Tracing the transmission of Scandinavian literature to the UK: 1917-2017
Giles, Ian Oscar Alexander
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The interest in understanding how books move from a Scandinavian source culture to the British target culture has never been greater. This thesis analyses this buoyant demand by tracing the transmission of Scandinavian literature to Britain and its relationship with the British literary market over the past century. Through a series of case studies, the thesis examines what influences the likelihood of transmission and successful reception in Britain; the position of Scandinavian books in the British literary polysystem; how the transmission of Scandinavian books to Britain differs from the transmission to other polysystems; and how the publication practices of translated books have evolved. This approach is supported by an interdisciplinary framework encompassing translation, literary and sociocultural theories: key theoretical strands utilised are Holmes’ theory of function-oriented Descriptive Translation Studies, Even-Zohar’s polysystem theory, and Heilbron’s sociology of translation. In addition, elements of book history and patronage theory are also applied. The thesis comprises five case studies, spanning the years 1917-2017, of which one is Danish (Peter Høeg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow), two are Norwegian (Knut Hamsun’s Growth of the Soil and Agnar Mykle’s four Ash Burlefoot novels), and two are Swedish (Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Martin Beck decalogy, and Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, now continued by David Lagercrantz). Each of these case studies draws upon a wide range of sources, including newspapers, periodicals, archival materials, interview transcripts, industry statistics, and a range of scholarship, in order to provide comprehensive and contextualised insight into the transmission and reception trajectory of its respective subject, exploring the sociological and literary background to both production and reception. The increasing commercialisation of publishing, and more specifically of translated Scandinavian literature, is explored alongside literary and social changes, with emphasis on the tendency for transmission to be most likely at moments of paradigmatic shift in British society. This is especially reflected in the emergence of genre fiction and hybrid forms of writing during the period in question. Taken in combination, the case studies generate significant and original findings by identifying and analysing overarching trends that cannot be established through examining just one case subject or one source language. They both provide an historical account of Scandinavian literary transmission to Britain during the twentieth and early-twenty- first centuries, and they identify and analyse the significant factors involved in that process. The research offers an enhanced understanding of the contemporary situation of the publication of Scandinavian books in Britain.