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Novel Places’ Translation Event Draws Crowd

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First, I wanted to reach out and thank those who came to the translation reading, including my wonderful book club.  Second, the day began with an incredible baking spree, so I’d like to thank Anna’s daughter for all of her expert assistance.  We spent a great deal of the morning mixing and mashing and baking Danish and Norwegian treats for the readers and the audience.  The recipes I chose were Danish Apple Cake, Danish Butter Cookies, and Norwegian Spice Cookies.  All of these recipes were easy to follow, so we made these easily with a few modifications, such as no cardamom (which is outrageous at $15+ at the supermarket) and no nuts.

We set up a circle of chairs for an intimate reading at Novel Places, put the goodies out at the front table, and waited.  Books were ready and soon too were the poet and the translators.  K.E. Semmel read first from The Caller by Karin Fossum (you may be able to get a translator signed copy if you contact the local bookstore), which he translated for the U.K. market originally before it was published here in the United States.  I think he read just enough to get everyone interested in the Norwegian author’s mystery novel, which he later said offers some of the most harrowing scenes a parent could read.  He also told the audience that he translated both The Caller and Jussi Adler-Olsen’s The Absent One without any direct contact with the authors.  Given that he is well versed in Danish and Norwegian, he didn’t seem to have any problems.

Following a short reading from Semmel (A BIG THANK YOU to Semmel for the video, since my idiot camera died), the floor opened up to Carsten René Nielsen, the Danish poet of House Inspections, and his translator David Keplinger, a poet and director of the American University MFA in Creative Writing program.  Nielsen would read the poem in its original Danish form and then Keplinger would then read the translation.  They read about six poems from House Inspections and one or two poems from a previous collection.

Following each reading, the translators were asked questions about their process and experiences, as well as about what makes a good translation. Keplinger and Nielsen work collaboratively on the poems, with Nielsen sending English literal translations to Keplinger, who does not speak Danish, to fiddle with to make the content, music, and essence of the poem shine through in the English version in the best way possible. Keplinger said that he offers Nielsen a few different options when translating the poems, allowing Nielsen to pick the one he likes best. In terms of “Wistfulness,” Keplinger and Nielsen said it took them a while to capture the meaning of the Danish word properly.  Keplinger said it is just one of the poems in the collection that he can read over and over and never be tired of it.  (Photo at the right:  Danish poet Carsten René Nielsen speaks with audience member Susi Wyss, author of A Civilized World)

It was great to mingle with fellow translation enthusiasts, eat some goodies, buy some books, get some autographs, and chat.  It seemed like the audience, which was mostly my own book club (thanks guys and gals), had a good time and learned some interesting things about translation.  What surprised me the most was that it seemed as though the poetry books may have outsold the fiction thrillers!