To lie tight up against a heart
but with the skin's thin summer-curtain between
is to be shut out.
To search into eyes
is to hear the echo from the other side of an
is to lay the foundation
for a loss.
Å ligge tett inntil et hjerte
men med den tynne sommergardinen av hud mellom
er å være utestengt.
Å lete innover øyne
er å høre ekkoet fra den andre siden av en
Å bli glad i
er å legge grunnsteinen
til et savn.
The term "kjensgjerning" does not have an exact equivalent in English, but "established fact" is certainly closer, I feel, than, say, "fact" alone. The original is syntatically a compound coming from "kjenne" (roughly "to know" in this context) and "gjerning" (something like a hybrid of "deed" and "task"), but how its present precise semantic sense arose from the combination of these two words is rather subtle, perhaps deriving from something akin to a "truth arrived at through practise of a certain line of work".
The phrase "den tynne sommergardinen av hud" is quite tricky to translate. Literally, it could be rendered "the thin summer-curtain of skin", but this reads a little awkwardly in English when following the indefinite first line of the poem. One possibility would be to instead translate it too to the indefinite ("a thin summer-curtain of skin"), but this does not seem tonally as faithful as I would hope to the original.
The slightly loose, at least syntactically, translation I have chosen to "the skin's thin summer-curtain" is that which I feel best combines naturality in English with faithfulness to the original.
There is a choice to be made as to whether to translate "mellom" to "between" or to "in between"; Norwegian does have "innimellom", which would translate more directly to "in between", but its usage is more restricted than in English, and it is sometimes natural to translate "mellom" too to "in between". Both would I think work here in English, but I have gone for simply "between" for its greater abruptness, which I feel leads to the line being closer to the original in poetic feel.
The preposition "innover" is tricky to render into English: it has more of a sense of movement, of inward exploration, than say "in" conveys. Though it is not an exact translation, I have chosen the simple "into" to emphasise this aspect of movement to a greater degree, and because I feel it works rhythmically, and that the resulting line has the right poetic feel; attempts at an even more precise translation of "innover" would all be more convoluted rhythmically.
In Norwegian, there are two expressions to express love: "å bli glad i" and "å elske". The latter is arguably strictly closer to "to love", but is strong and much less frequently used; "å bli glad i" would literally perhaps be closer to, say, "to be fond of", but is widely used in situations (including of romantic love) where "to love" would typically be used in English, as I feel is appropriate here.
The word "grunnsteinen" is literally "the foundation stone" or, slightly less literally, "the corner stone", but either of these translations would, I feel, be awkward here; the omission of "stone" seems the best way to stay as close as possible to the original in sense whilst preserving its naturality of expression.
The poem is originally from «Redningsforsøk» ("Rescue attempt") from 1983, which can be viewed at the Norwegian National Library's site: «Kjensgjerninger» is on page 33 of the original text (34 of the online text).
Last updated: 01:05 (GMT+1), 11th January 2023