The Bamboos of Blekinge: the Writing of Cultures in Swedish Proletarian Fiction

The national identity of the source culture often constitutes an important hermeneutic frame from which a translated text is understood. At the same time, literary texts themselves sometimes have a tendency to resist cultural narratives and stereotypical ideas of a certain nation. In the words of Gabriele Schwab, when literary texts “write culture” they can create “disruptions” that disturb general cultural conceptions. (Schwab 2012) This article explores how such disruptions are made in the English translations of four Swedish novels from the 1930s. These novels are all central texts in the history of Swedish literature, as they form the very basis of a literary current that had a huge impact on the development of the Swedish welfare state – proletarian fiction. In the translations of Harry Martinson’s, Moa Martinson’s, Eyvind Johnson’s and Ivar Lo-Johansson’s breakthrough novels, the Anglophone target reader is faced with different kinds of disruptions of the Swedish national identity. Some of these disturb the conception of Sweden as a unified cultural space, others resist the idea of Sweden as a distinct cultural space. There is, however, no general rule to these disruptions: all four novels have their own, specific way of creating narrative resistance.  

Keywords: Harry Martinson, Moa Martinson, Eyvind Johnson, Ivar Lo-Johansson, Swedish literature, proletarian literature, translation, national identity, cultural mobility, hybridity

author Paul Tenngart

Journal of Literature and Art Studies, 5.7 (July 2015): 495-504. 


published 2015