Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Skumbilar = Chewy Candy Cars


When I first started translating Norwegian, decades ago, I frequently found myself stumped by certain words in fiction, and spent hours either writing to people in Norway or talking to native speakers in Seattle. Sometimes the difficult words belonged to past history, sometimes they were slang words, sometimes they referred to kinds of food or clothing I hadn't encountered before. 

The Internet didn't exist then; I couldn't just type in  a word or a person's name.

Recently I've been translating a Norwegian novel with a character who loves candy. There are frequent mentions of what she eats and how it makes her feel (remorseful). I'm not a candy eater myself except for the occasional dark chocolate truffle, so when I'm in Scandinavia I never visit the many candy shops or pay much attention to the bags of candy for sale in convenience stores.  

This morning I stumbled when I came to a description of the character half-choking on the "shock absorber" of a skumbil. Since I knew she was eating that weird, marshmallow-stiff candy called skumgoderi, literally "foam goodies," I figured it must be in the shape of cars. I decided to see if I could find an image of a skumbil on the Internet. 

Who knew that there are forums dedicated to discussing this kind and shape of candy, apparently a Swedish specialty? Also Twitter feeds, Flickr and Instagram and Pinterest pictures. At least now I know what to call them in my translation: Chewy candy cars.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sweden's 16-year-olds to receive We Should All Be Feminists by Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Every 16-year-old in Sweden is being given a copy of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s call to arms, We Should All Be Feminists.

The essay, adapted from Adichie’s award-winning TED talk of the same name, is being distributed in Swedish to high-school students by the Swedish Women’s Lobby and publisher Albert Bonniers. Launching the project at Norra Real high school in Stockholm this week, they said they hoped the book would “work as a stepping stone for a discussion about gender equality and feminism”.

 For the full article see The Guardian.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Ruth Smith and Júlíana Sveinsdóttir, two painters from the Faroes and Iceland, now in Copenhagen Exhibit


  Ruth Smith and Júlíana Sveinsdóttir

100 years ago, women were given the right to vote in Iceland, on the Faroe Islands and in Denmark. To mark the occasion, Reykjavík Art Museum, the National Art Gallery of the Faroe Islands and Nordatlantens Brygge have collaborated to present an exhibition of the works of two female artists: Júlíana Sveinsdóttir from Iceland (1889-1966) and Ruth Smith from the Faroe Islands (1913-1958).
Both artists grew up in bleak, windswept island environments: in Heimaey in the Vestmannaeyjar Islands and Suderø in the Faroe Islands. They were two of the first professional female artists in their respective home countries, where painting in the early 20th century was in its infancy. Both studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Art in Copenhagen.

Both of them portrayed the nature of their home countries with a profound sense of colour and of the enormous power of nature in the eternal struggle between land and sea. Even though they lived from time to time in Denmark, they still preferred to paint island landscapes.

The exhibition provides an insight into the capacity of these two artists, not only to interpret landscape, but also to paint portraits both of themselves and of their contemporaries. What both artists had in common was their devotion to the self-portrait, where they hid nothing: neither melancholy nor old age.
The exhibition has been organised in collaboration with Reykjavík Art Museum, the National Gallery of the Faroe Islands and supported by the Nordic Culture Fund.

Curator: Hrafnhildur Schram.

14 November 2015 - 10 January 2016

North Atlantic House (Nordatlantans Brygge)


Monday, September 7, 2015

Fall readings and workshops: Fossil Island and The Former World

 If you're in the Puget Sound area, please join me for one of several events in the next two months to celebrate the publication of my novels inspired by the relationship between Emilie Demant Hatt and Carl Nielsen
October 2, Friday, at 7:30 p.m. at the Swedish Club, 1920 Dexter Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109. In honor of the Danish connection, the Club’s chefs will be preparing a tasting menu of Danish treats, available from 6 p.m. on. If you’ve never been to the Swedish Club, it’s a fabulous World’s Fair-era building with a view of Lake Union and a cocktail bar out of  “The Jetsons.”

November 1, Sunday, 3 p.m. at the Nordic Heritage Museum, 3014 NW 67th Street Seattle, WA 98117. I’ll be talking for the novels and signing books before  a 4 p.m. concert with the Novus Project featuring Carl Nielsen’s work (tickets for the concert are available at www.nordicmuseum.org $15 for Museum members, $20 general admission). 

November 14, Saturday, 7 p.m. at the Writers' Workshoppe in Port Townsend, 820 Water Street, PT, 360 379 2617. Earlier that day (10-3), I'll be giving a workshop on Writing Historical Fiction.

Sjoholm gives readers vibrant characters whose personal travails are all the more engrossing for the cultural upheavals that energize them. An entertaining, thoughtful story of old-fashioned romance, complicated by dawning modern mores.   Kirkus Reviews

These are thoughtful, glitteringly intelligent novels, as shrewd about shifting social conditions as they are about the workings of the human heart. – Editor’s Choice, Historical Novel Review

In Fossil Island, Nik is a fourteen-year-old tomboy who spends her time dreaming and fossilizing on the nearby island of Fur, a geologic marvel.  Her older sister Maj is studying to be a teacher but is starting to entertain ideas of women’s rights introduced by her new friend Eva Sandström. Both girls know they must marry eventually—just not yet. The summer of 1887 begins with a visit from the girls’ aunt, who brings with her from Copenhagen a young man of twenty-two, who plans to become a composer. Flirtation turns to a secret romance between Nik and Carl, as Maj weighs an engagement over her intense friendship with Eva. The following summer brings the sisters’ intertwining stories to a head as they spend a month in Copenhagen and juggle passion, jealousy, and violent events with how they can find independent lives of their own.

The story of Nik and Maj continues in the sequel, The Former World. Now sixteen, Nik resumes her relationship with the passionate Carl Nielsen, who comes once more for a summer visit in 1889 to her provincial village. But their bonds are strained by convention and Nik’s own stirrings of ambition to study art. Now twenty-one, Maj finds a teaching job, but her mother hasn’t given up the idea her eldest daughter will marry. Taking place over the course of two dramatic years, the sisters’ lives will be utterly changed by love, heartbreak, illness, and death. A vivid portrait of two stubborn daughters who love their family, but yearn for freedom on their own terms, The Former World recreates a time when women’s lives and Danish society were in transition. Whether it’s Nik learning to cycle or Maj dreaming of working in Brooklyn as a teacher, Nik and Maj are memorable characters in a setting both distant in time yet familiar.

"Fossil Island reads as well as any Jane Austen novel, but its political themes and social commentary really matter to the 21st-century reader. As in an Austen book, the characters are engaged with house parties, daily activities, relationships and, always and especially, conversations. However, this novel not only offers an insightful, engaging view of personal manners, social mores and romantic love, but also it deals with the politics of manners, mores, and love. In particular it illuminates the social history of women of the time, including lesbians and other women who wanted to live independent lives. Fossil Island brought to mind the wonderful and internationally acclaimed historical novels of Sarah Waters. Fossil Island, like Waters’s books, made me gasp out loud at its plot turns. The characters are so richly drawn, so compellingly human and difficult and funny and likable, and their interactions so humanly complicated, so impossible and so tender, that I think any fiction reader or history lover will read this, as I did, with avid enthusiasm.”                                                             ––Gillian Kendall, author of How I Became a Human Being

“Barbara Sjoholm transports us to Denmark in the 1880s, a time when traditional customs and ideas were giving way to new technology and modern thinking, and enchants us with the story of a girl’s first love.
Fossil Island captures beautifully the conflicting worlds the young lovers Carl and Nik move between: the harmony and lazy rhythms of village life on Jutland’s Limfjord, the dissonance and hectic tempos of Copenhagen. Nik experiences these disparate worlds with the apprehension and excitement of adolescence. In the city and the countryside she listens to young men and women debate the new ideas, but it is in the city Nik meets women who, by living life on their own terms, will make history and guide her on her own path: artists, writers, musicians, even her older sister’s feminist classmate who sails to America in search of work and adventure. Fossil Island is a book to savor—you won’t want to put it down, you won’t want it to end. ––Katherine Hanson, editor of An Everyday Story: Norwegian Women’s Fiction

Ordering information: www.cedarstreeteditions.com

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Remembering Faith Fjeld

Faith Fjeld (1935-2014)

Faith Fjeld was, among many other roles in life, the founding editor of Baíki. This international Sami journal was one of the first publications to give voice to Sami descendants in North America, in the context of the worldwide indigenous people's movement. The journal came out on an irregular basis, but in the end the 37 issues, full of thoughtful personal articles, book reviews, art, and photographs from Sami descendants and from writers and artists in Sápmi, such as Harald Gaski, Elina Helander-Renvall, and Hans Ragnar Mathisen, formed a portrait of an emerging movement.

Guided by Faith’s warmth and vision, the journal made space for talk, memories, and sometimes hard truths. I loved to read it and contributed a book review at one point. It was where I became aware of all the work Faith and others like Nathan Muus and Ruthanne Cecil had done to archive Sami material and to create exhibits about the Sami reindeer herders history in Alaska.

Now the last issue of Baíki has come out, #38, Summer 2015. Not only does it tell the story of Baíki and of Faith’s life, but it contains stories and memories from many of those who knew her well. Their moving words are testament to Faith’s profound and enduring influence.

In 1991, in the first issue of Baíki, Faith wrote: “It is my hope that Baíki will represent the reawakening of the Sami spirit in America, a spirit that has been dormant for many decades. . .The clandestine immigration of thousands of our ancestors to America under the guise of being ‘Norwegian,’ ‘Swedish,’ and ‘Finnish’ has created generations of descendants whose Sami identity has either been totally lost, or treated like an amusing joke to be disclaimed whenever it surfaced. . .Supposedly well-researched books and scholarly papers on Scandinavian-American Immigration ignore us completely.” Faith Fjeld was an inspiring mentor to many and Baíki was a catalyst for Sami awakening. Her journal, she wrote, “will celebrate the survival of Sami roots and Sami connections.”

For more about Faith Fjeld, seen through the eyes of those who admired and loved her, see http://www.baiki.org/content/FaithFjeld.htm