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Murray) was the most sold book in the United States in 2010], everything changed.
Suddenly, people that worked in translation could make money.
The London editor Geoff Mulligan had asked Bartlett to take a look at the book to see if Knausgaard might have crossover potential for English readers; and when he finished volume one, Bartlett recalls, “I told him — it sounds a bit silly now — I told him I thought he was worth the risk.” He certainly was: in 2012, the release of the first volume of Knausgaard’s in English, in Bartlett’s translation, set off a literary frenzy in the English-reading world that continues to this day.
While continuing to translate other Scandinavian novelists (notably Jo Nesbø and Per Petterson), Bartlett has produced one new installment in the series every year since then, each one hungrily awaited by Knausgaard’s devoted readership. In our conversation, Bartlett described the journey that led him from teaching to translating, and discussed the stamina and creativity required by this exacting, expressive art.
I could always hear differences between the translators, and I could always hear who it was translating.
When I started out as a translator, I used to read Henning Mankell. That was in 2000, from Danish, a book about children’s literature.
Called ), it ran to 3,600 pages — divided into six books — and was written by an author little-known (then) outside of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, named Karl Ove Knausgaard.There were lots of bits from German, Spanish, and Norwegian — Jens Jensen was the name of the author, I can’t remember the name of it.Then, the first novel that I translated that was published was Norwegian — a crime book — and it came out with Harvill [before Harvill and Secker merged].I think it was in 1993; I took this exam, a diploma in translation in German.It’s a very practical exam, with a very high failure rate.