Like interstellar cosmonauts
we sit year after year behind the windows in the cabin
and peer into a hard-frozen darkness.
The stars coldly take our measure, do not blink.
Behind the words we are always alone, droplets
which in the course of a life
advance a millimetre in crystal
Som interstellare kosmonauter
sitter vi år etter år bak vinduene i kabinen
og kikker på et bunnfrosset mørke.
Stjernene mønstrer oss iskaldt, blunker ikke.
Bak ordene er vi alltid alene, dråper
som i løpet av et liv
forflytter seg en millimeter i krystall
The "annen" of "En annen sol" can mean either "other", "different", or "second". To translate to "Another sun" might be the best way to hedge one's bets and retain something of all three senses in English, but it seems to me that the weight falls on "different" in this case, and that the more committed choice of "A different sun" better reflects the tone of the original.
The verb "kikker på" could be translated to any one of a number of variations of "look at", but the sense is not quite that of a quick action such as a "glimpse" or a "glance"; of the other possibilities, such as "gaze at", "peer into" seems to capture the poetic feeling best.
In many contexts, "bunnfrosset" can be translated to "frozen to the bone": see the second line of Or this maybe, for instance, and the accompanying note to its translation. Here, though, "hard-frozen" seems to work better, being closer to the original both rhythmically and syntactically.
The phrase "mønstrer oss" is slightly unusual, having the same root as the noun "mønster" ("pattern"): a literal rendering ("patterning us") would not really be possible in English, but the sense is that of inspection. Kari suggested "take our measure", which seems to me to be by far the closest equivalent in English semantically, and which in addition works well poetically here.
In the original, it is not exactly "coldly" but rather an adverbial form of "ice-cold" which is used. The latter, though, would be awkward to render into English, and "coldy" seems to already strongly establish the mood, whilst being close to the original rhythmically.
Most directly, "dråper" would translate to "drops", but the more fragile "droplets" seems better poetically to me here.
The verb "forflytter seg" is a little tricky to translate: the difference between it and, for example, "beveger seg" ("move") is somewhat subtle, but the emphasis with "forflytter seg" is upon movement from one place to another, whereas "beveger seg" could refer to any kind of movement (e.g. a waving around of the arms). I feel that "advance" has the same kind of sense in English, whilst its other principal meaning (of coming nearer a goal) fits well with the tone of the poem.
The poem is originally from a collection with the same name from 1989, which can be viewed at the Norwegian National Library's site: «En annen sol» is on pages 22-33 of both the original text and the online text.
Translated on the 1st of October 2022.
Last updated: 12:11 (GMT+1), 15th November 2022