2020 in Review

SELTA Chair Ian Giles reflects on 2020 and looks ahead to 2021.

Despite the tumultuous nature of 2020, SELTA’s membership figures remain strong – we end the year with a membership tally of 74, leaving us level against last year. It’s gratifying that even in these changing times, members value what SELTA has to offer.

While it transpired that most of us were destined not to meet in person this year, we had a virtual SELTA calendar that was arguably busier than we have been for many years of late. We hosted our first ever virtual spring meeting in early May. We also held a highly successful public event about literary translators of Swedish via Zoom together with our colleagues in North America at STiNA. This had an audience of around 75 people. You can still watch the event here. Over the summer and early autumn, we also hosted a brief series of fikastunds where smaller groups of members gathered and discussed various matters close to the hearts of SELTA members, including screen translation and working from our ‘other’ language. We wrapped up the year with our AGM in November, and we held another public event discussing the impact 2020 had on the sale of Swedish-language literature abroad (watch here). I’m delighted that we were joined by an audience of 55 people and I’m very grateful to Urpu Strellman, Judith Toth and Sofie Voller for giving up their time to join us. Indeed, as a whole I’ve been chuffed with the strong turnouts at all our events over the year and it has been lovely to see several unfamiliar faces and become reacquainted with several other long-term members. 

While we often rely on crime to bag SELTA members prize, I’m glad to report it was a good year for literary fiction as a whole. Indeed, it was an excellent year on the other side of the pond for members of SELTA: Annie Prime’s translation of ‘Maresi Red Mantle’ by Maria Turtschaninoff won the 2020 GLLI Translated YA Book Prize in the USA. Likewise, Alice Menzies reached the shortlist of the American National Book Award Best Translated Book for her translation of Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s ‘The Family Clause’. Back in the UK, Susan Beard was shortlisted for the 2020 Petrona Award for her translation of Stina Jackson’s ’The Silver Road’. Sarah Death’s translation of Tove Jansson’s ‘Letters from Tove’ was named runner up in 2020 Warwick Prize for Women in Translation. It was also gratifying to see other members feature on award longlists, including Darcy Hurford in the John Dryden Competition and BJ Epstein for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2021, and to see several members in receipt of grants from both the Swedish Arts Council and FILI. 

On the subject of prizes, don’t forget that we are entering the final straight for submissions to the next round of the Bernard Shaw Prize with final entries due within the next few weeks. Make sure that you engage with your publishers to get your titles entered!

I am thrilled that SBR’s outgoing and incoming editors, Deborah Bragan-Turner and Alex Fleming, have managed to successfully launch SBR’s new online platform at swedishbookreview.org. This has only been possible thanks to their hard work, as well as the patient help of Essi Viitanen and Cath Jenkins at Norvik Press, and the team at web developer Big Mallet. The site really is stunning, and the material from the 2020 ‘issue’ is first rate. We look forward to seeing what emerges in 2021! 

One significant avenue of focus during 2020 has been the preparation of this new website. We were very pleased to secure a grant from the Swedish Arts Council in the spring which has allowed us to bring SELTA’s web presence into the 2020s. Kate Lambert and I worked together with Peter Urwin, a web developer based in Edinburgh, to prepare the new site. 

In 2021, the calendar is currently looking rather empty. However, I’m certain that more events will come along to fill it. As ever, SELTA will hold two formal meetings in the coming year – with details on the how and where to follow with plenty of notice. I remain hopeful that I will see many of you in person in the coming year, and failing that I embrace the opportunity to see you all in cyberspace.

Best wishes for the new year ahead!

Dr Ian Giles

Chair of SELTA