The Dislocated Vernacular in Translated Swedish Working-Class Fiction

When a literary text is translated from a dominated to a dominating language, Yvonne Lindqvist (2018) observes, it generally undergoes a cosmopolitanizing process. Consecrated by the dominating literary culture, the text is lifted up to a transnational level and deemed significant for an international readership. Lindqvist’s observation is confirmed by the English translations of Swedish working-class novels from the 1930s, not only on a general level of distributional patterns but also in the books themselves: the new international contexts of the Swedish novels are underscored by positionings and comparisons in peritexts as well as in the details of the translators’ decisions. However, this adaptation to new audiences is first and foremost made possible by highly reduced local and regional specificities and a strengthened national space. The vernacular significance of the source culture is not lost but, rather, dislocated from the regional to the national. New dynamics between the vernacular and the cosmopolitan are thus created in which national boundaries are confirmed and heightened. This pattern illustrates the semi-peripheral position of Swedish in the world system of literary circulation. To reach international circulation, the semi-peripheral text aligns with the centre by confirming the notion of homogeneous cultural others.

author Paul Tenngart

Interventions 22.3: 382-399. 

published 2020