Children’s literature

Effects of multimodal translation: changing referential interplay and plausible reading paths between words and pictures in translated picture books. A Nordic case study of Dick Bruna.

Sara Van Meerbergen

The starting point for this paper is Van Meerbergen (2010) where picture book translation is described as an international, target culture-oriented and multimodal translation practice. Van Meerbergen (2010) takes a descriptive and analytical approach (cf. Toury 1995, Hermans 1999) and develops a model for multimodal translation analysis of picture book texts by combining systemic functional linguistics (SFL – Halliday & Matthiessen 2004) with the visual grammar proposed by Kress & van Leeuwen (2006). The model for multimodal translation analysis is then used to analyse four picture books by Dutch picture book artist Dick Bruna and their Swedish translations. The analyses show that, while the translated picture books have the same pictures as their source texts due to co-production, pictures are often used in different ways as referential interplay between words and pictures changes in the translations. This also influences the so called ‘plausible reading paths’ (cf. Kress & van Leeuwen 2006) between words and pictures in source and target texts. In some cases pictures even assume different meaning potentials and are ‘read’ differently in source and target text.

In this paper the analyses from Van Meerbergen (2010) are extended to include even Danish, English, and Norwegian translations of the books by Bruna.  It is also discussed in what way the translation of picture books can be compared to other forms of international and global translation and text practices such as parallel writing (Jämtelid 2007) and localisation (Pym 2004).


In 2010 Sara Van Meerbergen completed her doctoral thesis on the topic of multimodal translation analysis of Dutch picture books into Swedish. Currently she is working on a postdoctoral research project about postmodern Flemish picture books at the Department of Baltic languages, Finnish and German (incl. Dutch) at Stockholm University. Her research interests include children’s literature, (postmodern Flemish) picture books, multimodal analysis, systemic functional linguistics and translation studies.

Pippi and the dreaming spires: Nordic children’s literature and Oxford University Press

Charlotte Berry

This paper reveals how Nordic authors Astrid Lindgren, Jan Lööf, Irmelin Sandman Lilius, Cecil Bødker and Ingvald Svinsaas were published in Britain. Issues of text, author, translator and illustrator selection are considered, as well as OUP’s publicity and media activities. OUP’s current collaboration with the Lindgren Estate to retranslate and reissue Lindgren’s fiction for children is also addressed.

OUP catapulted Swedish author Astrid Lindgren into the British children’s literature market with Edna Hurup’s translation of Pippi Longstocking (1954), having rejected the existing American translation and Ingrid Vang Nyman’s iconic Swedish illustrations. The two subsequent British Pippi titles were translated in 1956-1957 by Marianne Turner, who went onto to translate Lindgren’s Eric and Karlsson-on-the-Roof and Madicken, and the Norwegian Ingvald Svinsaas’s Tom in the mountains. With Lindgren transferring her allegiance to Methuen and other British publishers, OUP revived their Nordic interests in the 1970s with translations by Joan Tate and Marianne Hellweg of the Fru-Sola trilogy by the Finland-Swedish author Irmelin Sandman Lilius, and The leopard and Silas and the black mare by the Dane Cecil Bødker. This flurry of activity was followed up modestly by the appearance of two Swedish picture books by Jan Lööf in the 1980s.

Drawing heavily on original editorial files from the OUP Archives, this paper documents the editor’s role in Nordic text, translator and illustrator selection, and the subsequent shaping of the source-language version into a product suitable for the British audience. Editorial correspondence with both author and translator is of particular interest. Often as the sole British publisher for these Nordic authors (reaching other markets in the English-speaking world), OUP also dealt extensively with media and other arts’ organisations. In Pippi’s case, these included play adaptations, radio slots and TV showings, as well as translations into Welsh and foreign rights into other languages.

With many of Lindgren’s UK titles out of print, the Press started working closely with the Lindgren Estate in the mid 2000s to republish Lindgren’s fiction titles. Based on oral history interviews with OUP editors, this paper concludes with a review of this project, which combines reprints of existing translations from OUP and other English-language publishers with new translations. Apart from The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf, Lindgren is the only Nordic author to merit re-translations within the UK publishing scene, and OUP is one of few British publishers to consistently publish Nordic fiction titles for children.


