Sarah Death

Sarah Death


Literary translator from Swedish and other Scandinavian languages. Editor and reviewer.

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Studied Swedish at Cambridge University and University College London (PhD 1985) with shorter periods at the Swedish universities of Uppsala and Växjö. Active as a freelance literary translator since 1987 with many full-length published works to her name. Served on the committees of SELTA and the Translators Association. Editor of the journal Swedish Book Review 2003-15. Twice winner of the George Bernard Shaw Prize. Awarded the Swedish Academy Translation Prize 2008 and the Royal Order of the Polar Star 2014. A director of Norvik Press since 2011.

Selected Publications

Olsson, Hagar. Chitambo.

Norvik Press, 2020. ISBN 9781909408555.

Vega Maria has been trapped since birth in a vice of conflicting parental expectations. Her father brings her up to admire history’s heroic male adventurers, while her mother channels her towards housework and conformity. In a time of revolution and civil war in early twentieth-century Finland, Vega finds it hard to identify her own calling, alighting first on the cause of feminism but feeling her way towards a wider humanitarian mission. A kaleidoscope of changing roles for Vega whirls us through this compelling modernist novel, multi-layered, accessible and funny.

Letters from ToveJansson, Tove. Letters from Tove.

Sort Of Books, 2019. ISBN 9781908745729.

Out of the thousands of letters Tove Jansson wrote, a cache remains that she addressed to her family, her dearest confidantes, and her lovers, male and female. Into these she spilled her innermost thoughts, defended her ideals and revealed her heart. To read these letters is both an act of startling intimacy and a rare privilege. Penned with grace and humour, Letters from Tove offers an almost seamless commentary on Tove Jansson's life as it unfolds within Helsinki's bohemian circles and her island home.

Soda PopLindgren, Barbro. Soda Pop.

Gecko Press, 2017. ISBN 9781776570102.

A hilarious and wacky children's classic reminiscent of Spike Millligan's books, with new illustrations by Lisen Adbåge. A crazy, intergenerational household, a pack of ravenous tigers, a clueless burglar, a cushy jail, a swimming pool that's a flooded garage, grumpy owls in the mailbox - and those are just for starters. In the words of Pippi Longstocking creator Astrid Lindgren: "There’s a sublime sort of craziness to it that catches me unawares every time. Neither Soda Pop nor Mazarin nor Dartanyong speaks a single word of sense, but they will be my friends for life."

The Darkest DayNesser, Håkan. The Darkest Day.

Mantle (Pan Macmillan), 2017. ISBN 9781509809318.

A first outing in English for thoughtful DI Gunnar Barbarotti, protagonist of a series of five novels. On his patch in small-town southern Sweden, he is called in to investigate the disappearance overnight of two members of the same family, which has gathered for the landmark birthdays of patriarch and retired geography teacher Karl-Erik and his favourite daughter Ebba, a successful hospital consultant. With his customary wit and style, Nesser spins a tale of family guilt, lies and emotions festering beneath an ostensibly calm and celebratory surface.

Days at Drottningholm, Princess Christina Mrs Magnuson with Carl-Otto Werkelid. Days at Drottningholm.

Bonnier Fakta, 2016.

This compact but exquisitely produced volume gives an interesting insider's view on life at the Swedish royal family's summer palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site which has now become a permanent family home. The succession of strong female characters associated with its history are much in evidence and there are fascinating chapters on the development of the grounds and gardens as we can visit them today. We also go behind the scenes at the world-famous Drottningholm Palace Theatre. The book is lavishly illustrated with photographs by Ralf Turander.

MårbackaLagerlöf, Selma. Mårbacka.

Norvik Press, 2016. ISBN 9781909408296.

Named after the author's beloved childhood home and first published in 1922, this is the first part of a notionally autobiographical trilogy and an enchanting, in many ways unexpected text. It can be read as many things; memoir, autofiction, even part of Lagerlöf's myth-making about her own successful writing career. It is part folklore, part social and family history, part mischievous satire in the guise of an innocent child's-eye narrative, part declaration of a daughter's love for a fallible father.

A World Gone Mad: The Diaries of Astrid Lindgren Lindgren, Astrid. A World Gone Mad: The Diaries of Astrid Lindgren .

Pushkin Press, 2016. ISBN 9781782272311.

Lindgren, living with her young family in Stockholm, kept extensive diaries throughout the Second World War, which later lay forgotten in a laundry basket for many years. They offer a unique account of a world devastated by conflict, viewed through the eyes of a wife, a mother, an aspiring writer and a guilt-ridden citizen of a neutral state. Alongside accounts of military, political and global events we read vignettes of domestic life, rationing , children's birthdays, summer holidays with relatives, growing marital tension and the excitement of taking wing as a children's writer.

Wilful Disregard: A Story About LoveAndersson, Lena. Wilful Disregard: A Story About Love.

