Some sessions at SWF showcased Nordic literature, giving Singaporeans a chance to experience other form of creative works from the region apart from crime fiction
THE role nature plays in Nordic literature, why it is important to write in one's native language, the influence of surrealism and folklores in stories, and why crime fiction from Scandinavia is so popular in-spite of it having the world's lowest crime rate, were some of the issues discussed during the SWF.
Roy Jacobsen, one of Norway's most influential contemporary writers, Christian Jungersen, an international best-selling author from Denmark, Sjon, Oscar nominated author from Iceland, and Aase Berg, Swedish poet who has written extensively on pregnancy, nature and motherhood, shared their works and views with the audiences.
“I have been heavily influenced by Icelandic folklores in my writings, which essentially are a surreal view of Icelandic literature. People forget that the peaceful and welfaristic Nordic region they see now, was not always so. This social contract came into place very recently, just after the Second World War. So it's very important that writers such as us keep writing about the past, so that the future generations always keep guarding these hard-earned values,” noted Sjon.
Nordic crime fiction
Roy explained the popularity of crime fiction being churned out of Scandinavia. “Literature is always paradoxical in nature. No society on Earth is free from violence. Its just that writers imagine more about violence during peaceful times and vice-versa. For example, the most popular books during the great world wars were about peace and tranquillity. I can't imagine people writing about more violence when millions of lives were being lost.”
While all authors agreed that literal translation always kills the true meaning of a literary creation, trans-creation may do the trick. “If we want to reach wider audiences, its important to get our work converted into other languages. For this, every author should work with the translator personally, and get his or her work trans-created,” added Jungersen.
Aase Berg also talked about recent reports of racial tensions in her country, Sweden. “There prevails a misunderstanding that the racial tensions in Sweden are due to the society becoming heterogeneous. Rather its a tussle for political power between Social Democrats and Conservatives that is being played out. Welfarism is possible with heterogeneity, which Sweden will prove in due course.”
Kirpal Singh, director of the Wee Kim Wee Centre at the Singapore Management University, however differed from Berg and explained the reason why Scandinavia is so high in all the development indices. “These societies have remained isolated and homogeneous for ages. Not only because they discourage immigration. But also because of their climatic conditions [very cold temperatures] which are not very appealing. Above all, the discovery of oil in mid-last century helped boost their economy a great deal.”
Singh concluded by sharing an anecdote from his last visit to Scandinavia. “I was in Copenhagen when I hired a taxi driven by an Ethiopian who has been in Denmark for the last 27 years. And imagine my shock when he told me that even after almost three decades he has never been invited by a Danish into his home. Even though, we must never generalise in such cases, it helps us understand the sociology of a place.”
[Newzzit has published a detailed story on issues the Nordic nations are facing in one of our earlier issues]