A Treasury of Nordic Book

By Feldt, Marna | Scandinavian Review, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

A Treasury of Nordic Book


Feldt, Marna, Scandinavian Review


During the 20th century The American-Scandinavian Foundation participated in the publishing of Scandinavia's finest literature and non-fiction books casting light on the Nordic experience.

Examining the human experience in all its complexity is the great task of literature. When the human experience has its origins in several unique and varied cultures the task becomes much more difficult. And when the languages of those cultures need to be translated for a wider audience the task is formidable.

Yet that is what the founding fathers of The American-Scandinavian Foundation resolved to accomplish when in 1911 they set out to provide a lasting link between their native countries and their adopted land. Building on their personal experiences, they established a broad educational exchange network and an ambitious publication program to make Nordic culture and society better known to Americans.

Through publication of the translated books by the most significant Nordic writers, the literary and artistic, legal and social, historical and geo-political aspects of the Nordic societies were illuminated. Eventually even American authors were included and the American-- Scandinavian Review became the primary vehicle for reports by scholars and researchers about serious delvings into Scandinavian phenomena, helping to provide an educational bridge between the United States and the Nordic countries. After 63 years the journal was renamed the Scandinavian Review.

It is this incredible portrayal of the 20th century that rises from between the covers of some 130 books published by the ASF since 1914 and from the 88 bound volumes of the Review available at many public and university libraries across North America and in the Nordic countries. These volumes are also on display at the Halldor Laxness Library in the ASF's Scandinavia House in New York City. Whether you are a researcher, Scandinavian descendant or merely an interested browser, seeing this ASF collection, being able to handle the books and back issues of the journal, letting your train of thought lead you from one subject to another-from the sagas to modern times-this is the inheritance the Foundation's founders and editors have bequeathed to us.

How did they know what to choose, what to translate, what to interpret and make available? It is significant that fewer than a dozen editors in the 90-year history of the Foundation have held this responsibility, together with ever-changing but always broadly based editorial advisors. Present-day readers of current Nordic fiction would no doubt hesitate to select what might someday be considered "classics". The first editors selected writers of previous centuries. First, The Comedies of Holberg (Scandinavia!s Moliere) followed by the Poems of Tegner. Then came dozens of anthologies of plays and poetry, short stories and novels, the Icelandic sagas and mythology. Some had already been translated, others were given new interpretations, and most have survived nearly a century of literary transitions. …

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