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The Reception of the Swedish Retranslation of James Joyce’s Ulysses (2012)

Department of languages and literatures, University of Gothenburg, 414 61 Gothenburg, Sweden
Humanities 2019, 8(3), 146;
Received: 31 July 2019 / Revised: 7 August 2019 / Accepted: 14 August 2019 / Published: 30 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nordic and European Modernisms)


This article focuses on how the second Swedish translation of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses (2012) was received by Swedish critics. The discussion of the translation is limited to a number of paratextual features that are present in the translation, including a lengthy postscript, and to the translation’s reviews in the daily press. The release of the second Swedish translation was a major literary event and was widely covered in national and local press. Literary critics unanimously welcomed the retranslation; praising the translator’s raw, vulgar and physical language, his humour, and the musicality of his expression. Regarding its layout, title, and style, the new translation is closer to the original than the first translation from 1946 (revised in 1993). The postscript above all emphasizes the humanistic value of Joyce’s novel and its praise of the ordinary. It also addresses postcolonial perspectives and stresses the novel’s treatment of love and pacifism. These aspects were also positively received by the reviewers. For many reviewers, the main merit of the novel is found in its tribute to sensuality and the author’s joyful play with words. Negative comments tended to relate to the novel’s well-known reputation of being difficult to read. One reviewer, however, strongly questioned the current value of the experimental nature of the novel. Opinions also diverged on whether the retranslation replaces or merely supplements the first Swedish translation.

1. Introduction, Aim, and Scope

The early 20th century was a particularly prolific period in Sweden with respect to the production of new translations of a number of modern classics. Apart from James Joyce’s modernistic masterpiece Ulysses (Joyce 2012), translated by Erik Andersson, which is the focus of this paper, Swedish readers could enjoy new versions of J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Ring (2004–2005), translated by Erik Andersson (prose) and Lotta Olsson (poetry), and The Hobbit (2007), translated by Erik Andersson (prose) and Johan Swedenmark (poetry). Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks (2005), was translated by Ullrika Wallenström, Albert Camus’ The Stranger/The Outsider (2009) was translated by Jan Stolpe, and Gustav Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (2012) was translated by Anders Bodegård. To this enumeration, which by no means is exhaustive, several novels by Jane Austen and modernist writer Virginia Woolf should be added: Emma (2010), translated by Rose-Marie Nielsen, followed by Persuasion (2013) and Sense and Sensibility (2016), both translated by Maria Ekman; The Years (2015), Three Guineas (2017) and To the Lighthouse (2019) translated by Margareta Backgård.
The release of the Swedish retranslation of Joyce’s Ulysses coincided with the expiration of the European copyrights of the author’s work. This was of course no coincidence. According to the publisher Eva Bonnier (2012, personal communication), there were, however, no financial reasons behind their decision to delay their commission of a new translation. In this respect, it is noted that they had received support from the Ireland Literature Exchange translation fund. Rather, the delay was due to the notorious difficulty in obtaining the necessary permission from the Joyce estate. The Swedish retranslation was, in fact, one of several retranslations of the novel which appeared around the same time. In 2004, the prestigious publisher Gallimard released a new French translation; a polyphonic version where different individuals had translated the 18 episodes (Hoepffner 2011). In 2012, Dutch readers received a second retranslation, and, in the same year, Finnish fans of Joyce finally had an alternative to the original translation, which contained many errors (Schueler 2010; Zilliacus 2012).
The aim and scope of the present paper is to examine how the Swedish retranslation of the most (in)famous work of modernism was received in Sweden. Almost a hundred years have passed since Ulysses was first published and it is over sixty years since the first Swedish translation was made available. Questions that are raised in this context are: How was Joyce’s modernist novel evaluated a century after the novel’s initial publication? What questions and problems did the retranslation pose for reviewers and critics? In what respect did the reception of the retranslation differ from the reception of the first Swedish translation? and How was Andersson’s translation evaluated? The discussion that follows should be understood as an instance of ‘reception history’, covering the period immediately following the release of the retranslation, and is limited to an examination of certain paratextual features found in the retranslation and a consideration of the relevant literary reviews that appeared in the daily press.
A study of the Swedish context could be argued to be of particular interest as Swedish was the first language James Joyce was translated into: In 1921, a year before the Irish author became famous through the publication of Ulysses, a Swedish version of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was released at the publication house Gebers, translated by Ebba Atterbom (Olofsson 1986, p. 18). (Years later, the translator’s name, slightly changed, would appear in a pun in Finnegans Wake (1939): “The Fin had a flux and his Ebba a ride./Attabom, attabom, attabombomboom!” (Olofsson 1986, p. 36)). The publisher Nils Geber also had ideas to commission Ulysses for translation into Swedish soon after its release, but abandoned these plans after reading the novel, estimating that the Swedish audience was not yet ready and that it would at best sell only a few hundred copies (Olofsson 1986, p. 33).
Instead, the first Swedish version of Ulysses, entitled Odysseus (Sw.) (Joyce 1946), was published in 1946 by Bonniers publishing house. The translator, Thomas Warburton (1918–2016), was a relatively young Finland-Swedish editor, translator, and writer at the time. In 1993, a revised version was released where Warburton had made more than 4000 changes (Joyce 1993). These changes were informed by Hans Walter Gabler’s annotated edition (from 1984) and the latest Joyce research. Both versions were praised and were very well received (Nordwall-Ehrlow 1986, p. 52; Riikonen 2004; Bladh 2014). As reported on in Section 3.2. below, many critics did not think that Warburton’s translation was dated. However, the publisher was obviously of another opinion and, in 2007, Erik Andersson was commissioned to retranslate Joyce’s most important novel.
Erik Andersson (1962–) is a Swedish author and translator. He is primarily well known for his retranslation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, due to the strong reactions his translation prompted in the Tolkien community. Andersson’s version remained much closer to the original and consequently differed substantially from the first Swedish translation from the 1960’s by Åke Ohlmarks. Whilst producing the translation, Andersson also prepared a commentary, or a “translation diary”, Översättarens anmärkningar (The translator’s notes), where he reflected on different aspects connected to the translation process. A similar book, Dag in och dag ut med en dag i Dublin (Day In and Day Out with One Day in Dublin) (Andersson 2012), was released in conjunction with his retranslation of Ulysses. Here, Andersson exposed for example how he used the first Swedish translation of Ulysses as a sort of “safety net” (“säkerhetsnät”): after translating a chapter, he would always compare it to Warburton’s version in order to further reduce the chances of misunderstanding or misinterpreting the unruly original.
Not surprisingly, Andersson’s recognized skill as a translator—including his experience of completing a previous translation project that lasted several years—explains why the publisher commissioned him for the task. Two other reasons why he was commissioned are Andersson’s thorough knowledge of Ireland and Irish literature and his sense of humor; an important feature for a Joyce translator (Åkerstedt 2012, editor at Bonniers, pc).

