Wolves in the Dark by Gunnar Staalesen translated by Don Bartlett **Blog Tour Author Post and Review **

I'm so happy to be on the Blog Tour to celebrate Wolves in the Dark by Gunnar Staalesen.  2017 marks the 40th Anniversary of its central character, Varg Veum. I'm particularly delighted to welcome Gunnar to Books, Life and Everything with his thoughts on having your work translated. I hope you enjoy hearing from him. Before we meet Gunnar though, here's a little more about his latest Varg Veum book.

PI Varg Veum fights for his reputation, his freedom and his life, when child pornography is found on his computer and he is arrested and jailed. Worse still, his memory is a blank...

Reeling from the death of his great love, Karin, Varg Veum's life has descended into a self-destructive spiral of alcohol, lust, grief and blackouts.
When traces of child pornography are found on his computer, he's accused of being part of a paedophile ring and thrown into a prison cell. There, he struggles to sift through his past to work out who is responsible for planting the material... and who is seeking the ultimate revenge.

When a chance to escape presents itself, Varg finds himself on the run in his hometown of Bergen. With the clock ticking and the police on his tail, Varg takes on his hardest - and most personal - case yet.

Welcome to Books, Life and Everything, Gunnar. Over to you!


Caught in translation
My first crime novel was published in Norway in 1975; my first in the series about Varg Veum in 1977. The first time I was published in another country was in 1984, in Denmark. Three countries followed in 1986: UK, Russia (then the Soviet Union) and Bulgaria. And in 1987 I was published in Sweden and Germany.
Since then my books have been published in 23 countries, the most recent new one being China, and the most important being France, where, in 2002, my publisher decided to release the whole Varg Veum series chronologically. This year France has reached We Shall Inherit the Wind, published in UK in 2015. My French publisher (and my Danish one) have also published what I look upon as my chef d’oeuvre: my Bergen trilogy, which was published in Norway between 1997 and 2000. This trio of crime novels opens with a murder that takes place on the night of 1 January 1900 and is only solved (by Varg Veum) on 31 December 1999.
As a writer it is both a pleasure and an honour to be translated into another language. It means that somebody in another country has found your book(s) interesting enough to invest money in. In Norway, when I am interviewed by school pupils – and even by adult journalists – I am often asked: Do you translate your book into English, French and Danish, etc., yourself? I have to answer: No, that would be impossible. One might imagine that a translator could be bilingual, having one parent from, say, the UK, and the other from Norway. But that is not the rule. Usually the translators are from the UK, France, Denmark etc. themselves, but have studied Nordic languages at university. My first-class UK translator, Don Bartlett, specialised originally in Danish, but since Danish and Norwegian for historic reasons are very close to each other, he later switched to Norwegian, fortunately for us Norwegian writers. This is a position he shares with my very good French translator, Alex Fouillet.
I have been asked whether I work alongside the translator or just hand the book over. Is there a dialogue? In an ideal world, I would sit in the neighbouring room to the one my translator is in, writing a new Varg Veum novel in Norwegian and being consulted by the translator if he has a question about the previous one. But that would not be very practical. We both have our lives to live, in the UK and Norway. And I have to be at home when I write; I have never been any good at writing while I’m abroad. To have the Bergen atmosphere around me and outside the window is important when I write a new Varg Veum novel; I have to have the feeling of the city outside and inside my body. And I am afraid, if we were next door to each other, we would end up having more coffee, tea or beers than is useful for writing. So each person does his work in his own country.
This is the same with my three favourite translators, the two guys in UK and France and the woman in Denmark.
But, of course, there are questions from the translators during their work. In almost every book there is some cultural or local reference that you cannot Google or look up in a book. From time to time I get an email from one of my translators, asking what in the world is this or that? Very often it can be a question about the name of a character from, for instance, Winnie the Pooh (the donkey Eeyore has different names in different languages), from cartoons (Donald Duck is called Donald Duck in Norway, but Anders And in Denmark and Kalle Anka in Sweden). Or the questions could be about more local phenomenon, like the Bergen boy brigades, for instance, known as ‘buekorps’. It is always a pleasure to get questions like this, because I should be able to give the correct answer; some of them I have even had to research myself before publishing the book in Norway. For example, in We Shall Inherit the Wind, chapter 17, Varg Veum passes a small lake, which in Norwegian is called Pilaren. I understood very well why Don had problems with understanding that name, because I had to research it myself. He decided to call it The Duck Pond, which is 100 percent correct, because the old Bergen expression ‘pil’ indicates ducks – or in fact the feathers of ducks, which very few Norwegians would know. I would say that the English version is clearer than the Norwegian one!
The responsibility for how good a translation is always lies with the translator and the publisher; the writer is a very humble consultant, standing on the sidelines. So it is no secret that my recent success in UK and other English-reading countries belongs just as much to Don Bartlett as it does to me.

                        Gunnar Staalesen

Thank you, Gunnar. It is thrilling to be able to feature you on my blog today and to hear your thoughts on handing your work over to the translator. Special thanks to Don Bartlett too, for such a great job.

My Thoughts

When I realised that Wolves in the Dark features a character who was first created in 1977 and that there are in fact over 20 titles featuring Varg Veum, I must admit that I did feel a little foolish that I had not read a single one! However, it didn't spoil my enjoyment  in the slightest. You can sense as you read on that this is a character and setting which the author is very familiar with. There is a solidity to the story, so densely plotted, which gives you as a reader, complete confidence in the novel. 

    The subject matter, child pornography and internet misuse, is gritty and shocking and feels totally of today. However, it never becomes gratuitous. The novel revolves around Varg's quest to discover the truth and to clear his name. I particularly admire how the net of characters who people the story seem to circle around, being pulled further and further into the plot. Subtle details point you to the horrors they are part of and hint at the complexity of their relationships. 

    Of course it is the lone wolf, Varg who dominates the action and drives the plot forward. I was so pleased to find out that 'varg' is the Norwegian for 'wolf'! Forensic in his work, he is relentless yet you sense his feelings of confusion and helplessness and even horror at his situation. I've seen Gunnar Staalesen decribed as one of the fathers of Nordic Noir and he certainly gives a masterclass in how to write a socially aware yet chilling thriller. 

In short: a tense and expertly written piece of Nordic Noir.

About the Author

Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway in 1947. He made his debut at the age of 22 with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over 20 titles, which have been published in 24 countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Epsen Seim. Staalesen, who has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour), lives in Bergen with his wife. When Prince Charles visited Bergen, Staalesen was appointed his official tour guide. There is a life-sized statue of Varg Veum in the centre of Bergen, and a host of Varg Veum memorabilia for sale. We Shall Inherit the Wind and Where Roses Never Die were both international bestsellers.

Don Bartlett is the foremost translator of Norwegian, responsible for the multaward - winning, bestselling books by Jo Nesbo, Karl Ove Knausgaard and Per Pettersen. It is rare to have a translator who is as well-known and highly regarded as the author.


Thanks to Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater of Orenda Books for a copy of the book and a place on the Blog Tour. 

Check out these great blogs on the Blog Tour!

  

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