Charlotte Berry read English Language and Scandinavian Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She then trained as an archivist at the University of Aberystwyth and since then has worked in this field, developing specialisms in literary, family and business collections. Charlotte is currently completing her PhD thesis, ‘Publishing, translation, archives: Nordic children’s literature in the United Kingdom, 1950-2000’ at the University of Edinburgh.

Pippi’s New Stockings. The Impact of Illustrations on the Reception of Pippi Longstocking as Translated by Tiina Nunnally and Illustrated by Lauren Child (2007)

Sara Van den Bossche

Pippi Longstocking is a striking, controversial figure. Her most subversive and unsettling features have always been susceptible to changes in the process of translation and were often toned down as Pippi crossed language frontiers. In some translations, she even became a totally different character altogether.  

In 2007, the centenary of Astrid Lindgren’s birth, Oxford University Press introduced Pippi in yet another version, newly translated by Tiina Nunnally and illustrated by Lauren Child. (Lindgren 2007) The book offers a completely new and fresh version of Pippi Longstocking and, remarkably, was not always received positively.

This paper will look into two matters. Drawing on previous research, it will firstly examine the interplay between words and pictures in this specific book edition of Pippi Longstocking. Any character’s image is determined by its portrayal in illustrations, as was shown by Joseph H. Schwarcz, who argued that illustrators in fact “interpret” a text and can “[add] a message” to it. (Schwarcz 1982: 104) Moreover, Maria Nikolajeva suggested that some depictions of literary characters can take the book to another level: “words and images collaborate much in the same manner that is normally discussed in connection with picture books.” (Nikolajeva 2011: 130) In this 2007 edition, the illustrations by Lauren Child indeed seem to add something to the actual text, almost transforming the book from a novel to a picture book. (Van Vlierberghe 2010)

Therefore, the response to the book will be investigated as well. Readers often feel strongly about new depictions of familiar literary characters. In fact, one could argue that some depictions become more canonised than others.  (Van den Bosssche 2011: 62-64) As regards the new Pippi version, as one reviewer put it, “Is it all right to change an institution like Pippi?” (Giles 2007)  This raises the question how the book and its images are being received in case of a drastic change in depiction such as this one.

The reception the book (both in academic and popular contexts) will be explored as well as the transgression of boundaries which this specific translation seems to involve – not only of linguistic frontiers, but also of generic borders. During the presentation, the final results of this analysis will be shown.


Giles, A. (2007, October 5). Should Pippi wear new Longstockings? The Guardian Books Blog, p. ppiwearnewlongstoc.

Heldner, C. (2004). Hur Pippi Långstrump slapp ur sin franska tvångströja. Barnboken 27.1 , 11-21.

Lindgren, A. (2007). Pippi Longstocking. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nikolajeva, M. (2011). Visualizing People. Multimodal Character Construction in Astrid Lindgren's Works. In B. Kümmerling-Meibauer, & A. Surmatz, Beyond Pippi Longstocking. Intermedial and International Aspects of Astrid Lindgren's Works (pp. 125-136). New York/London: Routledge.

Schwarcz, J. H. (1982). Ways of the Illustrator: Visual Communication in Children's Literature. Chicago: American Library Association.

Van Vlierberghe, H. (2010). En bild säger mer än tusen ord? En studie om dialogen mellan illustrationer och text i Tiina Nunnallys engelska översättning av 'Pippi Långstrump'. Ghent: Ghent University (unpublished master dissertation).


Sara Van den Bossche is a PhD researcher at the Department of Nordic Studies at Ghent University and is working on a doctoral thesis on canonisation processes at work in Astrid Lindgren’s oeuvre in Sweden, Flanders and the Netherlands. She was granted the 2009 “Astrid Lindgrens Stiftelse Solkattens Stipendium”. Together with Sylvie Geerts, she organised a conference on adaptations of children’s books and edited the conference proceedings Never-ending Stories – Adaptation, Canonisation and Ideology in Children’s Literature (to be published in 2013).

