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Janet Garton

Amalie Skram and her German translators

The Norwegian novelist Amalie Skram was an important figure in Dano-Norwegian culture in the late nineteenth centur. She wrote her major novels between 1885 and 1900. As is the case with many other Norwegian writers, it was Germany which was the first country outside Scandinavia which showed an interest in translating her work. In the early 1890s Skram corresponded with two German translators, Mathilde Mann and Marie Herzfeld, who succeeded in publishing three of her works in 1891-93. Her play Agnete was translated and adapted by Therese Krüger and Otto Hartleben, and performed in Leipzig in October 1895. When Skram's controversial "madhouse" novel Professor Hieronimus appeared in 1895, the German publisher Albert Langen took an interest and published Mann's translation. It did not however sell well, and Langen offered Mann such a derisory sum for the sequel, På Sct. Jørgen, that she refused to translate it. In the years between 1897 and 1902 several more works by Skram were published in German translation by various translators, most of them women: Emmy Drachmann, Adele Neustädter, Cläre Mjøen, Luise Wolf. By 1902 ten of Skram's novels and three of her short stories had come out in German. Common to all of them is the fact that the translators were very poorly paid and that Skram, who was desperately short of money herself, received hardly any fee. But she was noticed by no less a critic than Rainer Maria Rilke, who acknowledged her as a great artist.

SvD, September 2011

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