2023 in Review

Our now traditional round-up of the year from SELTA chair Ian Giles

Dear SELTA members,

I’d like to begin by thanking you for another year of gott samarbete in SELTA. While it’s been a slightly quieter year than some for SELTA, there’s still plenty to reflect upon.

Our membership figures remain in fine fettle – we end the year with a tally of 83, a decrease of only one compared to last year. We were delighted to welcome six new members to the fold. Sadly, we also said goodbye to former Chair and founder member Eivor Martinus who died in the spring.

After a rather gentle start to the year (following the excitement of our anniversary year in 2022), more than twenty SELTA members attended the London Book Fair. This included an informal dinner, a Nordic coffee meet-up at Olympia, and a lively SELTA spring meeting. I must record our gratitude to the Swedish Literature Exchange for funding both the dinner and admission to Olympia for SELTA members. We continue to maintain positive and ongoing dialogue with them, and we met with them twice this year to discuss current and future projects, as well as the outlook for the funding picture in years to come following (another) restructuring of the Swedish Arts Council. They continue to support the activities of Swedish Book Review, and have once again made funds available to support a Swedish mentorship run through ALTA (with Rachel Willson-Broyles serving as mentor). In what appears to have become a new norm, LBF 2024 won’t feature a Nordic stand, but will hopefully see many stakeholders participating individually.

It was all change at the Swedish Embassy in London. Pia Lundberg departed as Counsellor for Cultural Affairs in June, as did her right-hand woman Sofia Lundström, who was serving as Cultural Affairs Officer. Recruitment for a new Counsellor is ongoing, and at time of writing I gather there is a preferred candidate but that a name won’t be announced until January. Of course, we’ll keep you informed and do our best to maintain our strong relationship with the embassy in the meantime. The Ambassador, Mikaela Kumlin Granit, who so generously hosted us for our fortieth birthday a year ago, has also departed to head up Sweden’s mission to the EU (replaced in London by Stefan Gullgren), while Pia has been appointed the Director of the Gothenburg Film Festival.

The autumn saw one of the major events of the year for a number of SELTA members when the British Centre for Literary Translation (BCLT) hosted its virtual three-day Advanced Scandinavian Translation Workshop. This included a total of twelve SELTA members (either as attendees or facilitators), as well as many other familiar faces from the world of Scandinavian-English literary translation. Feedback was very positive, with many taking the time to briefly summarise their impressions for SELTA’s website. This event was only possible thanks to the hard work of the BCLT and the funding provided by the Swedish, Norwegian and Danish cultural bodies – I sincerely hope this can provide a springboard to something hosted in person in the next year or two that brings together Nordic-English translators.

Christmas has come early for those of us in the Swedish-English game with the announcement of the shortlist for the 2023 Bernard Shaw Prize, which includes many familiar faces from SELTA, including Kira Josefsson (The Trio by Johanna Hedman), Alice Menzies (We Know You Remember by Tove Alsterdal), Alice E. Olsson (The Herd by Johan Anderberg), and Saskia Vogel (Strega by Johanne Lykke Holm). The jury this year also includes one of our own in the shape of Nicky Smalley. I look forward to seeing many of you at the British Library for the announcement of the winner on 7 February.

It’s been another good year for SELTA members elsewhere on the awards circuit. The 2023 Petrona Award went to Michael Gallagher for his translation of Femicide by Pascal Engman, while he was joined on the shortlist by Sarah Death and on the longlist by Ian Giles and Rachel Willson-Broyles. Nicky Smalley’s translation of Amanda Svensson’s A System So Magnificent It Is Blinding was longlisted for the 2023 International Booker Prize and shortlisted for the 2023 Warwick Prize for Women in Translation. Deborah Bragan-Turner’s translation of Sara Stridberg’s The Antarctica of Love was longlisted both for the 2023 Dublin Literary Award and the 2023 National Translation Award in Prose. Finally, we offer our congratulations to Ann Henning Jocelyn, who was already the translator to Swedish of one Nobel Prize winner in the shape of Kazuo Ishiguro; with the award of this year’s prize to Jon Fosse, she now has two to her name!

Our much-loved Treasurer Annie Prime is currently on maternity leave and I’m very grateful to Tom Ellett who is currently serving as Acting Treasurer. SELTA is run by its committee on a voluntary basis, which makes what we do possible. If you’re interested in getting involved, do drop us a line to find out more.

Swedish Book Review has once again done sterling work, with two regular issues published this year in addition to a Finland-Swedish special issue (the first in ten years!) and more in the pipeline. Alex Fleming continues to do a great job as editor (with thanks to the team at Norvik Press for their assistance) while thanks are also due to SBR reviews editor Darcy Hurford.

You may already have gathered that 2024 holds plenty in store for SELTA and its members. We are currently working to put the final touches to a mentorship programme for translators of Swedish literature that will begin in the early spring and run until the autumn. This will include opportunities for all SELTA members to get involved at various points, while we hope to mark the conclusion of the programme with a workshop in October. Keep your eyes peeled for a save-the-date. We also plan to hold our next meeting in the spring, in person and in conjunction with the London Book Fair (12–14 March) at 14:00 on Thursday 14 March at the Embassy of Sweden in London.

Thanks again for a great year – I look forward to seeing you in the coming months at a SELTA event.

God jul och gott nytt år,

Dr Ian Giles
Chair of SELTA