De-queering Queers: Translating Queer Literature for Children from English to Swedish

B.J. Epstein

It’s firmly accepted that translations are an excellent way of bringing new ideas and new worldviews into another culture. Similarly, there’s little argument about the fact that children’s literature helps children to understand themselves and others through its representation of children’s experiences, thoughts, and feelings. When children’s literature is translated, however, it’s a frequent occurrence that certain aspects of a text get changed to better suit what is considered appropriate for children in the target culture. Here I aim to analyse whether this is especially the case when it comes to traditionally challenging or taboo topics, such as sexuality and in particular non-heterosexuality.

In this paper, I will give some background on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or otherwise queer literature for children and young adults, and I will briefly compare such texts from English-speaking countries and from Sweden. Then I will analyse two English texts, Dance on My Grave by Aidan Chambers and Sugar Rush by Julie Burchill, and their Swedish translations in order to discuss how sexuality is portrayed in books for young people in the UK versus in Sweden and how sexuality gets translated. One major issue to be discussed is whether texts for children that feature non-heterosexuality get changed when they are being translated from a more permissive, liberal culture to a more conservative, traditional one, or indeed vice-versa, and if so, how this affects the reading of the texts.


B.J. Epstein is a lecturer in literature and translation at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, and is a translator from Swedish to English. She published a book on the translation of children’s literature in early 2012 and in 2009 edited a collection of articles on translation in the Nordic countries, which was based on the first Nordic Translation Conference.

Translating the Nordic Crime Scene: Translators, Readers, Publishers

Crime fiction has become a major cultural export for the Scandinavian countries. Authors such as Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbø and Jussi Adler-Olsen have dominated the bestseller lists throughout Europe, and subtitled TV-drama and film adaptations win large audiences and awards outside the Scandinavian countries. While Scandinavian crime fiction has attracted readers on the Continent for decades it is only recently, following the global success of Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy, that Scandinavian crime (or Nordic Noir) 'invaded' the English language market. This recent and unprecedented success of foreign language fiction in the UK makes Scandinavian crime fiction a particularly interesting object of study for literary, cultural, media and, not least, translation studies. This panel will present different but complementary perspectives on the translation of Scandinavian crime fiction into English. We propose that in order to understand the success of this specific genre's translatability we have to regard translation in its widest conception. Therefore, the individual papers will discuss the properties of the genre and reader expectations, patterns of linguistic and cultural appropriations, the dynamics of the market for literature in translation, and the remediation and adaptation of Scandinavian crime fiction for TV and film. Examples will be drawn from a wide range of texts and authorships but with specific attention to Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbø and Danish TV-drama.

1. The Post-Larsson Crime Scene and its Translators

Barry Forshaw

A duo of ground-breaking Scandinavian composers had an effect that was both seismic and revolutionary: Jean Sibelius and Carl Nielsen. So might a case be made for two authors inaugurating a similar shibboleth-shaking upheaval in the field of Scandinavian crime fiction? Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson performed radical surgery on the genre and (like Sibelius and Nielsen) retain a key position. The Salander phenomenon has given birth to a healthy post-Larsson industry, and publishers are furnishing a slew of candidates. This paper will approach the current transnational publishing market and the English translations of Scandinavian crime fiction through the examples of the key writers (and film and TV) that have followed in the wake of Mankell and Larsson.

Nordic crime fiction in translation – once a minority taste – has become so commercially successful that it is necessary to stress both literary factors and the genre’s foregrounding of political and socioeconomic observations. And there is another key factor: the language in which non-Nordic readers can access this material, facilitated by the skill of translators both highly adept and workaday. This talk will point out some of the principal problems in translating Scandinavian crime fiction focusing particularly on the relationship between authors and their translators: All books to be translated provide individual challenges and satisfactions: the one who provides most of both is Håkan Nesser. Henning Mankell uses language creatively to put over his message. But there is nothing innovative or experimental about his use of language. Nesser is much more of a challenge. Mankell’s main ‘message’ – if there is one – is social and political. Jo Nesbo’s 'internationalism' may be seen to pose different challenges to the translator, whereas Johan Theorin uses words absolutely specific to the island of Öland, and it can be tricky to find a suitable alternative in English. How do translators deal with the cultural issues relevant to these very diverse writers? And what happens when, for instance, writers such as Roslund & Hellström regard it as their duty to try to interfere as much as possible in the translation of their work? Finally, the talk will focus on Scandinavian crime drama (film and TV): what factors of translation and adaptation sustain the continuing success of adaptations such as the Wallander series, the Millennium films, The Killing, The Bridge and the Jo Nesbo adaptations?

