This work provides a survey of Dutch literature translated into Swedish between 1830 and 1995 in order to investigate the mechanisms and selection criteria that determined the reception given this literature in the Swedish literary field.
The introduction briefly sketches intercultural relations between Sweden and the Low Countries until 1830. The second chapter traces the growth of Dutch as a subject in Swedish universities, and Dutch literature in Swedish reference works, literary histories, cultural publications, radio and television. To the extent that rules of secrecy have permitted, the Nobel Prize candidacies of Dutch and Flemish writers have also been examined. The third chapter provides a commentary on the appended bibliography of translations from Dutch into Swedish during the period 1830-1995. Tables indicate distributory percentages of translated works as regards men and women, Dutch and Flemish authors, or adult literature, children's literature and comic strips. A consideration of number of translated titles per author and works with the greatest number of editions allows us to determine the types of literature most sought after. A division into quality categories, presented in tabular form, indicates the relative distribution of translations from 1830 to 1995 into entertaining works and quality literature, respectively. The fourth chapter investigates the reception of five Dutch post-war authors in Sweden, based on analyses of book reviews and reader interviews.
It becomes clear that medieval trade links between Scandinavia and the Low Countries had a linguistic impact, one that subsequently inspired Scandinavian philologists interested in Nordic languages, English and German to investigate Frisian, Low German and Dutch, as well. As a result, by the turn of the century Swedish university students of German were being taught Middle Dutch and Modern Dutch, as well. At the same time, Dutch influence on 17th-century cultural life in Sweden had become of major interest to cultural historians. The Dutch literature translated during that century was primarily moralistic and didactic, but during the latter half of the 19th century, translations began to appear of a more entertaining nature - historical novels and stories about the common people of the Netherlands and Flanders. In Swedish book reviews, these texts were frequently compared to Dutch painting. By the end of the 19th and early 20th century, translations included novels dealing with contemporary matters, such as the womens question, the peace movement and social issues such as socialism and colonialism.
A small group of academics and literary specialists were by then working for a literary Nobel Prize for the Dutch part of the world. Nevertheless, the translations produced during 1920-1950 were primarily a question of entertaining literature. During the 1930s more translations began to appear of literature for children and adolescents, a movement that intensified during the 50s, so that today such areas account for more than half of the literature translated from Dutch.
From the 1930s until her retirement in 1961, the Dutch foreign lecturer Martha A. Muusses played a central role for Swedish awareness of serious Dutch - although not Flemish - literature. During the 60s, deliberate Dutch and Flemish economic commitments produced an increase in the amount of serious literature translated from Dutch to Swedish. By the 70s this shift was facilitated by the growing number of enthousiastic translators, backed up by informative articles written by Dutch and Flemish professors. They were driven not least by the desire to see the Nobel Prize in literature at last go to a work in Dutch. Moreover, new enthousiastic supporters from the heart of the Swedish literary world would join them in the 80s and 90s.
Although the Swedish translations from Dutch still contain large elements of children's literature, anti-war tracts, works of social criticism, literature about the situation of women, and works dealing with the lives and customs of the people in the Netherlands and Flanders, a noticeable shift has taken place towards the type of literature appreciated by literary critics - nor is this latter type without its appreciative readers in the public at large.
In sum, the reception of Dutch literature in Sweden from the 19th century to 1995 has primarily shifted from literature of a moral and religious nature, via a literature of entertainment, to a more serious literature, a shift in wich the commitment of translators and Dutch and Flemish cultural intermediaries, together with economic support, has played a crucial role.
Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International , 1997. , 396 p.
van Uffelen, Herbert, Professor Dr.