Tess McMillan ©2015
For over thirty years, British translators of literary Swedish have enjoyed camaraderie and the advancement of their profession through SELTA, but in North America, translators of Swedish to English had no equivalent group. Tom Geddes, the Secretary of SELTA, asked me if I would consider forming such a group for North Americans, and the two groups could communicate and advance the profession together. This was a daunting request, as North American translators are found scattered throughout a huge geographic area, and previous attempts had not met with success. Perhaps, with the advance of Internet technology, success could now be found, so I decided to take on the task. I believed that if I could find ten persons willing to form a group, I would take that as a sign that this kind of resource was also needed in North America.
I had entered the field of Swedish literary translation almost by accident, and was unaware of how to develop my career, and so I bumped along haphazardly, almost by trial and error. I had an academic education, but little real experience in translation and practically no connections to the translation world or the publishing scene. As I began to publish my translations, I found I could turn to my friend, Paul Norlen, who had made the jump into literary translation a few years earlier. So when Tom Geddes threw me the challenge of forming an association, I turned to Paul first. We decided that this kind of association would have been very helpful to us when we were starting out as translators, and so we decided to go ahead and see what kind of interest there would be. I wrote a note to the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies as well as the American Literary Translators Association and requested that they put in a notice in their respective newsletters that an association for literary translators from Swedish was in the process of forming, hoping that at least ten people would respond.
By March 18th, 2004, not only had ten translators stepped up and expressed their interest, but three people offered to become the acting officers of the Association: Paul Norlen as President, Robert Greer as Vice-President, and Anne-Charlotte Harvey as Officer-at-Large. I decided to serve the group as the Secretary-Treasurer. So on that date, we announced the formation of STiNA, The Association of Swedish Translators of North America. By the end of 2004, the Association had grown to 18 members and had received a grant from the Consulate General of Sweden in New York in order to cover some of the expenses. Our association focused on literary translation, and the members themselves had limited incomes from which to pay dues, so the assistance of the Consulate General was gratefully received. Our mission was to develop literary translation from Swedish to North American English, promote the professionalism of translators in the field, and especially newcomers to the field, and to promote Swedish literature of all genres throughout the United States and Canada, and communicate with other associations such as our British equivalent group SELTA and the Swedish cultural institutions.
Since our main avenue of communication would have to be the Internet, we decided that a website would be the most important first step, and Paul Norlen undertook the project with enormous enthusiasm. We wanted a place that would serve as a resource for translators, especially translators entering the field. We found that many of the younger translators entered the field as we did, unsure of how to begin and where to find contacts, especially in Sweden, and so we put together a list of resources especially suited for the beginning translator. Our website offers links to Swedish Cultural Institutions and SELTA, and lists important funding resources, as well as a list of members in order to further communication between members who are otherwise far apart. We are in the process of developing a members-only resource section as well. In my position as Secretary-Treasurer, I send out a monthly letter to the membership, advising them of all the important events that come to my attention related to the field. I have found that the monthly e-letter is one of the best ways to keep everyone informed of the latest events, and to encourage folks to participate in developing Swedish-related translation events.
Our next step will be to organize a translators’ workshop together with the Swedish Information Service, which is Sweden’s cultural outreach to the rest of the world. A similar workshop had been held in Canada about seven or eight years ago, but so far no translators’ workshop had been held in the United States. STiNA is also involved in developing the 2006 American Literary Translators Assocation’s conference in Seattle/Bellevue, which will focus on the contact that the Scandinavian countries and East Asian countries have made in the Pacific Northwest.
Our membership is open to anyone residing in North America who is actively participating in Swedish literary translation of all genres, including the performing arts. Our website is found at: www.swedishtranslators.org.
Laura A. Wideburg received her Ph. D. in German medieval literature and is now is a free-lance translator from Swedish and German living in Seattle. Her translations of Niklas Rådström’s poetry has appeared in a number of journals, and an excerpt of Rådström’s meditation of life and birds, Absint: Historien om en blåmes (Absinthe: The story of a blue titmouse) will be forthcoming in the journal Absinthe in Fall 2005. She is the Secretary-Treasurer of STiNA.
A version of this essay has been published in the ATA Chronicle, and reprinted in Swedish Press.
Copyright © 2005, Laura A. Wideburg. All rights reserved.
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