2. Found in Translation - how some Svenska Deckare linguistically transformed into International Crime

Kerstin Nilsson Jay

This paper discusses translation shifts and patterns of translation behaviour in the English translations of some of the most internationally successful Swedish crime novels: Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, Lisa Marklund’s Annika Bengtzon-series, Henning Mankell’s  Wallander series and the more recently translated Stockholm Noir trilogy by Jens Lapidus.

Against a background of genre-specific reader expectations, the translated texts have been systematically compared to their source and examined for significant manipulations. The result shows that translations “stream-line” the Swedish source texts to fit more neatly into the confines of the genre of international bestselling crime novel, but also how this is balanced with an effort to satisfy perceived expectations about culture specifics and local colour. The target texts generally become faster; more grammatically correct and clear; more likely to be immediately consumed by the reader. While for these translations, the plot comes foremost, the characters second, and verisimilitude and realism stand out as the guiding principle for the translation process, in some cases the authors’ attempts to widen the confines of the genre are successfully respected. The paper also shows how one translator may adopt one set of translation strategies for one author, and a different set for another. Finally, the translation shifts and patterns of translation behaviour identified in the comparisons between source and target texts are for some particular issues also considered in relation to existing film adaptations.  

3. Adapting the 'People's Home': Henning Mankell and the Translation of Cultures

Dr Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen

Many crime fans in Scandinavia and the UK will recognize the now iconic image of Sarah Lund's 'Faroese jumper', 'Danish jumper' or 'Icelandic sweater' worn by Sofie Gråbøl in the Danish TV-drama Forbrydelsen/The Killing ("Sarah Lund's Faroese jumper is the surprise star of BBC4's The Killing", The Guardian, 21/2/2011). As a cultural icon, the jumper has come to represent something inherently Scandinavian and contemporary to a British audience, while a Danish audience may associate the 'sweater' with a certain sense of nostalgia for a time (and a society) long gone. The example of Sarah Lund's jumper will introduce this paper's discussion of Scandinavian crime fiction and the translation of cultures.

The recent global success of Scandinavian crime fiction has opened up questions about how the particularities of Scandinavian cultures are translated, adapted and mediated across linguistic and cultural boundaries. Central to the reception of Scandinavian crime fiction in the UK has been the degree to which the genre is seen to revise or indeed confirm stock images and perceptions of contemporary life in the Scandinavian welfare states. This paper will discuss to what extent Scandinavian crime fiction engages with the socio-political reality in the Scandinavian countries, how reviewers and readers in the UK have perceived and lauded the social criticism said to define Nordic Noir against crime fiction elsewhere, and finally the paper will use the translations and adaptations of Henning Mankell's Wallander novels as examples of diverging cultural perceptions of the changing realities of life in the Swedish 'People's Home' (Welfare State).

4. The exotic North, or how marketing created the genre of Scandinavian crime.

Agnes Broome

Scandinavian crime fiction in translation has truly conquered the world in recent years, outperforming not only most other genres of translated literature but also competing successfully with its English-language counterparts. This development has seen Scandinavian crime go from being a minority language(s) participant, without any real internal cohesion, in a predominantly Anglo-Saxon genre to a central, more homogenized subgenre which from its central position exerts considerable influence on the genre as a whole.