2. Paratextual Features of the Translation

The new translation was released in January 2012, in an impressive softback edition two weeks before what would have been Joyce’s 130th birthday. A year later, in 2013, the novel was available as an e-book and in the form of an audiobook in a recording by renowned actor Reinar Brynolfsson. In 2014, readers could purchase the paperback edition. Meanwhile, real connoisseurs could revel in a special gift-set edition in the form of a wooden box including the softback edition, the CD version, and Erik Andersson’s translation diary Dag in och dag ut med en dag in Dublin.
In many respects, the aim of the retranslation was clearly to stay as close as possible to the original. To start with, the former Swedish title, Odysseus, which had been chosen by the first translator, Thomas Warburton, was changed to Ulysses and was thus identical to the title of the English original. The publisher Eva Bonnier (2012, pc) explained that there were several reasons behind their decision to change the title. With a new title, the publisher clearly signaled that the retranslation should be considered as a new edition. At the same time, they wished to respect the author’s intentions. Admittedly, Joyce had chosen the Latin form of the name (and not Odysseus, which also exists in English) even though its use is less common in English, compared to Swedish (Farran-Lee 2012, p. 795). Another reason why Ulysses was chosen as the title of the retranslation was that the publisher wished to align itself with a European tradition, where many other publishers in different European countries favoured a title for their translations that was derived from the Latin form (O’Neill 2005, p. 125). No changes in the title had, however, occurred, at least not by 2005, when Patrick O’Neill’s study of Joyce in translation was published. The Swedish retranslation was not alone in breaking this trend in 2012; the second retranslation into Dutch was entitled Ulysses, not Ulyxis as used by the two previous versions, and the Finnish retranslation abandoned the former Odysseus in favour of Ulysses, just like the Swedish retranslation.
Regarding its physical dimension and layout, the Swedish retranslation gives the impression that the publisher wished it to be as similar as possible to the original edition from 1922 that was published by Shakespeare and Co. in Paris, by Sylvia Beach. A brief note on the back flap of the dust jacket, however, indicates that the design of the cover actually emulates the first British edition. The book is a heavy imposing tome with a turquoise blue cover and the title of the novel, the name of the author, and the publishing house (in smaller font at the very bottom of the cover) revealed in white text. The flaps of the dust jacket contain a short note on the author (front flap) and a brief summary of the novel (back flap), where the translation is described as “outstanding” (“enastående”). The remaining paratextual elements consist of a postscript (“Efterskrift”, 7 pages in length) followed by an extensive list of “word explanations” (“Ordförklaringar”, 21 pages, 592 items). These “word explanations” are translations of non-English words and expressions in the novel which are left un-translated in the Swedish translation. In many cases, the entries also indicate the source of the expressions. A concluding paragraph consists of an acknowledgment to those individuals who the translator consulted for help in compiling the list of “word explanations”.
The softback edition does not inform the reader at the beginning of the book about the wordlist and it is thus only by looking through the book’s entirety that the reader will find it. The postscript is also somewhat concealed, given that it is not mentioned on the title page or in a ‘table of contents’. In the softback edition, a brief note on the back flap states: “With a postscript by Stephen Farran-Lee” (“Med en efterskrift av Stephen Farran-Lee.”). This underwent a slight change in the paperback edition where this short notice receives a slightly more prominent position since it appears on the back of the book.
No information about which edition of the original text that the translation is based on is included in the colophon, placed at the end of the book. In one review in the national daily Dagens Nyheter, critic, academic, and future member of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius described this unfortunate omission on behalf of the publisher as a “major blunder” (“plump i protokollet”) (Danius 2012). The number of editions of Ulysses have, in fact, become so numerous that the Cambridge Companion to Ulysses only refers to Hans Walter Gabler’s edition from 1984 in the section “Manuscripts and Early Versions” among their suggestions for further reading (Latham 2014, p. 221). Danius reports that there are at least three different editions of the book, all of which are afflicted with various problems, and that there is no consensus within the research community concerning a ‘definitive’ version of the novel, even though most researchers use Gabler’s 1984 edition. Danius opines that this unclear situation called for an explanation on the publisher’s behalf as to which edition was used and why.
Let us now return to the postscript and examine it in more detail. Contrary to the lengthy afterword in the revised version of the first Swedish translation in 1993, where Thomas Warburton accounted for the difficulties connected with the source text and the implications the most recent research in Joyce studies had on his revised translation (approximately 4000 changes), the postscript in the 2012 retranslation was not written by the translator. Stephen Farran-Lee, a Swedish publisher, translator, and cultural journalist specialized in contemporary Irish literature wrote the postscript of the new translation. Between 1993 and 1996, Farran-Lee was the editor of Bonnier’s Literary Magazine (BLM). He has also translated novels by the Irish authors Patrick McCabe and Eoin McNamee. Working with Ola Larsmo, he wrote Joyce bor inte längre här (“Joyce doesn’t live here anymore”), a book on contemporary Irish fiction. Even though Farran-Lee is a prominent figure within the literary profession, he is somewhat unknown to the public.
