Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Don Bartlett: Interview of a Translator (part 2)

Part 1 of the interview with esteemed translator Don Bartlett, can be found here.

EC: I believe you brought Jo Nesbø to UK publishers' attention (for which we are truly grateful). Did you have a hand in bringing K O Dahl to Faber's attention?

DB: I saw Jo (Norwegian), Håkan Nesser (Swedish) and Leif Davidsen (Danish) at a very amusing crime debate in Copenhagen. Afterwards I contacted Jo’s publisher and read everything he had written, so I was ready to enthuse when asked to write a reader’s report. And to give my opinion when Christopher Maclehose was negotiating to buy two books in Oslo. I had heard K O Dahl was being sold to Faber, so I contacted them and applied to be the translator. I had read all of Dahl’s books and was keen.

EC: You mentioned at CrimeFest that you saw Harry as a northerner with a dry sense of humour, how do you characterise the main characters from Dahl and Staalesen's books?

DB: Gunnarstranda and Frølich (Dahl) are two quirky characters, each strong in his own way, not the most coherent team, but effective. Gunnarstranda is widowed, older, grumpy, easily teased by a confident woman. Frølich is single at times, younger, a willing worker, always thinking about sex. You can smile with or at both of them. Varg Veum (Staalesen) is gentle, worldly-wise, divorced, with a strong moral sense. Staalesen is soft hard-boiled crime! Neither author is short of humour.

EC: [The million dollar question] Why do you think Scandinavian crime fiction is so popular in Britain at the moment?

DB: We don’t seem to be overly open to translated fiction in Britain, so this crime wave is a welcome surprise. Some good Scandinavian writers established themselves (Mankell etc) thanks to an enterprising publisher and that created a taste for more. Scandinavia is both exotic and not so very different from here, and it’s modern, hi-tech. The best Scandi crime fiction has a strong sense of place, evocative writing, thinking characters, an interest in the fabric of society and our lives today, the ‘why’ of crime rather than the ‘how’. It has adapted solid models in a relevant, personal way. And, of course, there is a merry band of dedicated crime fiction bloggers at large who tell everyone how good it is.

EC: Are translators more appreciated these days?

DB: Yes, I think things are changing for the better. You only have to look at THE INDEPENDENT reviews to see that. Or crime fiction websites.

To Be Continued...

1 comment:

Ali Karim said...

Great peice Max / Karen - keep up the transcribing [I know how much of a nightmare it is], but if it means anything, I, [like many of us] are enjoying the exchange with Don