Picador, 2015. ISBN 9781447268918.

Ester Nilsson is a sharp, honest, self-disciplined essayist - until she meets self-centred artist Hugo Rask. Julie Myerson captures the flavour of the book in her Guardian review (7.7.15): 'Love, famously, is blind. People in love can lose even the most basic critical faculties and become capable of monumental self-deception. Hardly a new story, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen this particular myopia as astutely and entertainingly explored as in this stunning novel [...] All Ester wants is for Rask to return her feelings, to love her back, to claim her. But when she takes his hand in public it squirms “like a captured maggot, trying to extract itself from hers without making it too obvious”. You want to shout, “Don’t waste another moment with this man!” We’ve all been there – we’ve all been Ester. Your cheeks burn for her, but they also burn for yourself.'

A Brief Stop on the Road from AuschwitzRosenberg, Göran. A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz.

Granta, 2015. ISBN 9781847087782.

In 1947 a young man gets off a train in a small Swedish town. He has survived the Lodz ghetto, Auschwitz, and the slave camps and transports during the final months of Nazi Germany. Now he has to learn to live with his memories. Göran Rosenberg returns to his own childhood in order to tell his father's story. It is also the story of the chasm that soon opens between the world of the child, suffused with the optimism, progress and collective oblivion of post-war Sweden, and the world of the father, haunted by the shadows of the past.

The RavensBannerhed, Tomas Bannerhed. The Ravens.

Clerkenwell Press, 2014.

Bannerhed's August-Prize-winning first novel is a razor-sharp depiction of a boy's struggle to confront the world of adulthood in rural southern Sweden in the 1970s, the era lovingly recreated in small details. Caught between loyalty to his father and fear of his destiny to take over a failing farm, Klas tries in vain to find compelling role models and seeks solace in the world of nature, and above all in watching birds.

That Boy Emil!Lindgren, Astrid. That Boy Emil!.

Rabén & Sjögren, 2013.

Emil of Katthult Farm in Lönneberga is a cheerful, well-meaning boy but always up to mischief. He famously hoisted his little sister up the flagpole and got his head stuck in a soup tureen, for example. In his fiftieth birthday year, Lindgren's Swedish publishers commissioned an English translation of a condensed version of the three Emil books, with the original illustrations by the matchless Björn Berg.

The Emperor of LiesSem-Sandberg, Steve. The Emperor of Lies.

Faber & Faber, 2011.

The Jews of the Nazi-administered Polish ghetto of Lodz in World War 2 were led by a strangely two-faced authority figure who realised his own survival depended on making the gehtto indispensible by turning it into an efficient industrial machine. But what of the starving cogs in his machine, the individuals desperate to believe that the trains onto which they are herded will take them to other work camps and better futures? Termed 'one of the great Holocaust novels of the twentieth century', this book won the prestigious August prize and has been published in over twenty languages.

Murder on the Thirty-First FloorWahlöö, Per. Murder on the Thirty-First Floor.

Vintage, 2011. ISBN 9780099554769.

In an unnamed country, in an unnamed year sometime in the future, Chief Inspector Jensen of the Sixteenth Division is called in after the publishers controlling the entire country's newspapers and magazines receive a threat to blow up their building, in retaliation for a murder they are accused of committing. The building is evacuated, but the bomb fails to explode and Jensen is given seven days in which to track down the letter writer. Jensen has never had a case he could not solve before, but as his investigation into the identity of the letter writer begins it soon becomes clear that the directors of the publishers have their own secrets, not least the identity of the 'Special Department' on the thirty first floor; the only department not permitted to be evacuated after the bomb threat. Author of the Martin Beck series.

Benny and ShrimpMazetti, Katarina. Benny and Shrimp.

Short Books, 2010. ISBN 9781907595073.

A pale, style-conscious, politically-correct town librarian, recently widowed, and a bachelor dairy farmer mourning his capable mother and desperately in need of a traditional, hard-working wife - it's never going to work. But the chemistry between them proves totally irresistible in this, probably the best-known novel by one of Sweden's most popular comic writers.

Karlson on the RoofLindgren, Astrid. Karlson on the Roof.

Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN 9780192727725.

A self-centred little man with a propeller on his back, living on the roof of your block of flats? If you are a lonely little boy like Smidge, all sorts of adventures await when you team up with such a wayward troublemaker. This rumbustious classic of Swedish children's literature and its two sequels are now available in new translations for the twenty-first century.

SnowMattson, Ellen. Snow.

Jonathan Cape, 2005.

Jakob Törn, a frustrated and becalmed small-town apothecary in Sweden in 1718, finds himself called upon to cope with an influx of starving soldiers from a defeated army, and then to help with the embalming of his own dead monarch. A beautifully measured, Breughelesque gem of a novel, it won the Bernard Shaw Prize for translation from Swedish and was longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Award.