Category Archives: Languages

Well, we’re here, anyway

Have safely arrived at Holiday Bookwitch Towers, and it is still standing. Every time I have this irrational thought that maybe we shouldn’t buy food on the way, in case the house, and thereby the fridge, has somehow perished while we weren’t looking. But then I tell myself it’s better to have the food, regardless. With or without a house with a fridge.

Our airline wanted us to accept payment not to fly. We said that while we could see why they were asking, we had so many commitments that we really couldn’t agree. I suppose they got someone else to sacrifice themselves.

I spent the flight reading a new book, which I’ll be telling you about soon. I always travel with at least two in my hand luggage, in case one is a dud. This one wasn’t the slightest dud-like.

We drove over The Bridge. Not a corpse in sight, but then I had my eyes closed, which might be why. The Resident IT Consultant asked if I’d never driven across in that direction before, and if I could manage. I pointed out that I was perfectly capable of shutting my eyes in either direction, and that I’d be fine.

Then we stopped and had pizza at Bjärreds Pizzeria. It was lovely! Both the place and the pizza. Just the right blend of Swedish corner/village pizzeria feel. We’d decided we needed to stop for a feed soon after The Bridge, and I had instructed the Resident IT Consultant in advance to search online for a small village just off the motorway; one that was bound to have a traditional takeaway pizza place with a few tables outside.

And when they gave me my change back on paying, they pointed out I was getting one of the lovely new twenties, featuring none other than Astrid Lindgren. So that was pretty topical too. As Son said earlier, it’s a shame Astrid gave the boot to Selma Lagerlöf, but I suppose one token female is all you get on bank notes.

Since the fridge was still operational when we turned up with milk and Turkish yoghurt (I’m investigating how it differs from Greek), all was well.

(And, erm, it’s Mother’s Day. The Resident IT Consultant pointed out I’m not his mother, so I’m guessing there will be no secret walk in the woods to pick lilies of the valley. Or a cake decorated with Turkish yoghurt and strawberries… I don’t really do Mother’s Day, and this way I get to not do it twice; once for each country I’m in.)

Into Swedish

Stephen Booth, Bron

I read in the paper that Swedish is one of the biggest sources for books translated into English. That’s good, but I also like for books to travel the other way. And generally I feel it’s not that unusual, as Swedes like their Anglo-Saxon fiction, and authors like Stephen Booth find that their first translation is into Swedish.

But then there are the books by people I love who don’t get to make the move and it irritates me. I’m quite good at griping about it. Sometimes it helps, but generally not. The one I go on about the most is Adrian McKinty. Not only are his books terrific, but I reckon that his Sean Duffy series especially would appeal greatly to Swedes.

Adrian McKinty, Kall, Kall Jord

So I was pleased to get a comment on Swedish Bookwitch a week or so ago, on an old post about my interview with Adrian. It was from Nils Larsson, a translator, who told me he was about to start work on the first Duffy book. I looked him up, and he has translated a lot of crime, lots of big names, for thirty years or so. That sounds like recommendation enough.

The publisher is Modernista, and I looked them up too, as I’d never heard of them. That was more interesting than I’d expected. The first links you come to are all about how they annoy everyone else in the business by buying the translation rights to books they don’t have the publication rights for.

That sounded odd, and I don’t lay claim to understanding it, except it seems strange, bordering on the dodgy. They say it’s perfectly all right and that they are very helpful, while their opponents say the opposite. As they would.

James Oswald, Bödelns Sång

Hopefully they are nice and normal most of the time, and simply publish books like anyone else. I had a look at their list and found another favourite of mine; James Oswald. They have three of his books out now, and by sheer coincidence James posted a photo of his latest Swedish translation on Facebook just as I had discovered this new-to-me publisher. James told me that he’d had some contact with his Swedish translator about various timeline inconsistencies that no one else had noticed. He says we are very literal-minded… Bödelns Sång is published this week.

Adrian McKinty’s Kall, Kall Jord won’t be out until October, but anything that good is worth waiting for.

Sven Nordqvist is 70 today

And so is ‘his’ King. But never mind that little coincidence.

