Revisited a book from last year in translation, purely for the fact that a work friend brought it up in conversation on two different occasions.
“It’s like…amazing. That translator found solutions that weren’t even there to be found.”
Dvärgen came out in 1944, and appeared in English in 1945 in a translation by Alexandra Dick. A year is not a long time to translate a whole novel, especially before the era of word processors and CAT tools and the Internet. Even more astonishing, then, that the translation is good. Or maybe not so astonishing? I suppose I don’t have the ideal frame of reference to make that call. Over seventy years later and this seems to be the only English translation in town. Why mess with perfection?
What struck my coworker was that Dick didn’t really have any other substantial translation career he could uncover beyond that one really good translation, leading him to wonder if it was “some genius on drugs.”
Fortunately, Steve Holland at Bear Alley Books did some fantastic detective work so I don’t have to! Turns out that Dick wasn’t entirely a flash in the pan. (I’d argue she was some kind of genius, and who knows about the drugs.) Her translation career was, indeed, fairly limited, with just Dvärgen and Birger Dahlerus’s autobiography, Sista försöket, to her name (the combination of which invites speculation on her personal anxieties about war and Nazism). Her literary career, on the other hand, was prolific. She put out some two dozen novels from 1937 to 1964—including three in 1944 and one in 1945, coinciding with when she would have presumably been working on Dvärgen. Then, for whatever reason, her writing career ended in 1964, maybe because she was living in Florence and why would you stay shut up indoors to write all day when you live in Florence?
Any review of this, like with the original, is superfluous. Good book, good translation, have at.