Johannes Punkt’s Flaskpost

You may be required to show proof of id.

Tag: swedish


Good afternoon. You know the drill by now probably! Today’s piece is Dark Taxidermy. Translation notes, in English, are found below the story, so even if you don’t know Swedish you can enjoy the thing. You can find all entries in this project neatly organised at the following link: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/


    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

För en del kanadensiska jägare var det inte tillräckligt att göra troféer av sina villebråds kroppar. Ett visst jaktsällskap i Newfoundland utvecklade en teknik för att stoppa djurskinn med träskelett och glasorgan för att låta dem återgå till det vilda. Det främsta återuppväckningsmedlet var artificiellt blod med en formel som innehöll, bland annat, björnbärssirap och svartkrut och krossade eldflugor.

Dessa mekaniska varelser återvände till skogen som parior. De erkändes inte av sina egna arter. Det är oklart huruvida de identifierade med sin egen päls eller om de helt enkelt såg den som någon slags klädnad. Om de verkligen var samma djur eller inte efter prepareringen var en fråga ingen kunde ge definitivt svar på, men beteendeskillnaden var tydlig för vilken betraktare som helst. Deras ben böjdes på underliga håll och deras huvud verkade endast blicka åt ett håll.

För jägarna som beställde dem blev sådana troféer inte stilla påminnelser av deras triumf över naturen utan gav dem alla en chans att återuppleva den gång på gång. De återvände till skogen när än nostalgi grep tag i dem och spårade upp dessa varelser de lämnat kvar som släpade sig fram i fuguetillstånd, för att skjuta ihjäl dem en gång till. Deras omtåliga inälvor splittrades lätt, vilket framkallade en tillfredsställande explosion av lila vätska då kulan kolliderade med kroppen. Det var aldrig helt och hållet samma sak som den första gången, men det var mycket mer spännande än blotta minnet.

De som hade råd till det fick sina favorittroféer återuppbyggda igen och igen. Till slut var skinn och päls alldeles värdelösa, ty det var antalet glashjärtan en man hade splittrat som tydligast vittnade om hans rikedom.



Svart = black. The svart- in the title is the same black as in “the black market,” or the same dark as in “the dark arts” (svartkonster). Also, svarttaxi already means “irregulated taxicab (service),” so we’ve got echoes of that.

I also got to use the word villebråd, which technically means game rather than prey, but a) I really like that word and b) the predator/prey structure (one might even call it a discourse) doesn’t translate as well onto humans in Swedish as it does in English. It works, for sure, but it’s not as widely adapted. Or it’s adapted in other ways, at least.

“Sporting lodge” had to become “jaktsällskap” (hunting society) because I found no smooth way to communicate the concept of a sporting lodge. However, I would call them synonymous (i.e. not equivalent but close, corresponding). A much smaller thing that I changed was the list with the Oxford comma at the end of the first paragraph. The Oxford comma is incorrect in Swedish, and I thought the comma placement looked too messy without it so I made the list a succession of “and”s instead.

And here the word automaton stumped me again. Robot seems the wrong word to describe reanimated flesh, does it not? I’ve not translated this word the same way twice so far, and that has not been intentional but it seems to be becoming a trend. Zombie seemed the wrong choice partly because of the pop-mythology around it and partly because Swedish learnt the word from English, and rather recently, so I’d rather not use it anywhere other than where it says zombie in the original. I went with saying they were in “fuguetillstånd,” fugue state, because ambulatory automatism is a psychological term and this was fitting. Also, with the musical overtones to that word I would like to be seen suggesting, ever so slightly, that their state has indeed been orchestrated.

In the last paragraph we’ve got a curious case of what might be called the “middle voice.” Or, it’s a standard case of the middle voice, but it’s curious because it’s the middle voice at all. That is, it’s the thing between passive voice and active voice, not officially part of English. The only language I know off the top of my head where it shows up is Greek, but phrases like “got his hair cut” or “had her toenails removed” are usually used to illustrate the concept. In Swedish, the verb for get, , is usually used in such constructions.

Stray Translation Notes: “Soundbite”

So, I say, which I think is the best way to start a sentence/paragraph/text/&c. So — I am writing a lot of translation notes at the moment. And I’m also translating a lot of things for which I do not need to write down notes, but sometimes I write down notes anyway. It’s a good way to think. I’m editing a story I wrote, and the best most circuitous and frustrating but resultative way to edit a text is to translate it back and forth and compare versions, at least for me. A good thing about this process is that the translation becomes much freer because I can change both source text and translation all the time. (Often this means that I am tempted to rewrite a sentence to avoid a translation problem, but I don’t do that unless the new sentence is prettier/better.) So why am I telling you this?