This paper will explore the effects and consequences of this development by attempting to trace the creation and development of the Scandinavian crime genre from a sociological perspective. This will entail a closer look at some of the extra-textual factors that impact on the publication of translated fiction, at the levels of selection, production and consecration, as well as, significantly, at the level of marketing, i.e. the shaping and targeting of reader expectations. The works of several Scandinavian writers, both contemporary and from the recent past, will be considered with these issues in mind, revealing how both the availability in English of specific texts, in terms of selection, and the manner of their availability, in terms of marketing, are profoundly influenced by market considerations. The paper will furthermore show that these market considerations have, as Scandinavian crime has become established as a genre in its own right, gradually become ever more self-referential and tightly tied to expectations of this particular subgenre, accelerating, and perhaps unduly forcing, a perceived homogenization of production. The paper will specifically consider the way in which marketing tools, such as visual design, textual and authorial self-referencing and targeted event marketing, have been utilized to construct the Scandinavian crime genre through a process of identification and brand management. A brief comparative case study of the works of authors such as Stieg Larsson, Liza Marklund, Jo Nesbø and Håkan Nesser will serve to illustrate these processes with concrete examples.

Selma Lagerlöf

‘Lagerlöf in English’ (Norvik Press): Series Background and Progress

Helena Forsås-Scott, UCL, University of Edinburgh


In 2011 Norvik Press, a small not-for-profit publisher based at University College London, launched a series of new English translations of texts by the Swedish Nobel Laureate Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940). Lord Arne’s Silver (tr. Sarah Death), The Löwensköld Ring(tr. Linda Schenck) and The Phantom Carriage (tr. Peter Graves) appeared in June 2011, and Nils Holgersson’s Wonderful Journey (tr. Peter Graves) is due out in December 2012. This paper focuses on the background and progress of the project from the perspective of the series co-ordinator. It explores questions such as: Why do we need new English translations of an iconic Swedish author such as Lagerlöf? How are the texts selected? How is the quality of the translations ensured? How is the series funded (translations, layout, printing, publicity, marketing)? The paper concludes with an outline of the reception so far and the plans for future volumes.



Helena Forsås-Scott, Professor of Swedish and Gender Studies, University College London, retired 2010. A Director of Norvik Press, London, and co-ordinator of 'Lagerlöf in English'. Co-editor, The Encyclopaedia of Contemporary Nordic Culture. Most recent book: Re-Writing the Script:

Gender and Community in Elin Wägner (2009). Currently working on projects on Selma Lagerlöf and on Kerstin Ekman.

Lagerlöf’s New Look: Designing and Marketing the ‘Lagerlöf in English’ series (Norvik Press)

Elettra Carbone, UCL


With its ‘Lagerlöf in English’ series Norvik Press aims to bring a selection of texts by Selma Lagerlöf to new audiences. In order to achieve this, Norvik has focused not only on producing high-quality English translations but also on finding innovative ways of creating and marketing a modern-looking series. This process involves an understanding of how social, economic and cultural aspects have an impact on the format, packaging, and design of a book (Squires 2009). In this paper I will examine the choices and mechanisms that led to the current look and design of the series. I will dedicate particular attention to the important role that two competitions – one for the series’ cover design and one for a new set of illustrations for Nils Holgersson’s Wonderful Journey – played in shaping and promoting the series. To what extent does the look of a book determine its success? I will answer this question by analysing this particular case study while also giving other examples of how Lagerlöf translations have been designed and marketed abroad at different points in time.

Elettra Carbone (BA, MA, PhD) currently works as Teaching Fellow in Norwegian at the Department of Scandinavian Studies, UCL, and as Editorial Assistant for Norvik Press Ltd, UCL.

She completed her PhD in Scandinavian Studies at UCL in February 2011. Her thesis, 'Nordic Italies' examines representations of Italy in Nordic Literatures written between the 1830s and the 1910s. She also holds an MA in Comparative Literature and a BA in Scandinavian Studies with Management Studies, both from UCL.

In the course of the past two years, Elettra worked as a postdoc fellow (Knowledge Transfer Associate) for UCL Advances (the UCL Centre for Entrepreneurship and Business Interaction), examining the challenges faced by small publishing companies specialised in the Humanities and exploring new potential ways of cooperation between small publishing companies like Norvik Press and the higher education sector. She has also published a number of academic articles related to the topic of her PhD thesis and has taught on various aspects of Scandinavian literature and culture at UCL.