Do you remember Sven Nordqvist? Creator of Pettson and Findus, the cranky old man with the cunning – but kind – cat. I’m a bit surprised he is that old, to be honest, but like many Swedes he has aged well.

I like Pettson. And, all right, I like Findus, too. And Sven has a past in my old home town, so I feel sort of at home with him as well, and that crankiness is something I can sympathise with.

His famous characters first appeared 33 years ago, well before I required any picture books with lots of words for any Offspring, and had we not been given a copy by someone who knew what we were missing, we might never have been introduced. After all, who does not like pancake cake? (And when I make it, if I do, I don’t have to deal with hens and other complications first.)

Sven Nordqvist, photo by Leif R Jansson, for TT

Somewhat surprisingly he lives in a flat in the middle of Stockholm. You’d think he’d be hiding out in the wilderness, behind those clucking hens and other creatures.

And it seems that while Sven likes praise as much as the next illustrator of opinionated cats, he gets so much of it from people like me (that’s old and keen bookish females), that it no longer registers. He prefers to hear it from young readers.

According to an article in Hallandsposten the other day, these days Sven mainly works on what pleases him; drawing for himself.

I suppose today he could always pop over to the Palace with some freshly made pancakes.

Stirling goings-on

The Bookbug Week‘s flagship event will this year take place only a mile or so away from Bookwitch Towers. Scottish Book Trust’s annual book week for young readers runs from May 16th for a week, kicking off at Bannockburn with a day of, I think, poetry and stuff.

Bookbug

The rest of the programme happens all over Scotland, and the theme this year is international. Songs and rhymes from around the world.

This tallies with what you find in the programme for Stirling’s own Off the Page where, surprisingly, they offer both a German Bookbug session, as well as a bilingual event or two.

You can also do colouring in and design your own coat of arms, along with attending a teddy bear’s picnic. At the other end of the age scale (or so I imagine) is a vintage reminiscence tea party, which sounds really very nice. Except I hope I am not old enough for that sort of thing yet.

Somewhere there are dragons.

In schools (they have all the luck!) you might find Chae Strathie, Janis Mackay, Kirkland Ciccone, Alex Nye, Ross MacKenzie and Mairi Hedderwick.

But despair not, Mairi Hedderwick is also doing a public event. Maybe even two. This ten-day long festival starts on May 6th, and other public children’s events offer Lari Don and Nick Sharratt.

Helen MacKinven, whom I met at Yay!YA+ last week is also doing an event. As are several of the big names in Scottish crime, such as Lin Anderson, Helen Fitzgerald, Denise Mina and Caro Ramsay.

There are many more events and many more authors. And much upset on my part because I will not be going to any of these… The more attractive the event, the less convenient the date (for me).

Another Hamlet

Something, I forget what, made me remember the other Hamlet. I think of him every now and then, and I blogged about him once before:

‘Swedes have long admired the British for their wit. The English department at Gothenburg employed several such witty Englishmen to dazzle the Swedish students with their Englishness. They were usually called David something-or-other.

The short Hamlet was written by David Wright while he was still at school, if I remember correctly. He provided us students with copies of his admirably brief play, which was very funny, primarily because everything had to happen with such speed. I may still have it somewhere.’

I read through it again, and maybe it’s not the work of a genius. With added maturity I can see it’s more schoolboy wit, but still. It’s English schoolboy wit rather than Swedish. Not saying they are better. Just different.

The grown David Wright was amusing and entertaining too. I’d happily have gone to his lessons just for the fun of it.

At that time one of our set books was Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. For someone as witty as Tom Stoppard (I must have been collecting them at the time!), I seem to recall that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern struck me as more boring than expected. Perhaps it’s just me. I might have a Hamlet block somewhere.

Dessi and me

At least I have heard of William Shakespeare. I’ve read [some of] his dramas and I have seen [a few more of] them in the theatre. But I am woefully un-educated when it comes to the bard. Say Othello and I can’t necessarily name who else is in there with him. Although I am currently reading Malorie Blackman’s new novel, Chasing the Stars, which is set in space and based on Othello. And I read and loved Exposure by Mal Peet, which was about a footballer and also based on Othello.

