photo via AATIA.org
As a translator, Tiina Nunnally has had a long-term relationship with the early 20th-century Norwegian author Sigrid Undset; you may have seen the monster-sized omnibus edition of her translation of Undset’s historical epic Kristin Lavransdatter novels that came out about a decade ago. Around that same time, Nunnally finished a translation of Unset’s first, more contemporary novel, Marta Oulie—but, as she explains, it took her a while to find someone to publish the story of a young woman in Oslo struggling against societal expectations and a confining marriage. As you can see, she was ultimately successful, and here she tells us a bit about why she took such pains to bring this novel to light for English-language readers.
This morning I went to the post office and found a card from my novelist friend Mary, who lives in California. We first met in a book club in Seattle more than twenty years ago, and since then she and I have been discussing books both on the phone and by mail—and yes, we actually still write letters to each other! Last week I sent her a copy of my translation of Sigrid Undset’s Marta Oulie because I know that Mary is a big fan of Undset’s work. And she was definitely excited to get the book. “Imagine,” she said, “until now it did not exist in English!”
And it is surprising that Undset’s first novel (from 1907) has never before appeared in English translation. After all, she won the Nobel Prize in Literature (in 1928), and her epic medieval trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter as well as the four-volume Olav Audunssøn (published in English as The Master of Hestviken) have captivated readers for generations. But many people don’t realize that Undset started her literary career by writing contemporary works. The Swedish Nobel committee even acknowledged the power of Undset’s early novels and short stories by praising her ability to depict modern women “sympathetically but with merciless truthfulness… and [to] convey the evolution of their destinies with the most implacable logic.”
Since Sigrid Undset is one of my all-time favorite authors, I wanted other people to read more of her books—especially her early stories.
10 March 2014 | in translation |
photo via Michael Marshall Smith
When I met British novelist Michael Marshall back in 2009, he told me about the research he was doing for a novel set in New York City. Well, We Are Here is out now, so I asked him to tell us a little bit more about the wandering approach he took to the city as he was putting its story together.
I recently saw a bumper sticker that amused me: “I want to live in a world where chickens don’t have their motivations constantly questioned.” My feelings on research relate less to why fowl traverse thoroughfares, however, and more to the knotty chronological relationship that obtains between them and their storage solutions for developing embryos.
Because when it comes to research, I’m sill not sure if it’s the chicken, or the egg, that comes first.
We Are Here is largely set in New York City. For a long time the city and I remained strangers, with the exception of a week-long visit back in the late 1980s as part of a tour with the Cambridge Footlights. We performed our mannered and carefully-worded undergraduate sketch comedy to the bafflement of tough late night club crowds far more geared up for improv, and spent the rest of our time wandering streets that were, in those days, genuinely rather unnerving.
I didn’t return until the late 2000s, when a sequence of events and a policy of using the city as a hub to other destinations meant I found myself in NYC for anything from three to seven days on an annual basis. It had become somewhat gentrified by then, less openly alarming to the effete North London novelist I had become, and I discovered the truth that everyone else knows—that New York, along with Paris and London, is one of the world’s great triumvirate of cities. A great walking city, too—perfect for an inveterate high-speed flâneur and block-walker like me.
28 February 2014 | guest authors |