Ibsen: the new Penguin edition of Henrik Ibsen’s plays

Since 2008 a body of British and Norwegian Ibsen experts has been working on the preparation of a new translation of fourteen of Ibsen’s most important plays into English. The edition comprises new versions in verse of Brand and Peer Gynt and translations of Ibsen’s last twelve plays, from Pillars of Society to When We Dead Awaken. The prose plays will be translated by Deborah Dawkin and Erik Skuggevik, Barbara Haveland, and Anne-Marie Stanton-Ife. The verse plays will be created by Geoffrey Hill on the basis of new translations by Inga-Stina Ewbank and Janet Garton. The general editor of the series is Tore Rem, and the four volumes will be published by Penguin, beginning in 2014.

The new translation is aimed primarily at students, academics and the general reader, and will hopefully  also function as a reference edition for theatre people involved in producing the plays. It is intended as a reading rather than an acting edition, which pays closer attention to the original than do most modern acting editions. The aim is to use a modern and natural English, which is not so colloquial that it will soon date, and with a tendency towards fidelity rather than domestication. The text will attempt to retain as much as possible of the images, rhythm, pitch and beat of the original. Collaboration between all those involved is vital, and several meetings have been held with consultants and translators to discuss the principles of the translations and the progress of draft versions.

The Ibsen panel will consist of Tore Rem as general editor, Janet Garton as consultant/translator, and Deborah Dawkin, Barbara Haveland and Anne-Marie Stanton-Ife as translators. All five will discuss their experience of working on the edition, and there will also be time for questions.

Translating Anglo-American popular songs into Scandinavian languages and cultures

Taking relevant case studies as a point of departure, this panel traces the historical development of the translation of Anglo-American popular songs into Scandinavian languages and cultures from around 1920 up until today. The cases span from Swedish crooner Sven-Olof Sandberg’s relatively free adaptations of American schlägers (e.g. Ole Faithful/Gamle Svarten), via songs from Broadway musicals such as Jerome Kern’s (Show Boat) and Frank Loesser’s (Guys and Dolls) that have been domesticated in varying degrees for Scandinavian audiences, through 70s world hit Seasons in the Sun and its linguacultural meanderings in and around Scandinavia, to the songs of Bob Dylan, Sting and Janis Joplin that have, in more recent years, been offered tribute by Scandinavian ’singer-translators’.

Within and among the time periods represented (roughly the 1920s, the 1940s, the 1970s, and the 2000s, each covered by one member of the panel) there are two main axes of difference, namely

1) the translation situation, especially as regards

a. the selection of songs for translation (single, ’lightweight’ hits or entire catalogues by ’serious’ artists?)

b. the modes and media of presentation (who (performing artists) presents what (live shows, recordings) where (stage, radio, TV, etc.)?)

c. the identity of the translator (professional song translator or the artist him or herself?)

2) degree and type of domestication (complete re-writing, adaptation, localization or ’fidelity’?)

In addition to showing where the different cases position themselves along these axes (and ’subaxes’), each presentation will search for explanations of these particular positions within the relevant socio-historical context, taking into consideration factors such as rights and permissions policies, technological and media developments and the translator’s/artist’s creativity, as well as Scandinavian audiences’ relationships with Anglo-American cultural products and their competence in regard to English as a foreign language. Evidence for conclusions will among other things be sought within the discourse surrounding the given song translations, such as correspondence, biographies, reviews, etc.; as well as within the actual translations themselves.

The contributions taken together will show interesting developments in the varying forms and purposes of song translation into Scandinavian. In addition to revealing the inevitable dialectic between developments in song translation and general trends in society, the panel also aims to take some steps in the direction of establishing song translation as a field of study in and of itself, demonstrating some essential theoretical foundations and a fruitful methodology.

Panel participants:

Johan Franzon, Ph. D., University teacher at the Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies, University of Helsinki

Annjo K. Greenall, Professor of English language and linguistics at the Department of Modern Foreign Languages (English Section), at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Henrik Smith-Sivertsen, Ph.D., Research Librarian at the Music and Theatre Department, The Royal Library (Det Kongelige Bibliotek), Copenhagen

Karin Strand, Ph.D., Researcher and archivist at the Centre for Swedish folk music and jazz research (Svenskt visarkiv), Stockholm

Return to top