Monday, July 30, 2012

Spectacular "square stories" from Louis Jensen

Children's book illustrator Bob Kolar's take on one of Jensen's stories (more at Kolar's site)

A can’t-miss feature in the Spring 2012 issue of Iowa Review is "Five Square Stories" by Danish author Louis Jensen, translated by Lise Kildegaard. Something like poems and something like very short short stories, these five fairy tale-esque works, typeset in neat square blocks, are merely a taste of the hundreds of square stories (firkantede historier) that Jensen has written. Each of the stories, collected in seven volumes at last count, begins with a play on "once upon a time" to mark its number (e.g., "A one hundred and thirty-second time" or "A three hundred and fourteenth time"), with Jensen’s aim being to write 1,001 in total. The tone of Jensen’s square stories ranges from macabre to whimsical, but every one of them is simple, surreal and entertaining. An example, translated by Kildegaard:


In general, we don’t think very much about Danish literature in translation; it would be difficult for most of us to name a Danish author who has been widely translated into English, other than Hans Christian Andersen. But as a quick glance at a literary journal like Passage (Issue 52 of which included an article on Jensen) can attest, there is a lot of great Danish literature out there. Hopefully, Kildegaard’s excellent translations will draw English publishers’ attention to Jensen’s square stories, and perhaps other Danish works (Jensen’s and others’) as well.


Louis Jensen, originally an architect, has been writing children’s, young adult, and adult literature since the 1980s. His books of square stories currently range from Hundrede historier (One Hundred Stories) to Hallo! flere hundrede historier (Hello! Hundreds of Stories). Lise Kildegaard, an English professor at Luther College, has translated many of Jensen's square stories and will hopefully be translating many more.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great press, Lise! You do such a marvelius, idiomatic translation, so it's great you are getting good reviews like this.