Friday, April 13, 2007

Swedish Government Commits Literary Suicide

The Swedish Insitute in Stockholm has announced that they are cutting off all subsidies for literary translation of Swedish literature effective immediately.
For the past two years, there has been a great deal of wrangling within various departments of the Swedish government as to which department should pay for literary translation subsidies.
It seems that the Swedes have decided the best way to settle the matter is to cut off all subsidies entirely, making Sweden one of the few European governments to have no support of its national literature abroad, except for what the market can carry on its own.
Luckily for Sweden, they have a number of renowned mystery authors to carry the Swedish flag on the international scene for the time being.
It also appears that the Swedish government is unaware of market forces on the translator's end of the deal. From underpaid to unpaid is a great leap backward, and many translators of Swedish here in the United States at least are also quite good at translating Norwegian, Danish and German. All of these countries are strong about their national literature and support translators well.
In an article in Svenska Dagbladet, it appears that the present director of the Swedish Institute was under the impression that the subsidy went to advertising and marketing, and was not the base pay of the translator. How uninformed can a person be?
As a Swedish-American, I am ashamed of this lack of pride in the national literature, and as an American, I am ashamed of the lack of support for foreign literatures in general which would perhaps have made this question moot. But if neither the Americans nor the Swedes want to pay for Swedish literature to be translated into English or other languages, why should we the translator have to do the work for free? Even an idealistic translator with a Ph D has a rather nasty habit of eating, and some of us must even feed children on what we earn. As I've said, thank God for mysteries, or yours truly would have already left this profession years ago.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting blog. Here's my translation blog: