Three highlights of CrimeFest

There were lots of lovely things about being at CrimeFest for a few days – but for me there were three special highlights. First was spending time with the friends I have made online: Karen of Euro Crime, Norman of Crime Scraps, Michelle of the University of Leeds (an old friend and now Euro Crime reviewer), and the very charming Martin Edwards and Michael Walters – two authors who have addictive blogs and gamely participate in our online shenanigans. There is something rather special about meeting online friends and associates in real life.

Second was the marvellous interview with Michael Connelly, which exceeded any expectations I might have had in advance, and if possible increased my admiration for this superb author. For me, the meeting was worth attending for that alone. What an inspiration, in so many ways.

But here I want to talk about a third highlight, the 'crime in translation' session, ably moderated by Ann Cleeves. It was wonderful to hear Ros Schwartz, Tiina Nunnally, Steven T. Murray (Reg Keeland) and Don Bartlett talking about their art. Tiina translated the book which started the English-speaking people's interest in Scandinavian crime fiction in a serious way – Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, by Peter Hoeg, which I vividly recall reading many years ago. Since then she's translated books by Karin Fossum and Mari Jungstedt, among many others. It was a delight to hear her intelligent analysis of the translator's work, which she likened to that of an interprative actor or a musician. She has just translated The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard, which she recommends. Steven T Murray has translated Henning Mankell, Helene Tursten, Camilla Lackberg, Karin Alvtegen and others, perhaps most famously Steig Larsson's Millennium trilogy. He and the audience had fun with the "holes" in Larsson's books. But certain Euro Crime representatives in the audience rapidly admitted to being extremely taken with the fourth member of the panel, Don Bartlett, who translates Jo Nesbo. Don held us enthralled as he spoke about the challenges of translating Nesbo's books out of order, and the problems with continuity – he and the book's editor have a large chart and spend much time ensuring that the names, dates and seasons all work. Why are the books translated out of order? The publishers like to start with the one that does well in the home country, wherever in a series the book sits. This is particularly sad in the case of Nesbo, who has written a tragic trilogy nested in his main series, and which was spectacularly marred for English-language readers by its bizarre publishing order.

Hakan Nessar, the Swedish author, told us fascinating stories and provided sharp insights about his writing life. In person he is as funny as his books – a dry, definite and slightly impatient humour which pervades his Van Veeteren series (also translated out of order!).

Hakan, Don, Steven and Tiina were all such a pleasure to listen to, and were so generous with their time outside the sessions. It was a delight for me to hear and meet them, and I hope very much that more translators and "authors in translation" will feature at future crime-fiction festivals.

Thanks to Adrian, Myles and their colleagues for organising such an enjoyable meeting.

16 thoughts on “Three highlights of CrimeFest

  1. Sounds really good! I am always interested to hear about translators. I admire them enormously – quite an artform…

  2. I missed the Michael Connelly interview, but I agree with Maxine the wonderful translators, Ros, Tiina, Steven, Don as well as Hakan Nesser were all superb entertainment.
    Unfortunately I was only able to have a brief word with the brilliant Martin Edwards, who claims on his blog not to be naturally gregarious or sociable, but we have seen the photo with his arm round Maxine on Euro Crime. ;o)
    Crime Fest was very enjoyable and hopefully next year’s program will be as good.

  3. Well, I have not seen that photo on Eurocrime and, to be frank, Norm, I am shocked. I demand a link.

  4. Thanks so much for the warm reception at CrimeFest, everyone. It was gratifying to be greeted so graciously after 39 years away from the UK. And fun to be addressed as “Reg” all weekend! I neglected to mention at the panel that all Larssonophiles should check out the new Norwegian site trying to raise money for his partner Eva Gabrielsson, supporteva.com — please pay it a visit!
    Reg / Steve

  5. The “crime in translation” panel sounds amazing. I think that one of the marks of a good translation is that one forgets while reading that it’s been translated which means that too often translators don’t get the credit they deserve. So it’s great to hear about all those talented translators front and centre talking about their work. I wish I could have been there!

  6. Sounds like a great panel and having read a couple of books that I feel were badly translated I am in awe of people who do a great job like those you’ve mentioned.

  7. Thanks, all, for your comment – and the infamous photo referred to above is slightly marred by the physog of the female half of it- oh well!
    Bernadette – of couse you are right but the translators did make the point that their work is often over-ruled by the editor and publisher – Tiina mentioned that she’s seen comments made about the poor translation of a book when she knows that the translator has fought hard for that particular point to be different. I resolved to remember this when I review translated fiction. Ros Schwartz also spoke of the translator profession and how much pressure people are under to translate far too quickly. There has recently been a large European survey about translators’ pay (shockingly low) and it turns out that many are treated like “factories” in order to earn enough to survive. Another point to bear in mind.

  8. Terrific to meet you as well, Maxine (even if the Euro Monkeys did force us, admittedly quite deservedly, into second place in the quiz – still, I walked away from that with the latest Nesbo, so I’m not complaining…). I agree with you about the Translators panel, which I found fascinating – in particular, I was intrigued by the blend of integrity and creativity which the best translators must bring to the party. And I should add that Tina and ‘Reg’, as well as being wonderful translators, are also lovely people.

  9. Maxine,
    Thank you for the update from Bristol.especially
    the translators forum. Incidentally –Tiina Nunnally-
    who -to my mind-is one of the very best of
    translators from Nordic languages –also translates-
    non-crime literature–and won an award -for her
    brilliant translation of Per Olov Enquist’s
    quite splendid ‘The Royal Physician’s Visit’

  10. Having spent all day Wednesday with Tiina and ‘Reg’ I can agree with Michael that they are lovely people, and very brave to put up with my driving.

  11. I wish I’d been there!
    If I may add something related to languages?
    My university, in its infinite (lack of wisdom), has decided to impose budget cuts on the Department of European Languages to the tune of 400 000 pounds over two years. This will mean the end of effective language teaching and learning, and will conceivably drive the whole department to the wall. (Subjects at even higher risk include Russian, Portuguese and one of only two Scandinavian Studies courses in the UK.) All on less than three weeks notice.
    This is close to my heart because I’m finishing a PhD in a European language, but it’s also a monumentally stupid decision given the wider importance of understanding other languages and cultures.
    I’d be extremely grateful if people could sign the petition and perhaps even forward it on if you know of others who might be interested.
    Staff and students have been meeting and are protesting next Monday, but we need all the help we can get if we’re to stop this.
    My apologies for what probably amounts to spamming, but I’m seething right now. So much for being a city of literature. And as for the translators of the future…

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