View Full Version : Cora Sandel
When you know a language or two, you can learn by the hour. This may sound a bit barmy, but when I first read Paul's mention of Cora Sandel on the Tarjei Vesaas thread, three or four hours ago, I only knew her name.
Now, I know about her Alberte trilogy and, more importantly, that the recent versions forgot about, or censored away, most of Sandel's caustic criticism of the German Nazis in what she wrote in that trilogy in the late 1930s.
This is what I wrote on the Vesaas thread:
As for Cora Sandel (about whose writing I knew virtually nothing), one Norwegian article starts out with:
Det tok oss over femti ?r ? oppdage at Cora Sandels Alberte-trilogi foreligger i to versjoner. Hva kan dette si oss om tekstkritikkens posisjon i Norge? Hva har skjedd med denne teksten i ?renes l?p - og hvilken versjon er det som ligger til grunn for den nye utgaven av trilogien?
It took over fifty years to discover that Cora Sandel's Alberte trilogy exists in two versions. What does that say about the state of textual criticism in Norway? What has happened with this text over the years - and which version forms the basis of the newly re-issued trilogy?
Well, you live and learn. I wonder which version Peter Owen used, and what difference it makes. If the Norwegians are ignorant about their own literature, it's no wonder that the English Wikipedia article is so brief. But the rest of the article gives some insights into the trilogy of which, up to a few minutes ago, I wasn't aware.
This little discovery of an author unknown to me demonstrates the convenience of knowing a few languages. I immediately have access to background material that might otherwise be hard to find in English. So, I've printed out the five-page article and can now find out what the Alberte trilogy is all about. The second and third books are called "Alberte and Liberty" and "Alberte Alone".
I now know that:
Ved oversettelser er det imidlertid ingen konsekvens i hvilken versjon som er valgt; de svenske og danske er fullstendige, mens de engelske og tyske er forkortet.
"Regarding the translations, there is no logic when choosing versions; the Swedish and Danish ones are complete, while the English and German ones are abridged."
If you can read Norwegian, do look at:
Nina Marie Evensen's article is no mere retelling of the story. It reveals a whole world of distortion, where part of the original intent of three books is spirited away.
Abridged? Well, Sandel (aka Sara Fabricius) was a vehement critic of Nazism, something that was censored out of various versions of her works. She saw the Nazi disaster coming, before it happened. Why have editors allowed the dumbed down, bland version of her works remain the norm for over half a century?
So: languages open doors.
Wow, thanks Eric. I wasn't aware of the alternative history of these books.
Thinking about the second and third books in the trilogy, I could easily see how the issue of Nazism could have cropped up. They are set in the very international and bohemian artistic community of Paris of that era, and in general have a clear message of individual freedom of conscience, and are very 'modern' in their outlook. So I could see why the Nazis wouldn't have liked them.
re my reply to you on the other thread - I'll look at the link you posted here. Thanks.
Well, I've only read two pages of the five-page Evensen article. But apart from the existence of the trilogy, which was new to me, this whole cover-up is interesting.
A further quote from the article:
Tyskland blir i de manglende avsnittene beskrevet som en nasjon av krigshissere, et paradefolk som ?nsker krig og som kommer til ? starte en ny s? snart de f?r sjansen, og som adlyder ordre uten ? ha evne til ? tenke selvstendig. Det er samtaler mellom franskmenn som gjengis, og utsagnene deres kan leses som et uttrykk for de sterke anti-tyske str?mningene som r?det i Frankrike i mellomkrigstiden. En av karakterene angrer p? at Frankrike ikke invaderte Berlin da de hadde sjansen til det, mens en annen argumenterer for at fredsl?sningen i Versailles etter f?rste verdenskrig var n?dvendig for verdensfreden:
For h?rde vilk?r for tyskerne? Ja, de er h?rde, men n?r en gal mann kommer l?s, m? han overmannes, bastes og bindes, det er ikke annen r?d. /.../ Tyskland republikk? En man?vre, intet annet. Tyskerne er et paradefolk, et milit?rfolk, er overspente, mangler m?tehold i alt. De vil g? i geled (Bare Alberte 1939, s. 92)
Det er verdt ? merke seg at dette ble skrevet i 1938, nesten to ?r f?r Tyskland startet andre verdenskrig. Romanen kom ut i sin fullstendige form i 1939, men da den ble gitt ut p? nytt i 1941, var de sterkeste utfallene mot Tyskland fjernet.
Translation (my quick one):
In the missing passages, Germany is described as a bellicose nation, a nation that likes parades and is eager to start a new war as soon as it gets the chance, following orders without the opportunity of thinking for itself. The conversations that occur are between Frenchmen, and what they say can be read as proof of the strong anti-German sentiments in France between the wars. One of the characters regrets the fact that France did not invade Berlin when it had the chance to do so, while another man argues that Versailles, after Word War I, was a necessity:
Too harsh terms for the Germans? Sure, they are harsh, but when a madman breaks loose, he has to be overmanned, and tied up; there's no other way. The Germans like parades, they are a military people, overdoing it, knowing no limits. They simply want to march in columns. ("Bare Alberte", 1939, page 92)
It is worth noting that it that this was written in 1938, almost two years before Germany started the Second World War. The novel appeared in its complete form in 1939, but when it was re-issued in 1941, the strongest attacks on Germany had been removed. The text had not been re-written. At one point, two pages of text were replaced by three dashes, and further into the novel five paragraphs were removed and the text pushed together with nothing further added. The cuts are done so that you can read the text without noticing that they are missing. This is the version that has been published in the whole of Norway since 1941; the passages that have been removed have never again been put back in the novel. With regard to translations, there is no logic as to which version is chosen; the Swedish and Danish use the full version, while the English and German ones use the abridged version.
