Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sigrid Undset Gets a New Translation

Rather than post a Discovery Friday, I thought I'd post this teaser about an event taking place at The Writer's Center next Wednesday, April 21 at 7:00 P.M.

The Writer’s Center and the Royal Norwegian Embassy are pleased to present a special evening featuring Norwegian Nobel Laureate Sigrid Undset’s poetry. The Honorable Wegger Christian Strømmen, Norwegian ambassador to the United States, will greet guests.

2010 marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of Undset’s rare collection of early poems, Ungdom (Youth). The book has now been translated into English, for the first time ever, by translator Harold P. Hanson, with illustrations by Evabeth Astrup. Joining Hanson at the event will be acclaimed actress Michelle Alexandra. Poems will be read both in English and in Norwegian. A reception will follow the event.

Sigrid Undset (1882-1949) is best known for Kristin Lavransdatter, which portrays the life of a woman in medieval Scandinavia in three volumes. She was a hugely prolific author, penning more than 40 books, and ranks as one of the most important writers in Norwegian literature.

A sample translation from Youth:


Jeg sitter på mit kammer i mørke, det er nat,

alle folk i huset er isenge

I en gård borti gaten spiller dansemusik,

piano og syngende strenge.

Det verker indi hjernen, jeg er så træt, så træt

og det svir I mine øine—gud ved, har jeg grætt,

eller bare sittet oppe for længe?

It is night. I sit in darkness on my bed.

The others have the sleep that nighttime brings.

In a house down the road are people dancing

to piano music and softly singing strings.

My tired brain is aching. What is wrong?

My eyelids sting—God knows if I have cried,

or have I just been sitting up too long?


Dr. Harold Hanson is a retired professor of Physics, a one-time staff director of the Committee of Science and Technology of the U.S. House of Representatives, and an ex-Provost of three universities, including the University of Florida. He has been a Fulbright scholar in Norway. He is the editor of the translation journal, Delos, and the primary translator of the Undset poems found in Youth.

A duel citizen of the U.S. and Norway, Michelle Alexandra has studied acting in London at The New York Film Academy and in Oxford at The British American Drama Academy. She has spent a great deal of time in Norway and speaks the language fluently. Since graduating from college, Michelle has been living and working as an actress in New York City. Favorite roles include "Jen" in John and Jen, "Lady Anne" in Richard III, and "Veronica" in the world premiere of Stephanie Gardner's The Point of No Return.

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