The Norwegian Association of Literary Translators), who invites us to annual meetings and other events throughout the year. Likewise, I am also very fond of NORLA. Oliver has become a good friend over the years, and it is a pleasure to work with the rest of you as well.

As a translator, I have also been given the chance to get to know Norwegian authors, at book presentations, book talks and other great book events – not just in Spain, but also in my paradise, Vang in Valdres. I feel enormously privileged. My whole life I have been able to work with what I love the most: Books, language and culture! And on top of that, my husband and me have managed to produce a daughter – who is also a translator!

What makes an excellent translation stand out from the crowd?

An excellent translation should convey the beauty and uniqueness of the original text, without «interpreting» or accommodate for the reader as if it was written in – in my case – Spanish. On the other hand, the text should not sound ridiculous in translation. In my opinion, the biggest challenge for the translator, is to reproduce the atmosphere and feelings present in the text, even though they might be different to what the reader is used to. If they are different, one shouldn’t try to make them ´similar´, one should rather try to make them more available.

Kirsti b med hjorths bok er mor død
Kirsti with the translation of Vigdis Hjorth’s novel Is Mum Dead.

Read more

Learn more about Kirsti on Books from Norway.

Those of you who understand Norwegian can read Kirsti’s interview in full here.

Other translators interviewed in the Translator of the Month series.