So, there you have it. The Norwegians, who were by then occupied by Nazi Germany, censored the text, and no one has bothered to restore the passages. An interesting literary event.
The reason I have a reading knowledge of Norwegian is because I studied Swedish. The two languages (and Danish) are sufficiently alike on paper that you can read the other two by studying one. Three for the price of one. But speaking and understanding speech is an entirely different matter.
?So, there you have it. The Norwegians, who were by then occupied by Nazi Germany, censored the text, and no one has bothered to restore the passages. An interesting literary event.?
Yes, very interesting. And it poses the question of whether the author herself actually knew the passages continued to be excluded whenever the book was reprinted or translated. Was she completely unaware, aware but the publishers wouldn't include them anyway, or aware but uninterested in the whole thing? I could just about understand it if, upon reprinting, existing translated versions were never updated to include the missing passages, but the original Norwegian...?
Tarjei Vesaas? work was also affected by the Nazi occupation of Norway. His book The House in the Dark (1945) is an allegory of the occupation. During the occupation he worked secretly on it, and kept the manuscript buried out of sight until liberation. And the events in The Seed (1940) have also been seen as allegorical of the apparent dehumanisiation and descent into bestiality of a sizeable chunk of Europe in the years leading up to the second world war.
Censorship is something worth agonising about. If you were a Norwegian publisher's editor, with the cultural secretary from the occupying Nazis breathing down your neck to keep you on a politically correct track (i.e. "Germany good, England bad, Frogs despicable, Russians Untermenschen"), would you risk your job or your life by publishing dodgy stuff?
But the elephant in the room is: why did editors continue this charade right up to the present day?
I'll get back to you as to whether Sara Fabricius herself actually knew what was being done to her. She died in 1974 at the age of 93.
Funny how everyone was censoring away, and yet Ernst J?nger, living as a German soldier in occupied Paris, could manage to publish his allegory on Nazism "On Marble Cliffs" without Hitler stringing him up. Life is a mystery.
Now I've read the whole of Nina Marie Evensen's 5-page article on the Cora Sandel trilogy, I realise that this woman is the editor of the newest edition of the three books, which appeared in 2002. The books, especially the third, were indeed censored by Gyldendal, the publishing house, in 1941, for fear of upsetting the German occupier. Harald Grieg, the chief publisher of Gyldendal, was the notorious German internment camp for dissident Norwegians, Grini, and his fellow editors who were still working did not want to put his life in danger by stirring up trouble.
Evensen has checked with Sandel's son, Erik J?nsson who claims that his mother could not have known how it stood exactly with the various editions, as she had a reputation with the publishers of being very hands-on with textual corrections. (Why she never got to know all this is not clear.)
At any rate, Evensen is the text editor for the 2002 edition and says that whether the books were reset or scanned, there were further chances that mistakes could creep in. And it depends on which edition (1941 or 1950) is used. She explains her method.
Suffice it to say that the whole affair highlights the fact that the innocent reader (even in Norway!) is only buying the end-product, and doesn't always know what they are getting regarding an accurate or complete version of a classic. At least it looks as if Nina Marie Evensen has done a thorough job.
It's thanks to Swedish editors that all the textual problems were discovered in the first place. This was in 1997, when the Swedes wanted to re-translate the trilogy into Swedish.
Great work Eric. This is a very interesting affair. I suppose it's the old story of something that looks like a conspiracy turning out to be more of a cock-up. It takes a lot of work, as you know, to produce a book from scratch - it's a big investmnent for a publisher. So it is easy to understand their reluctance when they already have a perfectly good version all ready to go to print.
We would of course wish to have a novel as the author intended - but I imagine lots of books have their own stories of compromise and (self) censorship. For example there was recently the spat regarding two new versions of War and Peace published by two different publishers. I think one was the 'original' and the other presented as 'as the author intended'. (See link)
In the case of the Alberta trilogy, I hope the exclusion of some passages wouldn't discourage people from reading the books. They really are very good. And, of course, you could read the Swedish version.
Yes, there must be lots more such incidents in the history of publishing. You get this "which version is definitive?" debate with Kafka, Musil and a number of other authors who altered things, then died before a definitive version was set in stone.
I could indeed read the Swedish translation. From the Wiki, it looks as if Cora Sandel (aka Sara Fabricius; 1880-1974) lived in isolation in the northern Norwegian town of Troms?, then in Uppsala, Sweden, from about 1921 to her death in 1974. This will, explain a number of things about the editing as, obviously, someone living in neutral Sweden during World War II would not just pop over to occupied Norway to do a spot of editing of a very anti-German book. Until halfway through the war, the neutral Swedes were more pro-German than pro-Allies, as well.
But why nothing changed after the war will be more on account, as Paul suggests, with the investment publishing houses are prepared to make for one book (or three in this case). You have to remember that by 1945 Cora Sandel was already 65 years old, and probably not very interested in masses of textual correction work any more. Her long sojourn in Uppsala will also explain why her son, Erik J?nsson, spells his surname with an "?", a letter not used in Norwegian.
For Paul's interest, the editing article about Cora Sandel is available on the net at:
Indeed, nynorsk is a bit different to bokm?l, as the former has, for instance, a masculine, feminine and neuter gender of the noun. This article is in bokm?l, as were Sandel's books. And here she is in her heyday:
I have just embarked on The Alberta Trilogy and would love to read Nina Marie Evensen's article. Do you know if it available in English translation?
Sorry, Lettie, I really don't know. We have to be glad that the trilogy is available in English.
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