I’m having a Problem and I thought I’d type it all out to see if I can figure it out. I met a man the other day who spoke like a Shakespeare character in that nothing seemed to occur to him if he didn’t say it out loud. It was a bit sad perhaps. Anyway, in the xth draft — English — there is suddenly the word soundbite (usually spelt sound bite, I know, but I make the rules here). It was not in the previous draft. It poses a problem because that word does not exist in Swedish. I use it a fair amount but I tend just to say “sound bite,” you see. In many contexts you can replace it by phrasures like innehållslösa ord (contentless words), ord folk bara upprepar i medier (words people simply repeat in the media), or uttalanden (statements), but in this context what I want is the slightly more technical definition that sound editing, like the statement is part of a longer speech, a summation about which one can find out more were one so inclined. Nevermind that nowadays speeches are made up of soundbites entirely, like reading out a listicle speech. A speechsticle. Nevermind that soundbites have shrunk from over half a minute to just a few seconds over the long term of the faithful radio apparatus.

I need the word for how it means all of the things I’ve brought up and more. The reason I want this specific definition/connotation is simply that it’s part of my background, it is how I talk. The story will be much less me if I don’t find a way to connote all of this and row it home. So, the important aspects identified so far are: (1) emptiness, (2) partialness, (3) expression (of an opinion or fact, as somewhat a pose), and (4) connection to radio as a medium. I’m ignoring the connection to holding speeches, in fact not counting the politicality as an important aspect at all. One technique that one can use sometimes is to assign connotations to other parts of the sentence or paragraph, if one cannot stuff all the right connotations into a word. Think of it as you would a certain poem; a sonnet perhaps. Sometimes you need to move around ideas, swap ankle for wrist in one place and mouth for pharynx in another. To get the rhythm right without sacrificing the content of ideas.


I guess this is the part where I tell you the whole sentence that the thing is in. Very well. The raw material of the xth draft is this:

He’d been thinking as he stood there in the aerobics hall – which was, surely, not the most masculine of ways to exercise anyway – of three different conversational topics and a few soundbites to chew through which could perhaps invite more comments and continued the conversation.

In my defence, it is not before the x+1st draft that I pay this close attention to the words on this level and care about grammar. But soft, what a relief. It seems that the verb “chew through” already connotes a kind of emptiness, and that should be easy enough to preserve in translation. Let us then say that the connection to radio as a medium is the most important thing to preserve, in which case we probably want a word like ljudklipp (sound clip?), which goes best with a verb like spela upp, connoting aspect (2) fairly well. We can add aspect (3) in another verb connected with the conversational topics brought up, by making sure the opinions-which-start-conversations do not need to be real things that this character actually believes. And so, I will leave you with the Swedish sentence. This thing will probably never reach print but I will be proud of it. Thank you for reading; it helps to pretend I’m talking to somebody.

När han stod där i aerobicssalen – nog inte den manligaste träningsformen – tänkte han fram tre olika åsikter han kunde ha och spelade upp några ljudklipp i huvudet som han kunde tugga igenom och som, möjligen, skulle locka mer kommentarer och fortsätta samtalet.

Avoiding Translationese (English from Swedish)

Below is a paragraph in Swedish. This post is about translating it. Do tell me if I’m talking out of my arse.

Jag har en teori, en hypotes, en intuition. Det finns ett koncept som människorna kallar ‘Skuld’. Det är någonting som skapas mellan människor var gång en social interaktion utspelas. Många interaktioner är till endast för att skapa skuld för andra, så att Skuldskaparen kan hamna högre upp i den sociala ordningen. Är man ‘i Skuld’ till någon måste man göra denne tjänster tills Skulden är utbetalad, vilken kan ta livstider om inte mer. Kirurgen skapar Skuld när den räddar värdkroppens liv, men om den inte följer protokollet som lagts ut av Immunförsvaret så läggs all Skuld på kirurgen istället. Det vi gör nu är att vi får den att bryta protokollet vare sig den vill eller inte.

I just wrote the above in a story I’m working on. I’ve known that bit will be difficult to translate for a while, so I’m at least slightly prepared. (I write the story first in Swedish and then translate it to English because I’m difficult.)

Machine-assisted translation gives me:

I have a theory, a hypothesis, a hunch. Humans have a concept they call ‘Debt’. It is something that is created between people every time a social interaction takes place. Many interactions exist only to create Debt, so the Debt creator ends up higher in the social order. If a human is ‘in Debt’, they have to pay the Debt off, which could take lifetimes if not more. This surgeon will create Debt when they save the host body’s life, but if they do not follow the protocol laid out by the Immune System, any Debt created is on the surgeon instead. The thing we are doing right now is getting them to break the protocol, whether they want to or not.

I’ve adjusted it a lot, but I still love Google Translate and would like to have its babies or so. However, there is a problem.

Read the rest of this entry »