Whereas the function of Warbruton’s postscript primarily corresponds to “the first minor function” in Genette’s taxonomy of ‘later prefaces’ (Genette [1997] 2010, p. 240), i.e., “the function of calling attention to the corrections, material or other, made in this new edition” (ibid.), the function of the postscript in the retranslation also corresponds to Genette’s chief function of the original assumptive authorial preface; namely, “to promote and guide a reading of the work” (Genette [1997] 2010, p. 265). As Farran-Lee indicates, the intended addressee of the postscript is not a reader who just finished the novel, but rather, a reader who gave up on reading the whole book and discovered the postscript only accidently, while flipping through the book to check where the end was. The postscript thus takes the form of a gentle, yet learned, informative and personal encouragement to the reader to continue reading the novel expressed in a set of suggestions for how the reader might approach the book.
Farran-Lee begins with acknowledging that “[i]t is, of course, impossible to say something new about this novel” (“Det är förstås omöjligt att säga något nytt om den här romanen.”) (Farran-Lee 2012, p. 794) and that, instead, his task is to provide a helping hand to a first-time reader to overcome his or her fear of the imposing volume. He notes that the passages which were once considered obscene and scandalous are no longer offensive, and that the novel’s reputation for being difficult to read remains intact. In his view, Ulysses, as a literary institution, does not make the book less frightening.
The most renowned introduction to Ulysses in Swedish is Om James Joyces Odysseus (“On James Joyce’s Ulysses” 1970) by Olof Lagercrantz, a leading intellectual and editor-in-chief of Dagens Nyheter between 1960 and 1975. It is thus not surprising that Farran-Lee recommends this book as a starting point to the reader. He praises Lagercrantz’s ability to expose the core elements of the novel and the way in which he compares Joyce’s play with Homer’s epic. Farran-Lee stresses the greatness of Leopold Bloom’s ordinariness, and the way Joyce’s allusions to the Odyssey resulted in a change of roles; namely by means of Joyce’s profanation of the Greek hero, the ordinary and trivial gain in status whilst the antique champion is made more human. Whereas Lagercrantz draws a number of comparisons with Birger Sjöberg (1885–1914), the Swedish poet, novelist, and songwriter, contemporary with Joyce, Farran-Lee relates to a more central figure in the Swedish song tradition; namely, Carl Michael Bellman (1740–1795) and his Fredmans epistlar (“Fredman’s Epistles”). In a manner similar to Joyce, they combine myth with characters from the lower social classes, which are then exposed to the authors’ jokes, pastiches, and parodies, but always with a certain respect and care.
Farran-Lee continues with his discussion of the famous parallels that can be drawn between Joyce’s novel and Homer’s Odyssey and what the reader should know beforehand in order to enjoy a fuller understanding of the novel. He first mentions the anecdote where Joyce explains to his aunt that all she needed in order to understand his book was Charles Lamb’s The Adventures of Ulysses, an abbreviated version in prose for children, which fascinated Joyce as a young child. It is also noted that this adaptation inspired the author to use the Latin form of the Greek hero’s name as the title for his book. Again, we note that this form is used in most translations of the novel, for example, in French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Norwegian, Danish, and now in Swedish. The change of the novel’s title in the Swedish retranslation is thus only hinted at and mentioned merely en passant, since this information is presented within parenthesis in the postscript.
The following part of the postscript deals with the intrinsic, and occasionally oxymoronic, schema that Joyce used as a template for his novel and observes that Stuart Gilbert, a British academic and translator, based his seminal paper James Joyce’s Ulysses: A Study on this schema. The specialized encyclopedia, Ulysses Annotated (first edition, 1974), by the American literary scholar Don Gifford is also made reference to for the reader who wish to examine these details more closely.
Once Farran-Lee has highlighted these erudite observations regarding Ulysses, he goes on to claim that the novel can be reduced in its essence to a story about two men and a woman, in Dublin on an ordinary early summer’s day, on June 16th, 1904. This day, Farran-Lee remarks, was not a day chosen at random by the author, since it was the day that he went for a walk with Nora Barnacle for the first time, the woman who would later become his wife. For Farran-Lee, the fact that the author chose to recreate this particular day in his novel explains why he always considered it as a book on ‘love’, but also a confession of a belief in ‘peace’.
The final parts of the postscript discuss the ‘pacifist’ features of the novel, while placing the novel it in its historical context of British colonial rule. Farran-Lee notes that Joyce advocated for a view on the notion of “nation” which radically differed from the opinion of the chauvinistic Irish renaissance movement. Likewise, Farran-Lee remarks that this anti-heroic attitude is also directed towards Bloom’s marriage. The postscript ends with a remark that the novel is an anti-machoist expression of the approval of physical love.
Occasionally, the postscript takes on a more personal note. The Farran-Lee reveals, for example, that he has always had a rather tense relationship with “the bloody book” (“den där jävla boken”) (Farran-Lee 2012, p. 784), given that he was named after one of the protagonists, Stephen Dedalus, a character whom he had difficulty in identifying himself with. Instead, he admitted that he feels more related to Leopold Bloom.
In the next section, we turn to the translation’s reception in the daily press, where we will see that quite a few critics also revealed their own personal relationship to Joyce’s masterpiece. Many topics that are discussed in the postscript were similarly treated in the reviews.

