Gripe: The Scandinavian countries and their literature

by Peter

Scandinavian crime fiction is for the moment extremely popular all over the world. And so is , more generally, Scandinavian literature. Book lovers in the US, England, Germany, France, Spain and elsewhere still read Ibsen, Strindberg, Andersen, Undset, Hamsun and other wonderful Scandinavian writers. Even some of the more contemporary ones, like Jan Kjaerstad (Kjærstad), Tove Jansson, Morten Ramsland, and so on.

However, it is very sad to notice how poorly the Scandinavian countries manage and market their valuable cultural treasures. I spend a lot of time keeping up with what is happening on the Scandinavian literary scene – seeking to identify new emerging authors, finding new great books, find out which books  are being translated into English, and similar tasks. This is not easily done! The Scandinavian countries – all of them! – are extremely lacking when it comes to making things like these visible to the wider world!

I manage to find what I am looking for often, but mostly because I am a native Scandinavian speaker (I do not read Finnish, however, so that is a dark spot on the map for me, and also the country that needs to improve the most). For people that do not speak the language it must be virtually impossible to find out anything whatsoever!

So what I miss is something as simple as a little list of new books, books that are published in other languages, their original and translated titles, accessible in English, for each of the countries, and published on the internet.

This is not a big task! The Scandinavian countries, which each spend hundreds of millions to promote themselves internationally as tourist destinations, should consider spending a tiny sum on something like this. Promoting the literature of the Scandinavian countries – Scandinavian culture – and making it easier to find for people interested in it all over the globe must be good PR for Scandinavia!

And – let it also be noted that the Scandinavian publishing houses and agencies are extremely bad as well! They – or rather some of them – have a little information in English available. But usually very little. And I have yet to see a listing of authors and books translated into English at any of their sites! Do they expect people from the English speaking world to go through every single author listed on their sites to find who has been translated into English?

It is somewhat ironic that the best source I have found for Scandinavian books translated into English is not on any official Swedish or Danish or Norwegian site, nor a Scandinavian publisher’s site, but rather a tiny little spreadsheet in Excel-format, made and updated by some good folks at the University of Rochester!

“Tackar så mycket” to the good folks at Rochester, and shame on you, Scandinavia!

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