Last walk through Copenhagen

Last updated: 31 July 2018

Ooh, Copenhagen hipster Dan Turèll wrote a poem called Gennem byen en sidste gang, translated by Thomas E Kennedy as Last walk through the city – see the multimedia presentation, lacking only the thing på dansk.

Written in 1977, a version with composer Halfdan E was recorded shortly before Turèll’s death in 1993. Googling reveals that the poem is a school standard, a sort of Stop all the clocks for Denmark.

Re the translation, perhaps it’s because I know Danish and Copenhagen, but translating place names really grates. West Bridge? What? Only the fourth most hip neighourhood in the world (this week). And what is a serving house? Is it an American thing? I’d expected the Danish to be bodega, but it turns out it’s værtshus. What’s wrong with ‘pub’?

Update, 31 July: turns out that TEK translated the placenames as it took him four years to get his head round them. I have a certain sympathy with this as it was several years before I linked Vestamager metro station with Amager – I though it was Vesta-mager. Apparently American readers like the translations, although Danes find them hilarious.

Here’s Dan’s reading with shots of CPH before it got tidied up:


Exploring the #nordicnoir phenomenon

Update, 8 Nov: the CPH Post reports (via Jyllands Posten) that foreign sales of Danish literature increased 8.9%in 2012, with 394 titles to be found on foreign bookshelves. Much of the interest is tied to the success of Nordic noir, with other genres inc food and health also doing well. Is this bordering on overkill? The PhD was awarded to Ellen Kythor, aka @nellefant – see article.

It’s a bit of a shocker, I know, but the whole #nordicnoir thing leaves me cold. I’ve never been into krimi in any form, and I’m with the Guardian reviewer on Thomas E Kennedy (“doesn’t quite get the pulse racing”) rather than Emma Kennedy. But still, the level of current fervour into all things Scandi does bring up some things of interest.

As seen in my Kierkegaard 2013 post UCL’s Department of Scandinavian Studies held an event on Kierkegaard, the uncanny and Nordic noir on 17 May. They also run a Nordic Noir Book Club, which on 4 November held a meeting launching a translation of Dan Turèll’s Murder in the dark (see video; particularly enjoyed the comment re deeply disturbed Danish protagonists). I’ve managed to pretty much miss Dan up to now, but he’s big in Denmark:

  • Wikipedia | Turèll Samlingen | Facebook  | CPH Post
  • Thomas E Kennedy also doing translations
  • had a thing about Vesterbro, writing a series of crime novels from 1981-89, set in an alternative crime ridden version of the area – see article Fra Vangede til Vesterbro: i Dan Turèlls fodspor (2012) and a literary walk and festival taking place on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of his death (15 October) in his home town of Vangede (Gentofte)
  • see Kenn André Stilling’s Alfabet TURÈLL (2011), commemorating Dan Turèll (1946-93), a play in rusted steel in the form of letters and punctuation marks surrounded by a 47m long bench, one meter for each year of Turèll’s life, in his birthplace of Vangede

I’m intrigued enough to move a collection of Dan’s writing about CPH (often in the I byen column in Politiken) owned by my partner to my drifts bookshelf. Update, Dec 2013: an article in Berlingske looks at Dan’s increasing popularity på engelsk.

UCL Scandi Studies is also setting up a Danish-English Translators network, part of a new Danish-English Impact Translation Studentship at UCL. The things that go on! Fomenting some ideas…

From Miss Smilla to Sara Lund: Danish-English literary translation in a changing media landscape 

The focus of the proposed research project is a literary-sociological analysis of the reception and marketing of Danish literature in the UK, in the context of the current wave of media and popular interest in Danish culture. As a UCL Impact PhD Student, the successful candidate will also be expected to undertake public engagement work in the broad field of Danish literature in the UK (including, for example, organising book club meetings and other events, attending book fairs and blogging), and to facilitate the development of a new network for Danish-English translators.

The research project starts from the assumption that the current wave of popular and critical interest in Danish culture in the UK is an unprecedented phenomenon which can only be understood by analyzing (a) how new business models and emerging technologies in publishing, television and journalism are interacting with social media; (b) how communities of interest around these cultural products are thereby produced and sustained; and (c) the interaction between a dominant genre (crime fiction/television) and other less fashionable genres (for example, short fiction, science fiction, mystery, romance and children’s literature).

The research project will thus provide a detailed account of the reception and marketing of a ‘small-nation’ literature in the UK, during a period of intense technological change.