3. Reception in the Daily Press

This section is divided into two parts—the first deals with the critics’ general observations on Joyce and his novel and includes a comparative perspective vis-à-vis the reception of the first Swedish translation of Ulysses (1946), based on how it is described in Rut Nordwall-Ehrlow’s excellent study “Ulysses väg till svensk publik” (Ulysses’ way to its Swedish audience), published in a special volume dedicated to Joyce in Sweden and edited by Joyce specialist and translator Tommy Olofsson (1986). The second part treats the critical evaluation of the retranslation; here, references to the first Swedish translation are included only when the reviewers make comparisons in order to highlight differences or similarities between the two versions.

3.1. General Viewpoints on Joyce and His Novel

The release of the new Swedish version of Ulysses was a major literary event and was covered in both the local and national daily press. Even while the translator was working on his translation, the project was given attention to in the national newspapers, especially in media outlets that were controlled by the Bonnier group. In April 2010, when the translation was halfway completed, Andersson was interviewed by Magnus Haglund in the Bonnier-owned evening paper Expressen. A few days later, a small news item in the conservative Svenska Dagbladet, one of only two Swedish national morning papers and not owned by Bonnier, indicated that new translations into Swedish and Finnish were on the way. A few months later, in July 2010, the other national morning paper Dagens Nyheter, owned by Bonniers, began to release short excerpts of Andersson’s translation, presented as “Joyceries” (“Joycerier”) or “fragments of a translation in progress” (“skärvor ur en översättning in progress”) (Wiman 2010). Joyce would continue as their “guest Twitter contributor” on an irregular basis for about a year, until May 2011.
In early November 2011, a TT Spektra1 news-item entitled “A new translation of Ulysses” (“‘Ulysses’ ges ut i nyöversättning”) announced the impending release of the novel in eight local newspapers. Another TT Spektra article, published in late December/early January, also promoted the novel as it included Ulysses among its recommended reads from the forthcoming season. In most of the newspapers, the lead paragraph started out with a reference to Joyce’s novel—“Colossus” (“Tungviktare”)—and also this book was generally covered first. However, as for the heading, Joyce’s novel was somewhat eclipsed by the other books reviewed. Only one of 17, mostly local, newspapers used a heading that obliquely referred to Ulysses: “Retranslated classic among this spring’s books” (“Nyöversatt klassiker i vårens bokskörd”).
The public’s attention on the release of the book was further intensified in the press by means of a good number of interviews with the translator. Especially widespread was Sara Ullberg’s article (from TT Spektra) which was printed in approximately thirty, mostly local, papers, where Erik Andersson referred to his work as “an intellectual capability test” (“ett intellektuellt duglighetstest”) (Ullberg 2011). Erik Andersson also appeared in national and regional papers owned by the Bonnier group (Expressen, Sydsvenskan, and Dagens Nyheter) and the competing national morning paper Svenska Dagbladet, as well in the local Alingsås Tidning, located in the area where Andersson lives.
Concerning critical reviews of the book, a search in the digital database Mediearkivet revealed that 21 reviews of the novel were published in the Swedish press between the period 2 February and 22 March. Later on, in June, in connection with Bloomsday, a review by Clas Zilliacus was also published in the Finno-Swedish daily Hufvudstadsbladet, where both the Swedish and the Finnish retranslations were the topic of discussion. Approximately one-third of the reviews were published on the scheduled review date2, February 3rd. Since seven of the reviews appeared in more than one local paper, Joyce’s novel was in total reviewed in approximately 50 newspapers.3 A good half of the reviews also discussed Andersson’s translation diary Dag ut och dag in med en dag i Dublin. In this respect, interest in Joyce’s novel had not changed particularly much from previous Swedish (re)editions. If parallel/duplicate publications are to be excluded, the number of reviews of Erik Andersson’s retranslation was only slightly less than how Thomas Warburton’s two versions were received in 1946 and in 1993 (Bladh 2014).
The headings of the review articles were of two types. Half of the cases indicate that the news-value associated with the book was primarily based on the fact that a new translation of Ulysses was now available in Swedish. The review articles generally included a positive qualitative assessment of the book. In this category, we find4: “From a dated Odysseus to a Ulysses with bite” (“Från bedagad Odysseus till Ulysses med bett”) (Nyström 2012); “Ulysses in an elegant retranslation” (“Ulysses i elegant nyöversättning”) (Jonsson 2012); “New readers get to know (a new) Ulysses” (“Nya läsare får ta till sig (ny) Ulysses”) (Dahlman 2012); “Retranslation of Ulysses sparkles exactly like the original” (“Nyöversättning av Ulysses gnistrar precis som i originalet”) (Dahlman 2012); “Now James Joyce has Swedish as mother tongue” (“Nu har James Joyce fått svenska som modersmål”) (Danius 2012); “Refreshing retranslation of Ulysses” (“Uppfriskande nyöversättning av Ulysses”) (Olofsson 2012); “The new Ulysses—a great achievement by the translator” (“Nya Ulysses—en översättarbragd”) (Nordlund-Hessler 2012); “After four years with a new Ulysses” (“Efter fyra år med en ny Ulysses”) (Balgård 2012); “Odysseus in modern cloths” (“Odysseus i moderna kläder”) (Bergsten 2012); and “Well cut language” (“Välskuren språkdräkt”) (Högström 2012).
The other half of the reviews focused on different characteristic aspects of the novel. For example, that it is set in the Irish capital during one very ordinary day: “A day in Dublin” (“En dag i Dublin”) (Kuivanen 2012); “One single day in June in Dublin” (“En enda junidag i Dublin”) (Dahlman 2012); “Lost in Dublin found again” (“Vilse i Dublin leder rätt”) (Kjellgren 2012); “A very special weekday” (“En alldeles särskild vardag”) (Svensson 2012); and “A mythical day in Dublin” (“En högst mytomspunnen dag i Dublin”) (Lagerholm 2012). One regional newspaper chose to highlight the novel’s praise of ordinary things: “Trifling matters become great world literature” (“Struntsaker blir stor världslitteratur”) (Degerman 2012). Another referred to the aspect that Ulysses is not connected to events outside: “A time which rested in itself” (“En tid som vilade i sig själv”) (Polvall 2012). Yet others emphasized the parallels with the Greek epic: “Odyssey over man” (“Odyssé över människan)” and “An odyssey over mankind” (“En odyssé över mänskligheten”) (Pedersen 2012). Elsewhere Joyce’s burlesque and direct expression was highlighted: “The language of flesh” (“Köttets språk”) (Jenny Tunedal 2012). One review was more general in their praise of the author: “The joy of Joyce” (Gradvall 2012). Another referred to the fleshly and experimental aspect of the book: “Sensual experiment” (“Sinnligt experiment”) (Nyström 2012). Finally, two local papers used a heading which referred to the novel’s reputation of being notoriously difficult to read: “Ulysses—an indigestible process” (“Ulysses—en svårsmält process) (Bernesjö 2012) and “Thick and confusing but worth reading” (“Tjock och förvirrande men värd att läsa”) (L. Jonsson 2012).
As a first general observation, we note that the Swedish critics in 2012 welcomed the new Swedish translation of Joyce’s novel with unbounded enthusiasm. The book was clearly still considered a masterpiece, although a very strange one. Martin Lagerholm characterised it as “one of word literature’s most odd and impressive creations” (“ett av världslitteraturens märkligaste och mäktigaste skapelser”) (Lagerholm 2012). There was definitely a consensus that two time periods could now be delineated: a distinct ‘before Ulysses’ and an ‘after Ulysses’.
In this respect, the perspective had not changed drastically from when the novel was first introduced into Swedish. Nordwall-Ehrlow observed that the novel already at this time was considered as a classic, unique of its kind and acknowledged for its “seminal importance” (“nyskapande betydelse”) (Nordwall-Ehrlow 1986, p. 52). The novel was above all praised for its innovating style and form, whereas comments on its “concepts of mankind and ethos” (“människosyn och livsuppfattning”) were rare and mostly done en passant (Nordwall-Ehrlow 1986, p. 61). In her view, this focus on form could be explained by the fact that this experimental style was still seen as new and innovative at the time (Nordwall-Ehrlow 1986, p. 63). Her general judgment though is that the early reception of Ulysses as expressed in the ca. 10 reviews included in her study could mainly be characterized by a “reserved enthusiasm” (“reserverad entusiasm”) (Nordwall-Ehrlow 1986, p. 66). She suggest that this attitude partly could be a result of the “idealistic schooling of the critics” (“litteraturkritikernas idealistiska skolning”) (Nordwall-Ehrlow 1986, p. 66), which could explain why the reviewers were not convinced by the ethos of the novel and, accordingly, why Ulysses did not as yet had had a general breakthrough.
A more conspicuous difference is that Joyce, in the 2012 reception, was no longer compared to such a wide range of authors of the Western literary canon. In the 1946 reception, Nordwall-Ehrlow (1986, p. 53) found mentions of Proust, Gide, Kafka, Hesse, Rabelais, Shakespeare, Swift, Ibsen, Cervantes and ‘Alice in Wonderland’. In 2012, the referrals were mainly to British modernist writers such as Virginia Wolf, Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, occasionally quoted in order to explain in what respect Joyce differed from his contemporary modernist giants (Pedersen 2012). But Joyce is also compared to or mentioned along with prominent people in other disciplines (the Jazz musician Coltrane (Gradvall 2012), the physicist Einstein (Olofsson 2012), and the painter and sculptor Marcel Duchamp (Nyström 2012)) in order to emphasize the revolutionary aspect of his oeuvre, which broke completely with earlier traditions.
Nowadays, Joyce and Ulysses are thus incontestably part of the literary canon. But what is it that makes the book worth reading today and in what way does this differ from the opinions of the reviewers of the first translation? We begin with an inventory of the attributes that the critics of the retranslation thought motivated why the novel is still a major work of literature.
The critics under discussion frequently stressed the importance of Ulysses’s praise of the ordinary as a key element. They felt empathy with the way Joyce turned Leopold Bloom, an ordinary and rather unsuccessful advertising agent, into a modern, humane Odysseus. This refers to how the author turned the henpecked protagonist, which in every aspect is a complete opposite of the Greek war hero, into a “magnificent person” (“en storslagen människa”) (Dahlman 2012). There is, thus, no longer any objections against the novel’s focus on rather trivial matters. In the earlier critic, however, some reviewers considered this perspective too confined, regretting that other more important themes or values were absent (Nordwall-Ehrlow 1986, pp. 53–54). Among the objections, we find that the novel was seen as too provincial at a time when only a couple of years earlier wars had devastated the European continent.
In 1946, there was also an ambivalence as to whether the novel lacked in universality or not, even though this opinion is questioned by Nordwall-Ehrlow. In her view, judgments which she finds in the two reviews proclaiming such a lack—that “anguish” (“ångest”) is conceived of as a general theme in the novel or that the author aspires to tell “the truth about men and life” (“sanningen om människorna och livet”) (Nordwall-Ehrlow 1986, p. 55)—clearly indicate that these critics acknowledged that Ulysses addressed matters of universal value. No such objections can be found in the 2012 reception of the novel. In fact, the word “universality” does not appear at all in any review of the retranslation. Perhaps it is today such an obvious attribute of Ulysses that it does not have to be commented on. Moreover, both the early and later critic give prominence to Joyce’s way of describing his characters and consider Ulysses as “a praise to life” (“hyllning till livet”) (Svensson 2012). As for the parallels with the Homeric epic, several reviews of the retranslation omitted to comment on them, and, occasionally, opinions diverged on their importance for coming to a proper understanding of Joyce’s novel. Kuivanan claimed that some parts of the novel were almost unintelligible for a reader who was unaware of the connections to the Greek epic. More common was, however, the opinion conveyed in the postscript by Farran-Lee; namely, that the allusions to Odysseys’ journey are certainly not unimportant, but still do not constitute the most vital element of the story. This view is probably most clearly indicated in Gradvall’s review. Gradvall’s first advice to the reader is not to pay attention at all to the Greek parallels. In his opinion, the reader might otherwise easily be distracted and caught up in a game of solving a puzzle. In fact, he suggests that the first-time reader should not read up on the Greek myth at all, skip the first part of the book, and move on directly to Chapter 4, instead.
In comparison, no critic of the first translation left out the allusions to Homer’s epic; on the other hand, neither did many of them develop on this theme. Only Olle Carlsson, a young teacher who prior to his review of Ulysses had published articles on two other novels by Joyce, drew important conclusions from these parallels (Nordwall-Ehrlow 1986, pp. 59–60). Carlsson argues that the mythological framework of the novel reinforces the trivialities of modern life as they stand out clearer when contrasted to the ancient saga. As we noticed earlier in this section, this is a reoccurring theme in many of the reviews of the retranslation.
Some reviewers also emphasize the allusions to other works of world literature. In her review of the retranslation, Dahlman finds the parallels with Shakespeare’s work of more interest; citing Hamlet’s ghost and the 1600th-century playwright’s wife, Ann Hathaway, abandoned in Stratford, as an inspiration for the character of Penelope/Molly. Per Svensson, also in a review of the new translation, in regional South Swedish paper Sydsvenskan, calls attention to the fact that the novel is replete with allusions to the father–son theme in other literary classics, for example Hamlet and Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni. The allusions to Shakespeare were also commented on by the most negatively inclined reviewer of the first translation, Moa Martinson, a prominent proletarian author and the only female critic of Warburton’s version. In her opinion, it is clear that Joyce had great esteem for the English playwright but nevertheless she finds his attitude towards Shakespeare too full of scorn and disrespect (Nordwall-Ehrlow 1986, p. 64).
The Swedish critics did not pay a great deal of attention to the title, at least not in reviews of the novel when it was first introduced in Swedish 1946 and later revised in 1993 (Bladh 2014). Commentary on this issue was, in fact, restricted to a single brief remark by critic and poet Artur Lundkvist, who considered the title change “somewhat unnecessary” (“något onödig”) (Lundkvist 1946) in a lengthy review in Vi. Similarly, most reviewers of the retranslation did not comment on the change in title. Three critics explicitly welcomed the new title. In Svensson’s words, it was a “wise” (“klokt”) choice, since the allusions to Homer’s epic (according to his interpretation) are not crucial to understanding the novel but, rather, instantiate an expression for the author’s joyful play with intertextual references. Kuivanan used similar terms and described the change as “correct” (“riktigt”) but without developing this claim any further. In Pedersen’s view, the former Swedish title, Odysseus, was not only pedagogical but also indicative of the style of Warburton’s translation at a whole. This is actually the only review where a critic discussed the original author’s choice of title in more detail. Pedersen makes reference to the children’s book mentioned in Farran-Lee’s postscript but, ultimately, he explains Joyce’s preference for ‘Ulysses’ as a matter of rhythm and musicality: he liked the way it sounded. In an interview with the translator in Dagens Nyheter, Jonas Thente (2012) remarked that the novel now bears the title that Swedish readers had always used when referring to it.
As already mentioned, the reviewers of the first translation unanimously admired Joyce for his linguistic playfulness. A distinctive feature of the author’s modernistic experiment. This is also an aspect of the novel which received much claim by the critics of the retranslation. In Gradvall’s opinion, Joyce’s mode of expression was “quick, smart, natural” (“rapt, smart, ledigt”) (Gradvall 2012). Other reviewers appreciated the stylistic variation, the puns, and the word formations that can be found in the novel.
Högström highlights the merits of Joyces’s narrative technique, which, in her opinion, creates “a presence, which never decreases in power” (“en närvaro som aldrig förlorar i kraft) (Högström 2012). She finds that Joyce’s seemingly never-ending digressions amusing and explains that they actually follow a pattern, since Joyce always comes back to certain details: a joke, a misunderstanding, a woman in labor. To her, this is the novel’s “permanently shaking nerve” (“ständigt självande nerven”) (Högström 2012). Kjellgren praises Joyce’s skill at portraying people, especially how he displays sides of his characters that they do not necessarily want to show. Kjellgren also draws attention to the claim that there are so many various ways in which Ulysses can be read, and the idea that one can easily spend a lifetime without exhausting all aspects of the novel.
In a review in Borås Tidning, Bo W. Jonsson is perhaps less impressed by Joyce’s baroque style. In his opinion, the merit of the novel is, instead, to be found in the author’s inner thoughts, his narrative, his reflections, and his use of history. In the local daily newspaper, Helsingborgs Dagblad, Henrik Pedersen acknowledges that few other books come across as so modern in comparison to Ulysses. He stresses that Joyce’s political attitude was ahead of his time, since it embraced a multicultural peaceful world where paternalistic structures had been abandoned. In this respect, he acknowledges that Ulysses comes across as a more enjoyable novel than other important modernist works. Finally, he also comments on the importance of language in the novel; not only is it a tool for communication, but it is also something we cannot control.
In Nyströms’s view, “the sensual concretion of straight narration” (“det raka berättandets sinnliga konkretion”) (Nyström 2012) explains why the novel is still relevant today. Gradvall also notes that the novel is a beautiful homage to urbanity, the big city, with all its possibilities.
Turning now to examine some of the negative opinions voiced about the book, we note that Jan-Olov Nyström’s review, which was published in several local papers in northern Sweden, argues that present-day attempts to move literary borders seldom succeed in producing something of interest. Instead, he claims, they tend to preserve old material, in contrast to the originals, which remain relevant. Apparently, this can be observed in the case of Ulysses. In spite of his initial positive assessment of the novel, Nyström reveals himself as a most critical voice concerning the present relevance of Joyce’s novel as well as the modernistic project on the whole. He admits that the novel has its strengths but, at the same time, he dismisses many of the novel’s lengthy passages of “babble” (“pladdret”) (Nyström 2012), which he goes on to further judge as “meaningless” (“meningslösa”) (Nyström 2012). Even though other critics have also characterized the novel as being difficult to read, they express their opinions in a more facetious tone. In addition, they do not explicitly connect these wordy passages to modernism, as does Nyström. As such, Nyström is alone in questioning the value of the experimental feature of the novel. In his view, the 20th century can be characterized by a serious misunderstanding that the only way to break with previous models and ideas was by introducing a radically new form. He specifically resents the way these experiments affected language with respect to intelligibility and as a means for communication. In Nyström’s view, the “arrogance of the avant-garde” (“avantgard-arrogansen”) (Nyström 2012) is a disturbing element when reading Ulysses. As an experiment, he finds it acceptable, but not as a norm.
As mentioned in the previous section, Farran-Lee noted that Ulysses is no less frightening today when it appears on prescribed reading lists (for example, as part of a course in literature) and argued that the first-time reader might need some encouragement to read the whole book. It is obvious that many reviewers considered the book to be a major challenge. This was perhaps most ludicrously expressed in Jan Gradvall’s review in the national evening paper Expressen, where he declared that reading Ulysses is more often than not described as the intellectual equivalent to completing Vansbrosimmet, an annual 3-kilometre open-water swimming competition in Dalarna. According to Inger Dahlman, writing for the local newpapers Borlänge Tidning, Nya Ludvika Tidning, and Sölvesborgs-Tidningen, only one chapter was easy to read—the passage with the three girls on the beach (“Nausicaa”). Pauli Olavi Kuivanen, in Norrköpings Tidningar, declared that many a reader has “surrendered when the text has risen up like a monster wave” (“gett upp när texten tornat upp sig likt en monstervåg”) (Kuivanen 2012). Thomas Kjellgren, in the local newspaper Trelleborgs Allehanda, suggests that it is best to restrict one’s reading of the novel to a maximum of 50 pages a day. For Bo Degerman, in local Dala-Demokraten, the novel is not too heavy if served in small portions, but, as a whole, he found the reading hard and tiresome (“dryg”) and admitted that he had not yet managed to finish the book. Lennart Bernesjö, in the local newspaper, Arvika Nyheter, also acknowledges that the reader needs time to digest the novel.
The translator, Erik Andersson, can thus be seen to have been proven right when he expressed doubts about Joyce’s claim that Ulysses is a novel that is accessible for ordinary, non-specialist readers (Haglund 2010).
Even though Ulysses had a reputation of being difficult to read already when it was first released, there is actually only one explicit example of such complaints in Nordwall-Ehrlow’s presentation of the critic of the first translation. It is Moa Martinson and she is particularly outspoken in her dismissal of the reader-unfriendliness of the novel: “a terrible work to get through” (“ett fruktansvärt arbete att komma igenom”) (Martinson, quoted in Nordwall-Ehrlow 1986, p. 63).
Another difference between the receptions of the two translations is that many critics of the retranslation accounted for the circumstances around the novel, either at the time when it was written and first received or later, with regards to the editorial disputes caused by the many versions of the manuscript. This perspective does not appear so notably in the critic from 1946, at least not in Norwall-Ehrlow’s presentation. On the other hand, we do not find many reflections on the sentiments or mood created by the novel in the reviews of the new translations. The acute sensations of a state of “late-on-earth” (“sent på jorden”), “terrible anguish” (“förtvivlad ångest”) and “spiritual distress” (“andlig nöd”), which were evoked in some of the reviews in 1946 do not have their counterpart in the 2012 critic.

3.2. Evaluation of the Retranslation

We will now consider a number of critical evaluations of the new translation. As previously mentioned, the critics unanimously embraced the new Swedish version of Ulysses. They praised the translator, both for his courage for accepting the challenging task and for the successful result of his dedicated labor. His translation is, for example, described as “elegant” (“elegant”) (Jonsson 2012), “fresh, sensitive, and entertaining” (“fräsch, känslig och underhållande”) (Olsson 2012) and “congenial” (“congenial”) (Högström 2012). Opinions diverge, however, as to what role Andersson’s translation plays in relationship to Warburton’s revised version from 1993. In other words, the questions that are raised are whether the retranslation is to be seen as distinct, complementary interpretation of Joyce’s novel or whether it replaces the earlier translation. According to Ulf Olsson, Warburton’s translation had aged over the years to a point where the need for a retranslation was close to acute. Peterson’s judgement is even harsher. He claims that Warburton’s text had aged quickly. Nyström also describes the old version as “passé” (“bedagad”), in comparison to the new translation. Other critics are more cautious. Danius remarks, somewhat surprised, that Warburton’s revised translation still reads very well, and characterises it as “natural, inventive, intelligent” (“ledig, uppfinningsrik, intelligent”) (Danius 2012). Tunedal is of a similar opinion, acknowledging that the previous translation remains a remarkable achievement. In a review in the Finno-Swedish Hufvudstadsbladet, Clas Zilliacus, a compatriot of Warburton’s, observes that no Swedish version of Ulysses will probably be much better than the first translation, just different and newer. Martin Lagerholm is of the same opinion. Apart from having the merit of using a “more modernized idiom” (“mera moderniserat idiom”), he finds Andersson’s translation reasonably equal to Warburton’s version. Balgård, after a lengthy comparison, concludes that both translations are equal in merit.
There is, however, consensus that Andersson’s translation is rawer, filthier, and more physical than the previous translation. Andersson’s style is, in this respect, considered to be closer to Joyce’s style and more in harmony with the author’s intentions to portray ordinary people and their everyday life, however repugnant and distasteful they might be. Jan Gradvall notices for example that the “brown hole” in the passage on Molly’s behind stayed “brown” in Andersson’s version, whereas Warburton preferred the euphemism “tar” (“tjära”). Jenny Tunedal declares that Joyce’s words in the new translation had become “more flesh, a fleshier flesh” (“mer kött, ett köttigare kött”), apparently much to her joy and satisfaction (Tunedal 2012).
Critics have also noted that Andersson is more specific and avoids generalization in his translation. Tina Nordlund-Hessler illustrates this observation with an example where Warburton’s “two beers” (“två öl”) and “one steak with cabbage” (“en biff med kål”) corresponded to the more precise “two stouts” (“två stouts”) and “one corned beef with cabbage” (en hackbiff med kål”) (Nordlund-Hessler 2012) in Andersson’s version. On the other hand, Nordlund-Hessler points out that Andersson’s translation is far from a strictly word-for-word transfer from the original. Instead, her general impression is that Andersson, above all, aimed at capturing the spirit or emotion of each sentence. This aspect is praised by most reviewers, for example by Danius, who stresses how impressed she is with how successfully Andersson recreated a particularly difficult aspect of Joyce’s prose; that is, his sensuality and ingeniousness (“sinnligheten och fyndigheten”) (Danius 2012). Other critics also applaud Andersson’s use of creativity and humor, for example, when reproducing the various styles of the original, its lengthy enumerations, and intricate word formations. Another characteristic of Andersson’s prose that has received a great deal of positive acclamation was his sensitivity to rhyme and rhythm. Svensson finds Andersson’s translation “an even more powerful and consistent focus on the oral acrobatic and verbal equilibrium, the burlesque and childish joy of words” (“en än kraftfullare och mer konsekvent satsning på oralakrobatiken och verbal-ekvilibristiken, den burleska och barnsliga ordglädjen”) (Svensson 2012). In Balgård’s view, however, Warburton’s version is the more source oriented of the two translation, as it reproduces “a sort of Joycean staccato” (“ett slags Joyceskt staccato”) (Balgård 2012), whereas Andersson’s rendering runs smother.
Most reviews include direct quotes from the Swedish translation(s), which are often presented next to the English original. The passages cited are strikingly varied and are most frequently used to illustrate the critics’ praise of Andersson’s impressive linguistic skills. Needless to say, these comparisons are often anecdotal, which the reviewers are well aware of. Most often, the outcome of the comparisons is to Andersson’s advantage.
Specific comments as to how Andersson deals with the different registers in the novel are few but divergent. One reviewer approves of Andersson’s use of the West Swedish västgötska dialect (Balgård 2012), whereas another complains about a translation solution which, in his opinion, reminded the critic too much of a stereotypical accent of Southern Stockholm (“Söderslang”) (Pedersen 2012). The most frequently cited example is the famous passage where, late at night, Leopold Bloom finally returns back home to Eccles Street and kisses his wife’s behind: “He kissed the plump mellow yellow smellow melons of her rump, on each plump melonous hemispehere, in their mellow yellow furrow, with obscure prolonged provocative melonsmellonous osculation.” (Olofsson 2012). Here, Andersson chooses to give priority to the rhyme and rhythm of the original, for example, by changing the English melons to the Swedish word for pumpkin (“pumpa”): “Han kysste hennes rumpas buktiga fruktiga luktiga pumpagump, på vardera buktande pumphemisfären, i deras buktiga fruktiga fukt, med smygande utmanande pumpfuktiga stusskyssar.” (Olofsson 2012).
In the concluding section of her review, Danius regrets that a characteristic feature of Joyce’s unconventional style has been normalized in the retranslation. In Joyce’s writing, she explains, inanimate objects and body parts tend to function as subjects of the clause. By using this ‘close-up’ technique, borrowed from film industry, Joyce is able to elevate the significance of inanimate objects to a level that is on par with human characters. Ultimately, this way of writing invites the reader to adopt an alternative perspective of the world. Danius illustrates her argument with an example from the passage where Molly is having breakfast: “Her spoon ceased to stir up the sugar. She gazed straight before her, inhaling through her arched nostrils.” Here, Andersson has restructured the sentence and opted for a more banal solution: “Hon slutade att röra ut sockret med skeden. Hon såg rakt framför sig, drog in luft med de välvda näsborrarna.” Instead of letting the ‘spoon’ remain the subject of the first sentence, as in Joyce’s original, the Swedish version employs ’She’ (“Hon” ‘—Molly) as the subject of both sentences. The Swedish reader is thus denied the ‘zooming in’ effect on the spoon, which is present in the original. Although Danius states that she does not want to judge Andersson’s rendering as incorrect, she finds it “fairly blunt” (“tämligen trubbig”) (Danius 2012). In her view, it is unnecessary for the translator to tone down the author’s unusual style, even though she notes that such a change of perspective on behalf of the translator occurs only rarely in the retranslation.
It is also easy to agree with Tommy Olofsson, associate professor of literature at Linnaeus University and author of a monograph on the early reception of Joyce’s work in Sweden, when he praises Warburton’s solution in the beginning of Episode 14, where Bloom visits the maternity hospital. Olofsson initially questions Andersson’s strategy of using a broken syntax as in the original to recreate the impression of an awkward English translation of a Latin text, finding it “a bit too high-spirited” (“lite väl studentikos”) (Olofsson 2012). Then Olofsson moves on to the exclamations “Hoopsa, boyaboy, hoopsa! Hoopsa, boyaboy, hoopsa! Hoopsa, boyaboy, hoopsa!”, admitting that he always interpreted it as “a praise to the blessing of intercourse and as a description of what might lead to the maternity ward” (“en lovprisning av samlagets välsignelser och som en beskrivning av vad som kan föra till BB”) (Olofsson 2012). In other words, Olofsson interprets this as a discreet indication of where Bloom will end up a bit further on in the episode. Olofsson remarks that this reading corresponds to Warburton’s “Åhejåhå, pojkeenpojke, åhejåhå! Åjehåhå, pojkeenpojke, åhejåhå! Åhejåhå, pojkeenpojke, åhejåhå!” where the groans of the lovers’ encounter and their desire to conceive a boy are quite evident. Olofsson remains perplexed by Andersson’s translation, and claims to be unsure how to interpret “Hoppalanta lilla gosse hoppalanta! Hoppalanta lilla gosse hoppalanta! Hoppalanta lilla gosse hoppalanta!”

