Blog tour: The Chestnut Man + competition

Welcome to The Chestnut Man blog tour!


I have been trying to think of a clever introduction to Søren Sveistrup’s debut novel but I am too star-struck to think straight. So, here’s how things are:

Søren Sveistrup is the scriptwriter of the awesome Danish TV series The Killing.
Søren Sveistrup’s debut novel, The Chestnut Man, is coming out in the UK on January 10th.
I loved The Killing and I am loving The Chestnut Man.
Why haven’t I finished the book already?
Because I am a chicken and I can only read it during daylight hours if I am not alone in the house.
How on earth am I going to fulfil my blogging duties today?
I was hoping you’d ask!

I have a surprise for your today! Two, in fact, so you’ll have to read to the end!

First of all, I am over the moon to introduce you to Caroline Waight, the skilled linguist who has translated the novel from Danish into English, thus allowing us avid readers to enjoy this awesome book.

Hi Caroline! Thank you for joining me today. I am currently reading The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup, which you have translated from the Danish, and I’d like to ask you a few questions both on this specific book and more generally on translation. So let’s begin…

How did you get started in literary translation?

A: I’ve always loved translated literature, but – like a lot of readers – I never really thought about the people behind the English-language text. Then one day in 2014 someone sent me a link to the Goethe Institut Award for New Translation, a competition aimed at aspiring translators from German. It seemed like a fun challenge, so I entered – and ended up winning. After that, one thing led to another; I met some wonderful translators who encouraged me to make it a career (I was working in publishing at the time), and a couple of years later I took the plunge into full-time literary translation. 

I’m only reading this novel during daylight hours as I find it terrifying. How were you able to find some distance from the gory details while translating them?

A: Funnily enough, I actually had a nightmare involving a scene from the book only the other day! So I think it’s still in my head. You do have to soak up the atmosphere of a novel in order to convey it successfully in English, so there’s a certain element of just embracing the darkness! Still, when you’re translating, you’re often looking at a sentence in so much detail that the actual subject matter fades into the background. You’re focusing on craft, on the sound of specific words, on rhythm, which protects you to a certain extent from the grisly details. The trick is shifting between that approach and a more overall, holistic feel.

Did you have any contact with the author? In general, how do you find that having access to the author impacts on the translating process?

A: Søren was keen to be involved, which is always incredibly rewarding – often authors will come up with great suggestions for tricky spots, and it’s fascinating to learn more about how they think about the book. In my experience, they’re usually excited about the new possibilities a foreign language affords, so the English version can sometimes be quite different from the original. I’ve been lucky in that most of the authors I’ve worked with understand that translation is a creative act in itself, and trust me enough to let me experiment!

Without giving too much away, can you please describe a scene that you loved translating or that was particularly difficult to render in English?

A: That’s a tough question! I think I’d have to say the opening chapter was my favourite bit to translate – it’s so deliciously sinister, particularly the final paragraph, which comes out of nowhere and whacks you over the head (no pun intended). 

What do you think contributes to a good translation?

A: Translation is a tightrope walk. You need to be true to the original, but that means taking risks and being creative. A literal translation is usually one that falls flat, and that does a terrible disservice to the text. At the same time, you’re dealing with somebody else’s ideas, so obviously you have to respect that. It’s hard! But ultimately I think a well-translated novel is one that grips readers in English just as much – and in the same way – as it gripped readers in its original language. 

What are you working on at the moment? 

A: I’m just finishing up working on a German-language non-fiction book called The Gravediggers, which is a collage-like breakdown of the last days of the Weimar Republic. It’s quite a 180 degree turn from The Chestnut Man, but I like mixing things up and working on a variety of projects.

What are you reading at the moment?

A: I’m slightly late to the party here, but I’m reading Milkman at the moment and loving the distinctive voice. Strange, claustrophobic, sad. 

Is there one genre that you prefer translating? Does this reflect your preference as a reader?

A: I’d say my preferences as a translator map pretty closely onto my preferences as a reader. Working from Danish, crime has always been a favourite, of course, but I also do literary fiction, non-fiction and occasionally even children’s books – almost anything except poetry, which I love to read but have always found near-impossible to translate. I like to mix up my genres!

Many thanks for your time!

I hope you have all enjoyed this glimpse behind the scenes! And now, to the second surprise:

If you’d like a chance to win a copy of The Chestnut Man, all you have to do is s follow me on Twitter and retweet the competition post by 01/02/2019, the last day of this amazing blog tour. UK only. All comments left below will count as extra entries (one per person). Good luck!

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