Lost in translation

Yesterday’s post on Finnish covers reminded me of a specific case of how things can change in translation. Sven Lindahl’s ”Mälarö kyrka” was soon translated into Finnish by Sauvo Puhtila and Lenne Broberg performed both Swedish and Finnish versions of it (with a heavy accent, but nowhere near as bad as that of Hootenanny Singers). In the Finnish version the setting of a church on an island in Mälaren (Adelsö church, to be precise) has been genericised to an “old vaulted church”, but there is a more subtle, not to say insidious, change as well. In both versions the song tells of a little boy, practising on the church organs, hoping to become an organ player in the church like his father, but in the Swedish version he plays both Bach and Beatles and both kinds of music are explicitly said to be equally beautiful. This was to some extent a controversial statement at the time (and still, over a decade later) and in the Finnish one it has been removed completely, only the Bach fugues and the continuity of heritage remains. Whether this is just an accident I cannot tell, but it sort of fits with Finnish society.

No comments: