For the past few summers, the literary world appears to have been seized by a storm: literature translated from different languages. This summer’s huge hit was a Swedish thriller called The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the third in author Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, and the result was readers coming in by the droves seeking more books of a similar nature. The New York Times even commented on this new phenomenon, for famous Scandinavian bestsellers are only just now being translated into English because of the Millennium trilogy’s success.
For every success, though,
there are thousands more of books in every language that lay untranslated. Three
Percent, a website founded three summers ago, was named thusly because only
about 3% of all books published in the
Also in 2007, Yale first
Margellos World Republic of Letters series, which translates previously
overlooked works from cultures worldwide into English. There are many excellent
books in this series, such as poetry from
Since the current fascination for translated literature leans towards the Scandinavian, readers should know that Swedish authors have more than just crime and mystery novels to offer. Göran Sonnevi’s book of poems, Mozart’s Third Brain, is a collection of his thoughts and surroundings, which are masterfully woven together in a way that makes them come to life with loose, fracture and radiating intensity.
Sonnevi was winner of the 2006 Nordic Council’s Literature prize, and Mozart’s Third Brain, his thirteenth work of poetry, is beautifully rendered in English by award-winning translator Rika Lesser. From politics and current events to mathematics, philosophy, love, ethics and nature, there is little Sonnevi does not address in his long-form poem.
It may seem that we have reached new heights in translating literature, but the storm is still far from reaching its peak. As Edith Grossman, author of Why Translation Matters, puts so aptly, “Translation always helps us to know, to see from a different angle, to attribute new value to what once may have been unfamiliar,” we hope that literature in translation is a trend that stays.