Don Bartlett on the Challenges of Translating Nordic Literature

DON BARTLETT is the man responsible for bringing the words of Norwegian and Danish works into English. From his home in Norfolk, he gives us an insight…

Don Bartlett

Originally, I studied German and worked in German-speaking countries. Then, for five years, I studied and worked in Denmark. After a long period of teaching, following my time in Denmark, I wanted to change, so went back to the Danish language and became a translator. I enjoy translating every work, though some works are more difficult than others. I wouldn’t say I have favourites… maybe I’ve just been lucky!

Don’s translations include…

Jo Nesbø

Roy Jacobsen

Karl Ove Knausgård

I only knew one Norwegian well before I started, and work on authors like that become long projects. There are many challenges translators face, and that’s because books vary enormously. But culture, as most translators would agree, is the hardest thing to get right when transposing Scandinavian life to English and the anglophone culture. I would say the book I’m working on at the moment (the fourth in Roy Jacobsen’s Barrøy quartet) is, with this in mind, the most difficult I’ve done yet.

DON BARTLETT is a translator.

This article is a Fika Online exclusive.

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