Self-translating: Linking Languages, Literary Traditions and Cultural Spheres

Grönstrand, Heidi
May 2014
Collegium;2014, Vol. 15, p116
Academic Journal
Self-translation, which is when an author translates his or her own texts and the outcome is two (or more) distinct works speaking to two (or more) different audiences, provides a useful insight into transnationalism and border-crossings, which are phenomena that operate outside the national, monolingual paradigm. Self-translation is regarded as a kind of border-zone activity that reorganises the relationships between languages and literary traditions, challenging the monolingual assumptions of the literary institution and literary history writing, which have been important in the construction of the modern nation-state. This is also the case in Finland where the literary institution and traditions have been defined by language despite the fact that Finland has two official languages, Finnish and Swedish. By looking more closely at the self-translations of two Finnish authors, Kersti Bergroth (1886-1975) and Henrik Tikkanen (1924-1984), and the strategies that are used in their texts in order to engage simultaneously in two languages, cultural spheres, and literary traditions, I discuss self-translation as an interpretive task that attempts to negotiate complex cultural equations that are subject to the changing fortunes of time and place. The analysis focuses on texts by Bergroth and Tikkanen that depict war, on their intersections and overlaps, showing that self-translations link Finnish and Swedish-speaking language groups and literary traditions.


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