4. Concluding Remarks

The release of the Swedish retranslation of Ulysses was an event that was meticulously prepared for, with a marketing campaign that had already begun while the translation was in progress. In this respect, the translator, Erik Andersson, was certainly a major contributor to the success story of the new version of Joyce’s extraordinary novel. His translation, which was unanimously praised by Swedish critics, was certainly his major contribution. But other contributions that he made should not be neglected, however. After the commotion caused in connection with his translation of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Andersson was familiar to the public and somewhat of a “celebrity translator” (“kändisöversättare”). Apart from the many interviews that were published in the press, he also participated in various literary events, for example, in book discussions or readings. The only Swedish TV program dedicated to literature, Babel, included a feature with Andersson in Dublin where he visited different locations that are connected to the novel. From a marketing point of view, it also turned out to be a wise choice to launch the translator’s commentary in conjunction with the novel, as it surely increased the news coverage of the book.
According to the Swedish critics, the present value of the book relies on its focus on the everyday life of ordinary people, sensuality, love, and reconciliation. In this respect, they have adopted the ideas of Richard Ellmann, one of the most influential of Joyce critics, “who presented the world with a humanist Joyce” (Brooker 2014, p. 27). Moreover, Swedish critics have praised the linguistic aspects of the work, for example, the author’s predilection for puns, jokes, and the use of various styles. Many of the topics that are addressed in the postscript by Farran-Lee also appear in the reviews in the daily press. Even though many critics admit that the novel is difficult to read, no one has questioned the relevance of a new translation.
In this respect, the critic has slightly changed from when the first Swedish translation was received. At the time, it was above all the formal aspects of the novel and the uncompromising attitude of the author, who wanted to include all aspects of human behavior, which were cherished. Nordwall-Ehrlow (1986, p. 63) suggests that the modernistic experimental features perhaps were considered as something real new when the Swedish version was published and that this circumstance could explain the enthusiasm on behalf of the critics for the novel’s unconventional style. With regards to content, on the other hand, voices were raised against the lack of a proper message in the novel and its focus on trivial matters of the life of ordinary people. Some sixty years later, these characteristics were instead described in positive terms. Otherwise, most themes raised in the reviews in 2012 were present already in the critic from 1946.
Whereas the postscript of the new translation does not comment on the translation, the majority of the reviews contained a positive evaluation of the translator’s work, as can be seen in the titles of many reviews, but also in extended comments, generally towards the end of the text. Normally, book reviews do not include lengthy remarks related to the translation (Gullin 2002). When the critic presents a review of a book which has been already translated, it is of course easier for the critic to comment on the translation. There might even be a certain expectation on behalf of the reader of the review that the reviewer addresses a number of differences between the translations. It is thus not so surprising that the reviews of the Swedish retranslation of Ulysses allocate space for the provision of comparisons with the original, the previous translation, or both. It should, however, be mentioned that the reviews that were published in the 1940’s also include extensive remarks on the translation (Bladh 2014), which is not surprising, given that this novel poses a particularly challenging task for the translator.
In a certain sense, the new Swedish version can be considered to conform to the “retranslation hypothesis” (Berman 1990; Paliposki and Koskinen 2004), which claims that a translation of a text which has already been translated into a particular language will tend to be more source-oriented, compared to the previous translation. In the case of Ulysses, this tendency of staying closer to the original reveals itself both in the layout, which reproduces the design and colour of the first British edition, and in the translator’s personal style. A style which, according to a majority of the critics, renders the expression of the author more faithfully. However, if the “retranslation hypothesis” is to apply, one would expect the new version to be more literal than the first translation. As many reviewers have observed, the faithfulness referred to above does not take the form of a word-for-word translation, even though some examples quoted by critics are more formally closer to the original in Andersson’s version compared to the corresponding solutions in Warburton’s translation. Instead, faithfulness can be identified at the level of the “spirit” of the original novel. There is nothing unidiomatic about Andersson’s translation, and he was especially praised for his way of reproducing Joyce’s puns, “verbal equilibristic” (“verbalekvilibristiken”) (Svensson 2012), and raw language. As Danius remarks, this is how Joyce would have expressed himself, had he Swedish as a mother tongue.
There is no consensus among the critics about the function of the retranslation, whether it replaces or supplements the first translation by enriching the Swedish reading community with yet another interpretation of this modernistic classic. Interestingly, a new edition of the 1993 version of Odysseus, produced by the translator of the first Swedish translation (Joyce 2018), was recently published by Modernista, a publishing house which has come to specialize in reprinting old translations of literary classics usually quite soon after a new translation has been released. This is an activity that they have been severely criticized for by Joyce translator and scholar Tommy Olofsson (2018). In his opinion, reprints of former translations are a nuisance and cannot be justified by referring to their “historical value”, as claimed by Henrik Pedersen, editor at Modernista. Olofsson considers these new editions as unfair competition, since the cost involved in publishing such editions is considerably lower compared to the investment that is required for a new translation. He moreover claims that Swedish readers do not care if they read the most recent translation of a book and that they would merely buy the cheapest version.
The publication of old translations shortly after the release of a retranslation does not seem to be a uniquely Swedish phenomenon. In a recent volume on British retranslations of two novels by French 19th-century writers Gustave Flaubert and Georges Sand, it is in the case with Madame Bovary striking to what extent older versions regularly reappear when a new translation is introduced. This is particularly salient with the first version by Eleanor Marx-Aveling from 1886, which accompanies all of the seven other retranslations, including the last one from 2011. However, Sharon Deane-Cox (2014) does not seem to interpret this habit as a threat to future retranslations. When she discusses the issue of coexistence of multiple versions, it becomes clear that the opposite perspective seems prevailing in the literature, with new translations rivalling anterior versions.
Neither is the topic brought up in Perspectives on Retranslation, another recent volume on retranslations studies (Albachten 2018). However, in one of the contributions to the volume, Müge Işıklar Koçak and Ahu Selin Erkul Yağcı (Koçak and Yağcı 2018) show that Turkish reader opinions on available retranslations are far from indifferent. Online fora and blogs flourish with comments and discussions, occasionally even offering lists with pro’s and con’s on different publishing houses’ offers of retranslations (quality of the translation, design, printing quality, variety of books, etc.).
Could it thus be so that this competitive situation is only problematic in Sweden, a smaller language area compared to the two target cultures of the previously mentioned studies? It would in any case be interesting to see how the coexistence of several translations actually affects the Swedish book market. If Olofsson is right in his claims, the prospective situation for Swedish retranslations might not be very optimistic if publishing houses in the future will be less willing to invest money and time to produce retranslations. In this regard, it would be fruitful to examine the prescribed reading lists of literature courses at Swedish educational institutions (schools and universities), as well as borrowing statistics of public libraries, book sales and online discussion forums.
As for the Swedish translations of Ulysses, Warburton was perhaps not wrong after all when prophesying that his version, after a meticulous revision in 1993, would last until it reached a hundred years. Time will show if the two present versions will ever have to make room for a third translation of Ulysses into Swedish.


This research received no external funding.


I would like to thank the anonymous reviewer whose suggestions and comments have greatly improved this manuscript.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.


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TT Spektra (Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå Spektra) is a Swedish news agency. Since 2013, it is part of the larger news agency group TT Nyhetsbyrån.
In Sweden, new publications have a set date, chosen by the publisher, for reviews in the daily press. This custom, the aim of which is to ensure that critics are not influenced by each other, is less strictly followed today.
The Swedish newspaper system is organized in big media groups, such as MittMedia, Gota Media, NTM, Bonniers, Stampen, etc., which are shifting from time to time, since they buy or sell each other (Weibull et al. 2018, pp. 41, 133–39). There are two reasons why a critic can publish the same review in different newspapers. Either he or she can write their article for a specific media group, which owns a number of different papers, or the critic can sell the review to different papers (which must be the case with Martin Lagerholm, since his review is published both in Smålandsposten and in Barometern-OT, which belong to different media groups). A review published in different newspapers generally has the same content, but the heading and the lead paragraph may differ, as well as illustrations and layout. In this survey, only print newspapers were included.
In the following enumeration, some reviews are quoted more than once. This is because different headings were occasionally used when a review was published in different newspapers.

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Bladh, E. The Reception of the Swedish Retranslation of James Joyce’s Ulysses (2012). Humanities 2019, 8, 146.

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Bladh E. The Reception of the Swedish Retranslation of James Joyce’s Ulysses (2012). Humanities. 2019; 8(3):146.

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Bladh, Elisabeth. 2019. "The Reception of the Swedish Retranslation of James Joyce’s Ulysses (2012)" Humanities 8, no. 3: 146.

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