Meeting between a Swedish publisher and a French translator during the launch event in Paris. Photo: Ingrid HellerMeeting between a Swedish publisher and a French translator during the launch event in Paris. Photo: Ingrid HellerMeeting between a Swedish publisher and a French translator during the launch event in Paris. Photo: Ingrid Heller

Meeting between a Swedish publisher and a French translator during the launch event in Paris.

Launch of Swedish literature site in French

To increase the interest in Swedish literature in France and facilitate finding translators for publishers. This is the objective of the website that the Swedish Institute in Paris introduced in May 2019, with support from the Swedish Arts Council. In connection to the release of the site, a full day for translators, French publishers, and Swedish agents was arranged in Paris.

In recent years, French translations of Swedish literature has decreased. This is something the Swedish Institute in Paris wants to change.

- The objective of this venture is for more Swedish quality literature to be published in France. The site is a platform where French publishers can find translators as well as new Swedish literature they would not otherwise have found. In addition, translators get the opportunity to present literature they read and would like to translate, as well as present themselves and get in contact with the French publishing houses, says Aino Höglund, project coordinator for the site, working at the Swedish Institute in Paris.

Seal of approval

The work on the site began during fall 2018 and took nine months – all in all – from idea to introduction. In addition to the presentation of translators and book tips, the site includes opportunities for publishers to order sample translations of presented works. Editorial staff, consisting of experienced translators, read the sample translations, provided by different translators, and function as quality reviewers.

- To get your text published on the site is a seal of approval, not the least for translators lacking long-time experience, wanting to show off their work, Aino says.

Following the introduction, the response from translators and French publishers has been good.

- I hope that publishers will use the site and that we, as translators, continue to contribute texts. It feels reassuring that the Swedish Arts Council and the Swedish institute understands the work we perform as translators, that we are not just translating, but do our homework regarding what is currently written in Sweden, says the translator Marianne Ségol-Samoy. She has worked as a translator from Swedish to French for many years and is specialised in contemporary literature and new drama. 

Broaden the themes

Marianne feels that there is an interest for Swedish literature in France and that more Swedish titles may contribute to broaden the themes.

- When it comes to novels, I would say that feminism is quite visible in Swedish literature right now. And I don’t mean the theme itself, but that feminism permeates the authors’ voices and way of writing – it is something of a novelty in France, she says.

The French publisher Laurence Bourgeon, from the Cambourakis publishing house feels the same. The publishing house is particularly focused on literature for children, and Laurence means that Swedish titles often contain different themes compared to the French.

- Recently we published Gropen by Emma Adbåge and it worked really well. She’s got a way of studying the everyday life and of representing the mentality of the universe of the children, even its cruelties and things that are not usually represented in French children’s books. For example, there is no taboo with the representation of bodies. The parents can be just normal, some are big, some are thin, but they are all as they are, says Laurence.

Another thing that we’ve noticed in Swedish books is that - even if it’s not the principle thematic - black characters are here, just because it’s normal in the everyday life. Even if he’s not the main character he is here among others and that’s really important. This thematic of gender, race and feminism may seem a little bit political but it’s important to transmit it to children from the beginning.

More information

Check out the website about Swedish literature in French here.

Littérature suédoise

Voices from the seminar 

Here you can see a few video clips with some of the participants in the translator seminar that was arranged in connection to the release of the site in Paris in May 2019.

Short interview with Aino Höglund, Swedish Institute in Paris.

Short interview with the French publisher Laurence Bourgeon from Cambourakis publishing house.