Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New Museum of Failure in Sweden

Coming up in June, the world's first Museum of Failure is set to open in the Swedish city of Helsingborg. Focusing on innovations that didn't quite make it as saleable products (Bic for Her),
and on ideas that were before or behind their time (Google Glass), the museum has 51 objects so far, says its founder, Samuel West, with more arriving every day.

These "floppar" are meant to be funny, horrifying, and instructive. Apparently we learn from our mistakes.

Though in the case of this board game below, it seems that failure was only a spur to hugher and greater failures to come:

Trump: The Game. Photo: Björn Lindgren
For more on the Museum of Failure that "showcases flop products."

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sami Parliament Persuades Norwegian Pension Fund to Divest from DAPL

In an act of international solidarity between indigenous peoples, the Sami parliament in Norway has persuaded the country’s second largest pension fund to withdraw its money from companies linked to a controversial oil project backed by Donald Trump.

The project to build the 1,900 km Dakota Access oil pipeline across six US states has prompted massive protests from Native American activists at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

This week, after lobbying by the Sami parliament, Norway’s local authority pension fund KLP announced it would sell off shares worth $58m in companies building the pipeline.

Vibeke Larsen, president of the Sami parliament, said the pension fund announced the move when she arrived at a meeting in Oslo to discuss Dakota Access. “We feel a strong solidarity with other indigenous people in other parts of the world, so we are doing our part in Norway by putting pressure on the pension funds,” she told the Guardian.

 Read the full article by Rachel Fixsen  in the Guardian.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Clearing Out translation wins prize from American-Scandinavian Foundation

Helene Uri, author of Clearing Out

I'm pleased to announce that the American-Scandinavian Foundation in New York  recently awarded me the Nadia Christensen Prize for my translation of Clearing Out [Rydde ut] by Norwegian author Helene Uri.

I previously wrote about Helene Uri and this particular novel in a blog post on Lapponia in 2014. I loved the novel so much that I asked the Norwegian publishers about translating it, then pursued publication in the U.S. Although publication hasn't happened yet, I did receive a 2016 NEA translation fellowship to help with the work. I'm delighted that the ASF prize will also bring attention to the novel.

The ASF also gave the Leif and Inger Sjöberg Award, recognizing distinguished effort by a translator who has not previously published a literary translation, to Kara Billey Thordarson, from Red Deer, Alberta, for her translation of Stormviðvörun by Icelandic author Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir.

Excerpts of both translations will appear in the Spring issue of Scandinavian Review, the journal published by The American-Scandinavian Foundation. Another excerpt from Clearing Out was published in 2016 by Two Lines, the translation review.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Sami National Day

Today, February 6, is national Sami day, celebrated in the Nordic countries, as it is around the world, wherever Sami people and their friends and allies live.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, it has been celebrated for several years at the Scandinavian Cultural Center at Pacific Lutheran University outside Tacoma. The festivities for today are now re-scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 7, at 2:30 because of snow and school closings.

2017 holds special resonance. A hundred years ago, in Trondheim, the first pan-Sami congress took place. This 1917 congress was largely conceived and organized by Elsa Laula Renberg, who gave the opening address. There were others who played a role organizing and publicizing the event, including Daniel Mortenson, a reindeer herder and editor from Røros, Norway;  the Norwegian journalist Ellen Lie, who managed press coverage; and Anna Erika Löfwander Jarwson, who opened up her hotel in Trondheim for Sami guests and who took care of many of the arrangements for food and drink.

Herders and their families came from all over Norway and Sweden. They debated a number of issues, including schooling for their children, herding rights, conflicts with settlers, and the use of “Sami” instead of “Lapp.”

Today in Trondheim, the festivities were attended by Sweden’s Culture Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke and by Norway’s King Harald and Prime Minister Erna Solberg will also attend. Solberg was quoted as saying, "Previously, we have apologized on behalf of the Norwegian people for the Norwegianizing policy that was led for not only decades, but in fact hundreds of years, where we tried to remove the Sami’s cultural expression."

Saturday, February 4, 2017

ALTA and other translation organizations stand up for cross-cultural exchange

A Joint Statement on the Executive Order
Restricting Immigrant and Refugee Entry into the US

Dear ALTA colleagues and friends,
We the undersigned wish to affirm that freedom of expression and unfettered exchange of ideas are among the core tenets of our society as much as they are indispensable means of cross-cultural understanding and peaceful co-existence. Writers, translators and interpreters would be vulnerable to the far-reaching consequences of the travel ban; these professionals are crucial to the advancement of cross-cultural cooperation, and their efforts would be harmed by the corrosive effects of distrust and exclusion. If national security is our priority, we should recognize that we are safer with the knowledge translators provide about the culture, values, and humanity of other countries. At a time in history when people feel so divided, we believe that our stories—and the people who make it possible to hear them told—are critical to sustaining our coexistence. We voice our support for the refugees fleeing wars—for whom the U.S. has always been a place of refuge, and whose spirit of creativity and innovation has made our cultural and artistic life all the richer and infinitely more diverse. Turning away today's refugees may amount to turning down immeasurable human potential. We therefore urge the President to rescind the travel ban immediately.

