Archive for September 8, 2011

The 12 September will mark the fifth anniversary of my debut blogging about crime fiction. I wanted a really special feature to celebrate this, and the relaunch of my old blog as Crime Scraps Review.

Don Bartlett, the brilliant translator of Norwegian crime writers Jo Nesbo and K.O.Dahl, was kind enough to agree to answer a few questions.  Don is responsible for many many hours of pleasurable reading for fans of translated crime fiction, and it is a privilege to have a contribution from him on the blog.

1] Don, what books did you read as a child, and did any of the authors have an influence on your later reading?

During the last year at primary school we had to read 40 classics from all over the world. Writers like Mark Twain, Alexander Dumas, Jules Verne, R L Stevenson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Anna Sewell, Susan Coolidge, Walter Scott, Kipling etc. I remember liking the majority, and maybe they gave me a sense of the outside world. Other names, worlds, come to mind: Biggles, Arthur Ransome, Hornblower! Not much of that left in primary schools now, but thanks to them I started reading.

2] What inspired your interest in languages?

Not sure what came first, but I was always interested in words. Later, the French and German assistants marked a change for me. They were very lively, supportive, dressed in different ways from the other teachers and expressed new opinions. They brought a bit of life and humour into the classroom and made me realize that languages connected directly with real life. For a while I thought it was just conjugations on the page. After that, I became more and more inquisitive.

3] After university did you always want to translate?

I have never had any sense of direction as regards a ‘career’. I taught abroad first and discovered I loved it. Loved living abroad, learning all the time, learning about teaching and being in direct contact with language and people. Translation had been a constant fascination, but I never seriously considered translation as a job until much later. And again it was only because I tried it professionally and discovered a taste for it.

4] When you have the time do you read crime fiction for relaxation, and if so which authors?

Like perhaps most translators, I don’t have a lot of time to read for myself. When I do I am guided by some of your recommendations, I browse in book shops, listen to what friends say about their reading. Of course, I try to keep up-to-date with other Scandinavian authors as well. In the last year, though, I have fallen behind with everything. Think the last English crime book I read was a Wingfield ‘Frost’. And very amusing it was too.

5] Do you prefer Jo Nesbø style thrillers or more traditional detective stories as written by K.O.Dahl and others?

What I prefer is crime books with lively characterisation, wit, pace and social comment. So, I admire parts rather than whole books. I like Jo Nesbø’s dialogues, comments about Norwegian society and his main character, Harry Hole. In K.O.Dahl’s books I like the way the author makes fun of both detectives, Gunnarstranda and Frølich, while building a credible plot and moving towards a satisfying ending. And I admire the light, ironic style of Gunnar Staalesen’s writing with the huge sense of place. Not forgetting the very decent private investigator, Varg Veum. All three writers have something that appeals to me. I probably lean more to the traditional detective novel.

[to be continued]