It seems he has been a favourite with quite a few.

I know Dessi, of course. Short for Desdemona. I had only just learned to read when I had to ask Mother-of-witch who this Sharkers-peh-a-reh might be. He turns up on page one of Kastrullresan by Edith Unnerstad, if memory serves me right. It’s about the Larsson family and their seven children. The mother is a former Shakespeare actress, who wanted to name all her children after his characters.

The kind and sensible father manages to negotiate the right to name the boys, of which they have three; Lasse, Knutte and Pysen [Patrik, really]. Lasse is the book’s narrator and is most relieved not to be called Hamlet or Othello. You can see how that would have cramped your style back in the 1950s, in Sweden.

Edith Unnerstad, Kastrullresan

Ophelia is the mother’s favoured name, but her husband manages to negotiate away from that for a good many years, until the fourth girl and seventh child arrives and his defenses are low. So Ofelia she is, but always known as Little O.

The eldest is a girl called Desdemona, but is Dessi for short. I always used to think that was so cool, and I’d have a child and call her that. (I didn’t. Call her Desdemona, I mean.) Girl and child no. two is Miranda, called Mirre. I liked that too. The third is Rosalinda, and for some reason that’s also what people call her.

Then came the boringly named boys, and finally little Ofelia.

The thing is, I was so young, and knew nothing about Shakespeare, so I thought all the names were perfectly acceptable and normal, albeit previously unheard of by me.

It was a lovely book, and the plot is all about the father’s invention of a triple saucepan that whistles loudly when dinner is ready, and the sad fact that with seven children their tiny (two-bed?) flat is too small for them. So the father builds a couple of caravans on top of two horse-drawn carts, hitches up the two sturdy horses from the local brewery (can’t remember how they got the horses, except Rosalinda loves them…), and the family set off to visit the children’s aunt in another town, where they eventually settle down and live happily ever after.

And that was my introduction to dear old Will and his characters. Sort of.

Well, what a surprise!

What surprises me is that people are surprised. The Resident IT Consultant discovered an online Guardian article about foreign students at the University of Stirling. He found it interesting, and was only marginally disgusted by its accompanying photo, of a red London bus on Westminster Bridge in London. I thought that was the kind of rookie mistake made by foreigners, not Guardian editors.

So students come over here expecting it to be pretty much like it was at home. And it is, if you’re European. Sort of. It will be almost the same, unlike how it is for those from much further afield. But it will still be different. I believe that even somewhere small like Malta has ‘regional’ differences, and Sweden obviously has them, as does the UK. You can generally go somewhere in your own country where they eat funny food and speak in a way that forces you to ask again.

But then the natives that these students lived and studied with were also a bit odd, not grasping that a foreigner won’t know everything; that in their country they might not have (oh horror of horrors!) mince pies. The foreigner might politely decline eating them for years, believing the pies to be meaty (well, they were, originally). So you could explain a few things. And you, the visitor, could ask a few more questions.

I do agree with this article’s findings on [Stirling] public transport. It is very hard to find out about tickets and routes and all the rest.

As for what you wear when you go out, and whether that night out starts or ends at three am, is another matter. Ask. Adapt. Or avoid. By all means, be disappointed by the lack of your favourite food in the new place, if you must.

Having a favourite Blue Peter presenter is something else, however, covered in this article on not being quite the same as others. The half this, half something else. I have two of those myself, and whereas Offspring fit in best in Britain, they are not as ‘normal’ as those who are completely home made. Nor do they fit 100% in the other place.

I can talk Blue Peter reasonably well. Not only did I watch with Offspring for years, but as a student I benefitted from living with the G family, who had a Blue Peter aged child. I never quite got it, but it was a lot easier than Doctor Who.

Basically, though, we are all strange.

Go somewhere else, and see how your normality evaporates. Only a few weeks ago, a mortified Daughter quickly opted to order the Easter Bonnet at the local café, rather than have me continue my interrogation of the waitress as to what it actually was. (She did ask me to ask..!) That was no digestive biscuit, and that was definitely no teacake.

Oh, there is another kind of teacake???

How was I supposed to know?