American Literary Translators Association
Center for the Art of Translation
PEN America Translation Committee & Subcommittee on Freedom of Expression
Red T
Words Without Borders

Monday, September 5, 2016

Fossil Island wins Historical Novel Society award for best indie novel

Over the past weekend, at the Historical Novel Society conference, held this year in Oxford, England, my novel Fossil Island was chosen as a best indie novel of 2015. I was sorry I couldn't attend to win in person (and also just to participate in what seems to have been, from the Twitter feed, a pretty jolly event, with a lot of dressing up and fascinating panels). Never mind, I will definitely be at the next conference in Portland, OR, so very much closer to home. Thanks, HNS! It's a great organization and I appreciate the honor.

A couple of months ago, last year's winner, Anna Belfrage, posted this interview with me about Fossil Island. Anna is Swedish but writes her fine historical novels in English.

The end of summer turned out to be a lucky time for me. A couple of weeks ago it was also announced that I'd been awarded an NEA fellowship in translation. The project is Helene Uri's novel, Clearing Out, which I wrote about here in November, 2014. I'm still looking for a publisher for this fantastic novel from Norway with a Sami theme.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Joiking of Identity and Sisterhood: Sara Ajnnak

In February I had the good fortune to be invited to the winter market in Jokkmokk, Sweden to give a slideshow and talk on Emilie Demant Hatt. I stayed for the whole three days of the festival, which has taken place for over 400 years. The winter market is a place where the Sami people have congregated to trade goods and gossip, to meet friends and sweethearts, to joik and attend church services. Now that the winter market is connected with the museum Ájtte and events and exhibits have spread out through the town to the schools, churches, and community centers, there are more opportunities to see films, hear lectures, admire Sami handicraft, and listen to music.

I’ve long been deeply drawn to joik music, whether in its pure form of vocalization or accompanied by drums, guitars, and electronic keyboards. This February I went to a couple of evening concerts by well-known Sami singers, but I have to say that the most riveting joiking I heard was on a CD by a young Sami woman, Sara Ajnnak, which was playing in the shop of the Viltok Sisters as background music.

Sara Ajnnak is from Västerbotten, based in Gargnäs, near Sorselse in the middle of Southern Sápmi. She comes from a herding family and knows her way around a snowmobile. After high school she studied the theater arts, but realized she didn’t want to be an actor, and turned to singing and eventually writing her own songs.The language her people would have spoken up to a couple of generations ago was Ume Sami, now one of the languages that’s halfway to extinction. Yet it lives on in the words of joiks once recorded and saved in archives. It’s to these archives that Sara turned when she was looking to connect with her past and find a way to joik from her heart. 

On her website she writes (in Swedish, this is my translation):

For a long time I only knew half of myself. I felt I was missing a part of myself and couldn’t really be me. My Sami identity was tattered, the language I should know wasn’t there, but I was searching inside for myself. Out of frustration, I found my way to the joik and there I discovered a piece of the puzzle to my identity. It wasn’t easy, the joik had long since disappeared from my geographical area. I spent hours in archives, while the evenings were devoted to imitating the sound recordings from the early 1900s.      
It really was both anger and frustration that led me to the joik and eventually the stage's spotlight. My joik career took off and I traveled around Sápmi to various venues as a traditional joiker. But I still felt tattered inside, and searched for more puzzle pieces to become whole.

I grew up in a reindeer herding family in Västerbotten [a northern province in Sweden]. From childhood I’ve taught myself to relate to the grandeur of nature's changing reality.  Life in reindeer husbandry has affected and affects me constantly. My life has been about trying to survive, and the joik has been a release where I was able to let out my feelings. In the candlelight, my pen has run quickly; reflections on life turned into lyrics.

When I started my journey to regain my language, I grew as a person. Now I could for the first time stand up and say the words that have long been forgotten in my family. Step by step, I grew as a person and took my language with me up onto the stage. 

My history and path into the music hasn’t been straightforward, but has been characterized by low self-confidence, hard work and language barriers. It took more than 34 years before I dared to believe in myself and my ability as an artist. In September of 2014 my first album Suojggat came out and I finally felt at home. I felt pretty soon after I released my debut album that music was my valve, allowing me to freely create from an emotional place and making room for me to tell my own story. I felt that the stories and perspectives from my geographic area in Sápmi were missing and through writing and creating music, my soul also became whole. 

Sara Ajnnak has two CDs, Suojggat and Ráhtjat, with songs that are both soulful and danceable, to a bouncy electronic beat. In a music video of her letting her voice ring out in a wintery world (a video with some beautiful slow-motion filming of a reindeer separation, as well), Ajnnak joiks in Sami of women’s empowerment and equal rights. The lyrics show up at the end of the video, in English: 

I raise my voice/ To free up my mind/ Stand up for myself/ Sisterhood